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King Charles Attends Easter Service With Scaled-Back Royal Family

Hollie Adams/Pool/Reuters
Hollie Adams/Pool/Reuters

King Charles makes public appearance at church

King Charles III spent five minutes greeting and shaking hands with members of the public at the Easter Matins Service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Easter morning, as he tried to offer visual reassurance that his treatment for cancer is progressing well.

However, reports suggesting that he would be walking to and from church were revealed as wide of the mark after he was driven to the door of the chapel in a ceremonial Bentley, which he got back into after meeting the crowd.

He waved and smiled to a supportive crowd in Windsor for just a few seconds before entering the church service in his first public appearance since being diagnosed with cancer almost two months ago on Feb. 5.

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‘Gaunt’-Looking King Charles, Stricken by Cancer, Shares His Sadness

The king did, however, look cheerful and happy to be back in public view as he greeted people after the service, shaking hands, smiling broadly and returning greetings called out by the crowd. One person called out, “Happy Easter,” to which the king replied, “And to you.”

The palace has said Charles is taking “gentle steps” as he convalesces.

He sat apart from other members of the congregation during the service, including his disgraced brother Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Edward and Sophie, to make sure he did not pick up any incidental infections. Princess Anne and her husband Sir Tim Laurence were also present.

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson speak with Britain's Princess Anne as they attend the Easter Matins Service at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Britain March 31, 2024.

Britain’s Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson speak with Princess Anne at the Easter Matins Service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, March 31, 2024.

Hollie Adams/Pool/Reuters

Prince William and Princess Kate and their children did not attend the service; following Kate’s revelation last week that she also has been diagnosed with cancer, the family have retreated from public view. William is expected to return to a limited range of public engagements after his children’s Easter school holidays end in mid-April.

Also not at the service: Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Mike and Zara Tindall, along with their children, and Peter Phillips.

In a further sign of the king’s vulnerability, it was reported that he would not join his family for lunch today after the service.

If Invictus comes to the U.K., then what?

The Telegraph wonders whether the royals would support, or ignore, the Invictus Games if Prince Harry’s inspirational multi-sport event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women—both serving and veterans—takes place in the U.K.

The U.K. Government is set to bid to host the Games in 2027 (with competition from Washington, D.C.), while this May, Harry is set to attend a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Games, which were first held in London in 2014.

At that time it was attended by then-Prince Charles, Kate Middleton, and Prince William. How will royal relations be in 2027? Can Harry rely on overt family support?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the sitting volleyball finals at the 2023 Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany September 15, 2023.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the sitting volleyball finals at the 2023 Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany Sept. 15, 2023.

Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

Palace sources have previously insisted that senior members of the Royal family never involve themselves in one another’s professional endeavors, the Telegraph reports. “But if the week-long celebration of triumph over all odds is hosted in the U.K., a lack of support for the competitors from senior royals would look churlish.”

There is also the matter of Harry’s family security. As the Telegraph notes, he recently lost a legal battle with the Home Office over the withdrawal of his state-funded police protection. “He has announced plans to appeal but in the meantime, he cannot rely on such a level of security and instead must use his own private protection team. The Telegraph understands that unless he can overturn the ruling, he does not feel able to bring his wife, Meghan, or their children, Prince Archie, four, and Princess Lilibet, two, to the U.K.”

The queen and her presidents

A colorful Sunday Times survey of the relationships and dramas between Queen Elizabeth and the 13 U.S. presidents she met throughout her reign includes the 1961 social blow-up that occurred when JFK and Jackie came to London.

A Buckingham Palace dinner was organized, and “behind the scenes there were frantic exchanges about the guest list.” Jackie’s wish that her sister and brother-in-law (Princess Lee Radziwill, who was on her second marriage, or her husband, Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, who was on his third) attend was scotched because “both had previously been married, and in early 1960s Britain divorcees were still a no-no, even at ‘informal’ royal dinners.’”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain, June 5, 1961.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Buckingham Palace, London, Britain, June 5, 1961.

U. S. Department of State/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum/Handout via Reuters

The Kennedys also requested that Princess Margaret and the queen’s aunt, Princess Marina, come. “Back and forth the officials went, until JFK gave an ultimatum: the Americans could dine elsewhere. Alarm bells rang, and the Palace caved in over the divorcees (seated as far as possible from the queen), but the atmosphere was still frosty, leading Jackie to gossip cattily to Gore Vidal: ‘The queen had her revenge… no Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture that they could find.’” Vidal also recorded Jackie saying: “I think the queen resented me.”

This week in royal history

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle launched their Instagram account “sussexroyal” on April 2, 2019, captioning their first post: “Welcome to our official Instagram; we look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues. We thank you for your support, and welcome you to @sussexroyal.”

They wound the account down a year later on March 30, 2020, with a message partly reading: “While you may not see us here, the work continues. Thank you to this community—for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great! Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another.”

Unanswered questions

Has appearing at today’s church service helped bolster King Charles’ standing and visibility in the public mind, or raised fresh questions about his health?

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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