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Illness, scandal and discord leave UK royal family looking depleted

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LONDON: King Charles is due to make his first public appearance at a royal event since his cancer diagnosis on Sunday, but the likely absence of son Prince William and the heir’s wife Kate will spotlight how depleted the monarchy has become.
Buckingham Palace said the 75-year-old monarch would attend the traditional Easter Sunday church service at Windsor Castle alongside his wife Queen Camilla, one of the annual engagements usually attended by all the senior royals.
However, William, Kate, and their children George, 10, Charlotte, 8, and Louis, 5, will not attend after the Princess of Wales revealed last week that she had begun preventative chemotherapy for cancer following abdominal surgery in January.
“King Charles really wanted to have a slimmed-down monarchy when he took on the throne but he never could have anticipated slimming down to where it is now,” said Erin Hill, People magazine’s senior royal editor. “This is going to definitely be a complicated time for the royal family.”
Charles’ desire for a ‘slimmed-down’ institution was designed to counter accusations it was bloated, with distant relatives living off taxpayer-funded handouts.
But there are now gaping holes in his immediate circle – most dramatically, with the departure of his younger son Prince Harry, 39, and wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, to the U.S. three years ago.
Meanwhile, Charles’ younger brother Prince Andrew, 64, was banished from public life in 2019 over his friendship with the late U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
NOT A GOOD IDEA
“Well, I think the ‘slimmed-down’ was said in a day when there were a few more people around to make that seem like a justifiable comment,” the king’s younger sister Princess Anne said in an interview last year.
“It doesn’t sound like a good idea from where I’m standing, I have to say. I’m not quite sure what else … we can do.”
Of the remaining official working royals – those that carry out duties for the king, such as opening new buildings, giving out honours and meeting foreign dignitaries – many are now from the late Queen Elizabeth’s generation.
Princess Alexandra, 87, her cousin and long-time friend, is rarely seen in public nowadays, while Elizabeth’s other cousins Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, and Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, are 88 and 79 respectively.
Princess Anne often tops the list for being the hardest-working royal but she herself will turn 74 this year. Her son Peter Phillips said this week she was probably working a lot harder than she had expected.
“She’s still doing overseas trips and turning around in 24 hours which is pretty hard on most people … but when you’re in your 70s and doing that it’s pretty remarkable,” he told Sky News in Australia.
He said there was “definitely a short-term pressure on certain members of the family to continue to be out and about”. As well as his mother, he noted the amount being done by Camilla and Charles’ younger brother Prince Edward and wife Sophie, now the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.
Royal biographer Claudia Joseph said while Camilla and William had done a “sterling job” in the absence of Charles, it would not have been easy.
“On a personal level, it’s going to be awful for the royals,” she said. “Obviously, on a practical level, it makes things difficult.”
Although polls show most Britons remain generally supportive of the monarchy, they also suggest that majority is shrinking, with a growing gap between enthusiastic older people and indifferent younger generations.
Apart from William and Kate, the next youngest working royals are Edward, who this month turned 60, and Sophie who will reach that same milestone next year.
It will then be at least a decade until the ranks are swelled by the children of William and Kate.
Royal author Tina Brown said the monarchy was looking very lean indeed, putting “unmanageable pressure” on William and Kate.
“Catherine is the most popular member of the royal family after William,” she wrote in the New York Times this week. “The future of the monarchy hangs by a thread, and that thread is her.”





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