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To Share or Not to Share? King Charles and King Harald's Illnesses Are Being Handled Very Differently

One of the longest-reigning kings in Europe, King Harald, and one of the newest, King Charles, are simultaneously dealing with health issues that are keeping them from public duties. However, the approach of the Norwegian Royal House and Buckingham Palace have significantly diverged in how to handle updating the public on royal health.

In January, Buckingham Palace announced that Charles would undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate, a remarkable display of transparency around the king's health. It is understood that King Charles wanted to share the details of his diagnosis to encourage others to get checked. Soon after that treatment, the Palace announced, "during The King’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer." They did not disclose the type of cancer, and while Charles has been photographed in the weeks sense—reading get well cards, attending church at Sandringham, and meeting with the Prime Minister—the Palace has not shared any updates about his treatment or any other specifics regarding his health.

In stark contrast, at the end of February, King Harald of Norway was hospitalized in Malaysia while vacationing in the country with his wife, Queen Sonja, for his 87th birthday. Since the initial news broke that he was hospitalized with an infection, there has been a near-constant feed of updates from the Norwegian royal house. It was announced when Harald received a temporary pacemaker; that he was medically transported from Langkawi, Malaysia back to Oslo, Norway; that he arrived in Norway; that he has a low heart rate; and on and on. His son, Crown Prince Haakon, has also spoken to the press at length about his father's health, and even answered questions about why his elderly father traveled to Malaysia in the first place.

There could be a few reasons for the difference in transparency around health: For one, King Harald is 11 years older than King Charles, and has had numerous health issues in recent years, including just this past January, when he was on sick leave for a respiratory infection. Secondly, Harald's hospitalization and medical transport has been changing day by day, especially since he was out of the country when he first fell ill. Perhaps if there were more updates or news to share about Charles, Buckingham Palace would be sharing them.

Another key difference is that in Norway, when the monarch is unable to perform duties, or is out of the country, a regent is appointed. In this case, King Harald's son and heir, Crown Prince Haakon, has been serving as regent. However, when King Charles is unable to perform his public duties, there are no regents appointed—i.e., his heir, Prince William, is not stepping in for him. Thus, since Charles is still undertaking "State business and official paperwork as usual," per the Palace, Harald can fully focus on his health while his son serves as regent.

ouistreham, france june 06 no uk sales until 28 days after create date and time king harald of norway and prince charles, prince of wales attend the international ceremony at sword beach to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the d day landings on june 6, 2014 in ouistreham, france friday 6th june is the 70th anniversary of the d day landings which saw 156,000 troops from the allied countries including the united kingdom and the united states join forces to launch an audacious attack on the beaches of normandy, these assaults are credited with the eventual defeat of nazi germany a series of events commemorating the 70th anniversary are planned for the week with many heads of state travelling to the famous beaches to pay their respects to those who lost their lives photo by poolmax mumbyindigogetty images local caption king harald of norwayprince charles, prince of wales
Harald and Charles in 2014.Max Mumby/Indigo

There's one thing both kings have in common, though (in addition to being relatives, that is): Despite their health, neither Harald nor Charles have any plans to abdicate any time soon.

King Harald was explicitly asked if he would consider stepping down permanently, following Queen Margrehte of Denmark's shocking abdication. "I stick by what I've always said, that I swore an oath to the Storting [parliament] and it is for life," Harald said. And while Charles has not commented, it's widely thought he is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth, who viewed the job as a "job for life." Abdication, Charles's biographer Robert Hardman told T&C, is "not in the British tradition."


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