Shocking King Charles emergency plan revealed

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Thanks to Jane Austen, the BBC’s vast bonnet storage facility, and Bridgerton, the Regency period is everywhere. You can immediately picture what I’m talking about: Empire line dresses and dashing dukes simply in desperate want of an anachronistically bolshie wife and some scene with one of those silly dances where eight people prance around in a rectangle.

But the actual, real Regency was less swoon-worthy. In 1811, after years of George III suffering repeated, extended bouts of ‘madness’, parliament interceded to stave off a constitutional crisis, naming his lecherous no-hoper of a son, the later George IV, as Prince Regent. (A Regency for all you fact-o-philes is when the monarch is incapacitated or unable to fulfil their duties so the next in line to the throne is appointed regent to act their stead, thus making them King or Queen in all but name.)

This Georgian Regency would last for nearly a decade and you and I would have assumed there would never be another one. That is, until this year. Recent reports have, for the first time in centuries, brought up the prospect of the ‘R’ word.

King Charles is, as the entire world and several of our closest solar systems know, currently being treated for cancer, his candidness about which is a major royal first. Things are looking up. Ish, anyway.

Last weekend, His Majesty joined a dispiritingly small gaggle of greying working HRHs and their plus ones (Mr Princess Anne, Sir Timothy Laurence and the Marchioness of Merching, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York) for the Windsor Easter Sunday service.

This was all very good news and cracking stuff and enough to really make Union Jacks flutter that much more confidently.

But – we are far from out of the Charles woods yet, meaning that for the first time since George IV was slavering over his secret first wife Maria Fitzherbert and spending vast scads of cash on hoovering up Chinoiserie like the Augustus Gloop of Ming porcelain, we are the closest to the possibility of a regency in 213 years.

This is a horrible plot twist that no one could have predicted.

The late Queen lived until she was 96, Prince Philip 99 and the Queen Mother 101. With those sorts of hardy genes, only a few months ago I would have confidently predicted that the reign of Charles would be decades long in length and, knock on wood, may very well still be. His Majesty is no doubt getting the absolute best and most cutting-edge medical care there is while at home sucking back all the homoeopathic tinctures and applying all aromatherapy patches he can get his sausagey hands on.

But the uncomfortable fact is that given we have a King with cancer, a Regency is no longer simply the province of bodice-rippers and small-screen make-believe.

In the New York Times recently, former Vanity Fair editor and author of the quintessential The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown wrote that “news of Charles’s cancer has put William and Catherine in frightening proximity to ascending the throne … The prospect of it, I am told, is causing them intense anxiety.”

Then, this week the Daily Beast’s Tom Sykes reported: “Some believe, however, that if Charles and Kate were to be permanently sidelined, forced into greatly reduced roles for the longer term by ongoing health challenges, a Prince William regency would look desperately short-handed.”

And there it is – the dreaded ‘R’ word …

If there is one thing that 2024 should have taught us by now is that life happens, even to people with multiple gold carriages parked out back and who are allowed to borrow the Stone of Scone for the kids’ show and tell. Dramatic, serious turns and twists of fortune can even happen to members of the House of Windsor.

And that means the possibility of a regency is something that can’t be shrugged off with a dismissive wave of a gloved hand. We simply don’t know. Anything could happen. (Anyone with a working crystal ball, please contact me.)

A William regency would mean that for all intents and purposes he would be King. He would undertake the weekly audiences with whoever had the misfortune of occupying Number Ten, he would provide the Royal Assent (i.e. sign bills into laws) and he would get to oversee State openings of parliament while kitted up like he was off to a fancy dress bash.

Think of a Regency as a sort of regal power-of-attorney type situation – it would be the Prince of Wales, or as he would be known, the Prince Regent, who would be the capo di tutti capi. The father of three would be King in everything but title.

I know, I know, the very thought of this scenario is deeply discomfiting, not only because of what it would mean about Charles’s health but because of the pressure and responsibility and work it would unceremoniously dump on the shoulders of William and his wife Kate the Princess of Wales. (The princess is obviously currently undergoing treatment for cancer too.)

If there was a scenario where the princess got well and beat the blasted disease, however His Majesty did not, it would mean that in her early 40s with three small children at home, Kate would effectively become Queen.

What of Queen Camilla in this situation? She would remain the actual Queen as long as Charles was alive. However, really, of these two women, which do you think would be fawned over, obsessed over and adored by the public? Who would be the Queen of Hearts and Tik Toks and newspaper front pages and hashtags?

Thinking about all of this, even in the most abstract sense is head spinning, woozy stuff.

None of us know what could, or will happen inside Buckingham and Kensington Palaces in this year, or next or the one after.

Here’s some very good news, however.

After Easter and enjoying his one self-allotted carob egg, His Majesty is running the show and keeping things shipshape and Bristol fashion.

Even throughout his treatment, the 75-year-old has continued to hold his enforced weekly Prime Ministerial chit chat, no biscuits provided, and kept up with this daily Red Boxes of State paperwork that he has to sort through before he gets to the day’s Wordle.

The King has also been officially accepting the credentials of Ambassadors arriving to the Court of St James, as it is officially known, a task that demands the wearing of tails and a very high boredom threshold.

His Majesty might not be doing his meeting-the-unwashed-masses routine on doctors orders (to minimise the risk of infection) but otherwise it’s business as moderately usual.

The Beast’s Sykes has reported that Charles’ “officials are as busy as ever. There is no question of decisions being taken by anyone other than the king.”

Still, undeniably, today we are the closest we have been in the span of more than two centuries and across seven reigns to a regency.

Therefore, whoever your god of choice is, let’s hope they are interested in saving the King. William and Kate, I’d wager, are on their knees praying about this very thing, right now.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:King Charles IIIPrince William