With his father King Charles III undergoing cancer treatment and his wife recovering from surgery, Britain’s Prince William found himself thrust back to the frontline of royal duties on Wednesday.
The king’s shock cancer diagnosis, announced on Monday, and Catherine’s abdominal operation have left William, 41, shouldering a heavy royal burden.
Charles’s eldest son and heir to the throne, William postponed public engagements to care for his wife, the Princess of Wales, and their three children after she was admitted to hospital on January 16.
But on Wednesday he was back on duty, hosted an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, west of London, handing out honours for citizens recognised for their community work and other good deeds.
It had been three week since he last appeared at a major royal event.
Later, he will attend a London Air Ambulance fundraising gala.
Charles, who left London on Tuesday for his Sandringham residence in eastern England, will meanwhile hold his weekly meeting with Prime Minister Sunak by telephone for a change.
“We have agreed with the palace in this specific instance to confirm that they will be speaking on the phone later,” Sunak’s spokesman said.
Sunak made a brief reference to the king’s cancer diagnosis in parliament.
“I know the thoughts of the house and the country are with the king, and his family,” he told the House of Commons.
“We wish his majesty a speedy recovery and look forward to him resuming his public-facing duties in due course,” he added.
William is also expected to take on some of his father’s duties while he undergoes treatment, alongside Charles’s sister Princess Anne and his wife Queen Camilla.
Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer the 75-year-old monarch has, although it is understood not to be prostate cancer and Sunak has said it was “caught early”.
The diagnosis comes just 17 months into Charles’s reign following the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022.
Adding to the drama, the king’s estranged son Prince Harry flew back from his US home on Tuesday.
The pair had a 45-minute meeting at Charles’s Clarence House residence in London before the king left for Sandringham.
Harry’s return has sparked speculation it could serve as a catalyst to heal family tensions that have blighted Charles’s reign.
Harry and his brother William have reportedly not spoken in months because of bad feeling caused by Harry’s public criticism of his family.
Harry quit royal duties in 2020 and relocated to California where he now lives with his American wife Meghan and their two young children.
Harry has repeatedly aired his complaints about the way he feels he and his wife were mistreated during their time as working royals, culminating in January 2023 with his autobiography “Spare”.
The Press Association news agency reported that there were no plans for the brothers to meet while Harry was in the UK.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams described the rift between William and Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, and the rest of the royal family as “very deep”.
Reports said he had stayed at a luxury London hotel overnight following Charles’s decision to block him from using his former home on the Windsor estate.
It was not known how long Harry was due to stay in the country.
Citizens expressed sympathy for William, who they noted now faced the double burden of maintaining his family life with extra official duties.
“He’s got a hard job because his wife is poorly at the moment, so that’s an added pressure on poor William, but I’m sure that he will cope,” pensioner Sue Hazell told AFP outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
His wife Kate is expected to be out of action until at least March 31, her office has said.
Officials have not given details of her surgery except to say it was not linked to cancer.
Canadian tourist Sarah Paterson, a 44-year-old entrepreneur, said that William must be “beside himself” given the recent deaths of his grandfather and his grandmother, along with the health problems faced by his father and his wife.
But she was “1,000 percent” confident that William would be a good stand-in, adding: “I think he’ll probably be king sooner than he hoped.”