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King Charles III’s openness about cancer has contributed to the public’s perception of him – NBC Chicago

King Charles III’s decision to be open about his cancer diagnosis has helped the new monarch connect with the British people and strengthen the monarchy in the year since his dazzling coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Charles has used his illness to emphasize the need for early diagnosis and treatment, showing leadership at a time of personal hardship. And along the way, people have come to see him as a flesh-and-blood character who faces the same challenges as they do, and not just as an archetype of wealth and privilege.

“Ultimately, health is the greatest equalizer,” says Anna Whitelock, professor of the history of the monarchy at City University in London. “And the fact is that the royal family, like so many other families, is dealing with a cancer diagnosis. And I think that has… taken the energy out of the big challenges for the king.”

There are still questions. Can a thousand-year-old inherited monarchy represent the people of modern Britain? How will the institution deal with concerns about its ties to empire and slavery? Should the monarchy be replaced by an elected head of state?

But for now, these issues have been largely put aside as the 75-year-old king undergoes treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer.

Of everything experts expected the royal family would face in the year after Charles’ coronation, the events of the past five months took Britain by surprise.

First, Charles was treated for an enlarged prostate, then he announced his cancer diagnosis. That was quickly followed by the announcement that the Princess of Wales, Prince William’s wife Kate, also had cancer.

Both withdrew from public duties to focus on their health. William followed suit so that he could support his wife and the couple’s three young children.

It was not only the seventy-year-old monarch who was ill, but also the much younger future queen. Her husband had to help. Suddenly the royal family seemed much more vulnerable, more human.

With three senior royals out of action, the Windsors struggled as they tried to keep up with the constant whirl of ceremonial appearances, awards ceremonies and ribbon-cuttings that define the life of a modern royal family.

Queen Camilla, of all people, stepped into the breach.

Once seen as the scourge of the House of Windsor for her role in the breakdown of Charles’ marriage to the late Princess Diana, Camilla emerged as one of the monarchy’s most prominent emissaries. By increasing her appearance schedule, the Queen played a crucial role in keeping the Royal Family in the spotlight.

Wherever she went, royal fans offered get-well cards and words of encouragement for Charles and Kate.

In many ways, the story of Charles’ first year since the coronation is about the rise of Camilla and how effective she has been in representing the king, Whitelock said.

“The crowd that approached her was actually quite remarkable,” she said. “So I think this first year has very much been Charles and Camilla’s reign in a way that we could never have imagined.”

Together they helped create a year of stability for the monarchy, despite predictions by some critics that the death of Queen Elizabeth II would usher in an era of change.

That’s not to say that Charles is free from problems, many in his own family.

The king’s relationship with his youngest son was already tense before Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepped down from their royal duties and moved to California in 2020. But the publication early last year of Harry’s powerful memoir, “Spare,” deepened the rift with accusations about the royal family’s unintentional racism and pet dealings with the tabloid press.

And then there’s Charles’ brother Prince Andrew, whose ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein continue to cause the king headaches. Last month, Netflix released a feature-length film about the disastrous 2019 interview in which Andrew tried to justify his relationship with Epstein.

But in the past year, Charles has worked to increase openness about the workings of the monarchy, continued to speak out on environmental issues and promoted interfaith dialogue, said George Gross, a royal historian at King’s College London.

Then came the king’s decision to highlight his health problems to demonstrate the benefits of early intervention in a country where cancer survival rates lag behind those in many other wealthy countries.

‘Out of adversity, he managed to turn the tide. It’s wrong to say he took advantage of it because it’s a disastrous situation to be in, and anyone diagnosed with cancer will be very concerned, very concerned,” Gross said. “But it is in this way that as head of state he has been able to do good with a very simple message, and I think that is something extraordinary.”

The world is reacting to Kate Middleton’s cancer diagnosis.

Charles underlined his message last week when he began his return to public duties with a visit to a cancer care center.

During a tour of University College Hospital’s Macmillan Cancer Center in central London, the king sat with Lesley Woodbridge, a 63-year-old cancer patient, and held her hand as chemotherapy drugs slowly dripped into her arm.

“It’s always a bit of a shock, isn’t it, when they tell you?” he said, adding: “I also have to have my treatment this afternoon.”

It’s the kind of personal bond that Britons wouldn’t normally expect from the royal family, known more for its reserve than its emotion.

After the King announced his diagnosis, Cancer Research UK recorded a 33% increase in visits to its website as people sought information about the signs of cancer, said Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s chief executive.

That may have saved lives. And it connected people with the king.

Mitchell said she was struck by how personal the king’s visit to the cancer center was.

Patients happily told their cancer stories to Charles and Camilla, and the royal couple responded with intimate details of their own journey, she said.

“I observed not just empathy, but true compassion,” Mitchell said. “And overall the atmosphere of the day was one of hope – but hope, I think, combined with the importance of research leading to greater progress.”