The King "always wanted" to shield his sons from feeling the weight of the crown "too early"
King Charles doesn’t want to overwhelm Prince William with royal responsibilities following his cancer diagnosis, especially as his son is focused on family duties amid his wife Kate Middleton’s lengthy recovery outside of the spotlight after her abdominal surgery.
“He wouldn’t want to put that pressure on William,” a source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue. “He has always wanted to save his children from having that pressure too early and that will remain. Particularly as William has other priorities [with Kate].”
Although Prince William may undertake some duties on behalf of his father following the palace announcement about the King’s health, there are currently no plans to appoint Counsellors of State to act in his stead. The Prince of Wales, 41, is among the select family members who can carry out constitutional duties for the monarch if he is abroad or unwell. However, Buckingham Palace said the King will keep working behind the scenes, receiving "red boxes," the monarch’s daily delivery of official files, and taking on other duties behind the scenes.
“Yes, he’s going to step back from public duties for a considerable time, but there will be plenty of work for him — it just won’t necessarily be in a room with hundreds of people,” says royal biographer Robert Hardman, author of The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy.
It has been a particularly difficult start to the new year for the royal family. On Jan. 16, Princess Kate underwent a 13-day hospitalization for abdominal surgery, prompting Prince William’s temporary withdrawal from public duty to care for her and their three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5. Kensington Palace said in the statement announcing that the Princess of Wales had surgery that she was "unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter" based on medical advice.
The same day, Buckingham Palace revealed that King Charles, 75, was seeking treatment for a benign enlarged prostate. PEOPLE understands that the monarch visited his daughter-in-law at the London Clinic, the hospital where she had surgery, before his own procedure. The King left the private hospital following a three-day stay on Jan. 29.
One week later, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles had cancer.
The palace revealed that when the King underwent his prostate procedure, a separate issue of concern was detected and “subsequent diagnostic tests have revealed the presence of a form of cancer." (The type of cancer has not been disclosed in keeping with the palace's tight-lipped approach to medical conditions, but it is not prostate cancer, a spokesman confirmed.)
The potential for increased responsibilities for Prince William as King Charles’ heir highlighted the royal family’s thinned ranks since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back from their working royal roles in 2020 and Prince Andrew was forced to stop public duties due to his controversial ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
It's understood that the Prince of Wales has not seen his father since the news was announced, but they are in regular contact.
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“It is hard with Kate being ill as well, but he will step up,” a source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE.
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