11 July 2024

London, United Kingdom – Charles III’s estranged son Prince Harry arrived in London on Tuesday, heading for his father’s side less than 24 hours after it was announced that the king had cancer.

Harry, who now lives in California with his US wife Meghan and their children, has been at war with his family since quitting royal life in 2020.

But despite recent family tensions, Harry travelled straight from London’s Heathrow airport to Charles’s Clarence House residence.

The UK’s Press Association reported that two black SUVs, which were seen leaving Heathrow Airport’s VIP Windsor Suite earlier, were pictured arriving at the royal residence at around 2:40 pm (1440 GMT).

They left around 50 minutes later, followed soon after by a car carrying a smiling Charles and Queen Camilla, the first time the king has been seen in public since his diagnosis was announced.

Charles then left by helicopter for his Sandringham residence in eastern England, with a helicopter seen leaving from behind Buckingham Palace around 10 minutes later.

Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer afflicting the 75-year-old monarch — though it is understood not to be prostate cancer — and he will now step back from public-facing royal duties to complete his treatment.

– Rapprochement –

Royal watchers said Charles’s ill health could be a catalyst for a rapprochement between father and son.

But they warned that healing the rift between Harry and his brother Prince William, heir to the throne, would be more difficult.

Despite Harry’s trans-Atlantic dash to visit his father, PA reported that it was understood that William had no plans to meet up with him.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told AFP there was “no doubt” Harry and Meghan’s public airing of their grievances had “caused a great deal of bitterness” within the royal family.

After relocating to California, the couple launched a string of damaging accusations against the royals in a Netflix series and Harry’s best-selling autobiography “Spare”.

The situation between the brothers would be “very hard to heal”, Fitzwilliams said, but the family should now put on a united front.

“The royal family is, in this connection, just like any other family and it should pull together,” he said.

“And what we therefore ought to be seeing is rapprochement, however gradual or however it’s handled in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

The Daily Mail’s Richard Kay said that while Charles had “longed for” a reconciliation, “William is convinced that trust, the basis of any relationship, has been utterly destroyed”.

He said it would be a relief to courtiers that Harry appeared to be making the visit without Meghan.

“The question is, will he also see William?” he said.

– ‘Caught early’ –

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the cancer had been “caught early”.

“Thankfully, this has been caught early and now everyone will be wishing that he gets the treatment that he needs and makes a full recovery,” Sunak told the BBC.

“I think that’s what we’re all hoping and praying for and I am, of course, in regular contact with him and will continue to communicate with him as normal,” he said.

Charles is just 17 months into his reign, having waited decades to begin the job he was born to do following the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022.

People in Britain expressed shock and sympathy at the news.

“We feel so flat because the king really has hit the ground running,” said Sue Hazell, a retiree from the northern English city of Doncaster, as she visited Buckingham Palace.

“It’s not nice to hear anyone’s been diagnosed with cancer,” added Sarah Firisen, 55, a software sales worker.

“I feel kind of bad for him. He waited all these years to be king.”

The diagnosis will prolong a frontline shortage of royals created by Charles’s admission to hospital last month for a prostate procedure and the almost simultaneous hospitalisation of Catherine, Princess of Wales.

Catherine’s hospital admission for abdominal surgery meant that William also stepped back to support her and their three children.

William is expected to resume royal duties on Wednesday, but the family’s health issues had left 76-year-old Camilla as the highest profile royal over recent weeks.

Charles has generally enjoyed good health, barring injuries from polo and skiing.

Doctors have advised Charles to postpone any engagements, though he will continue to “undertake state business and official paperwork as usual”, the palace said. The king “remains wholly positive” and “looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible”, it added.

by Agence France-Presse