How will the UK royal family deal with the staffing crisis?

King Charles II and Queen Camilla. Picture: Leon Neal / Reuters

King Charles II and Queen Camilla. Picture: Leon Neal / Reuters

Published Mar 24, 2024


Serious health issues, fallouts and scandals have plunged the UK royal family into a staffing crisis, with responsibility for public duties falling heavily on its older members.

Here are the circumstances of the family's senior members and how the institution is adapting to its personnel shortfall.

King Charles III

The king, who was crowned less than a year ago, announced on February 5 that he had been diagnosed with a form of cancer and had begun treatment, leading him to indefinitely cancel public-facing engagements, except audiences with the prime minister and ambassadors.

The type of cancer and recovery timetable have not been revealed, and it is not known when the king, described by his sons as a "workaholic", will return to public events.

He is, however, working on official papers while receiving treatment and has been photographed several times in public going to and from church services.

Queen Camilla

Given the large void created by Charles' illness, his wife Queen Camilla has taken on more public duties.

But the 76-year-old recently took a week off, with UK media reporting that the king had told her to go on holiday to prevent her from burning out.

Catherine, Princess of Wales

Photogenic and reliable, Catherine has become a mainstay for the royal family since marrying Prince William, now the heir apparent, in 2011.

However, it was announced in January that she would be out of action for several months after undergoing abdominal surgery.

By early March, Catherine had still to be pictured in public and no timeframe had been given for her return to the frontline, leading to questions and rumours about her condition.

She announced on Friday that doctors had discovered cancer during the surgery and that she too would be absent from public duties for an unspecified period as she undergoes treatment.

Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales. Picture: Yui Mok / AFP

William, Prince of Wales

While in good health himself, William is having to deal with the fact that both his wife and father are stricken with cancer, while having to look after his and Catherine's three young children.

He is still carrying out public engagements, such as visiting a London synagogue and a homeless project in Sheffield, northern England, but with a much reduced workload.

William also pulled out of attending a memorial service last month, a rare act for a senior royal, citing a "personal matter".

It now seems likely that was related to his wife's health, highlighting the difficulty of planning engagements when close family members are being treated for cancer.

Princess Anne

Charles' younger sister Anne has always been a family, carrying out 457 engagements in 2023 alone.

Recognised as being the hardest working family member, Anne has recently undertaken 70 percent of all royal engagements, raising concerns over the 73-year-old's burden.

Prince Edward and wife Sophie

Prince Edward, Charles' youngest brother, has taken up some of the slack, while his wife Sophie has 13 engagements planned in March and April, making her the second most active royal currently, behind Anne.

Prince Harry and wife Meghan

William would previously have been able to rely on his younger bother to help out as he took a back seat, but Harry and wife Meghan quit the royal frontline in 2020 and now live in the US, largely estranged from the family following the acrimonious split.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Picture: Alastair Grant / Reuters

Prince Andrew

The king's remaining brother is also out of commission having stepped down from royal duties in 2019 after a disastrous television interview in which he defended his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

He was later stripped of his honorary military titles and royal patronages after settling a US civil claim for sexual assault without admitting liability.