The Royal Family’s Surprising History of Cancer

Recently, King Charles was hospitalized, and he shared that he simply had to deal with an enlarged prostate. However, whether he suddenly got bad news from his doctors or simply decided to stop playing coy with the media, the king announced that he had been diagnosed by cancer.

The diagnosis took many by surprise because a royal getting cancer seems like such a rare event. In reality, though, these incidents are more common than you might think, and many modern members of the Royal Family have struggled with such a diagnosis.

Which royals have had cancer, and what do we know about King Charles’ diagnosis? Keep reading to find out!

King Charles is the latest royal to get a cancer diagnosis

We know that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer thanks to a statement from Buckingham Palace. However, those hoping to learn much more about exactly what Charles is dealing with ended up being sorely disappointed by the royal secrecy on display.

For example, we know Charles has cancer and is receiving treatments, but we don’t know what kind of cancer he has or how long his treatments are intended to last. This alone has fueled speculation because there is a world of difference between, say, skin cancer and brain cancer.

In time, we will learn more about what is ailing King Charles. In the meantime, though, we decided to go down memory lane and recall the royals before him who had received such a diagnosis.

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Queen Elizabeth had marrow cancer

Despite her advanced years, the death of Queen Elizabeth shocked the entire world. Still, admirers of the monarch and her reign could take some cold comfort from the fact that she officially died of old age. That’s a peaceful way to go, but at least one royal biographer has painted a very different view of how the Queen died.

As the Daily Mail reports, former Parliament member and current royal biographer Gyles Brandret made an explosive claim in his book Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait. He claims that the Queen was suffering from bone marrow cancer in her final days and that this explained both her relatively sudden death and the various mobility issues she suffered from until she passed.

Prince Philip may have had prostate cancer

Understandably, not every royal is always upfront about their health issues, especially when it comes to cancer. Prince Philip was one such secretive royal, and he never officially received any kind of cancer diagnosis. However, from 2008 up until his death, Philip dealt with persistent rumors that he was suffering from prostate cancer.

Those rumors stemmed from a story run by a tabloid, and the Royal Family took the rare step of officially denouncing this rumor. Ironically enough, that didn’t kill the rumor, and Philip’s potential cancer diagnosis has now become part of the discourse over King Charles’ own cancer struggles.

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King George VI had lung cancer

One of the reasons that Queen Elizabeth had such a long reign as monarch was the fact that she had to assume the throne relatively early in life. She wore the crown very well, but the sad truth is that she wouldn’t have had to assume the responsibility so young (she was only 25) if her father hadn’t died so early.

It’s no mystery how King George VI died: officially, the cause of death was coronary thrombosis. What many people don’t know, however, is that the king was a heavy smoker who was later diagnosed with lung cancer. As The Guardian reports, prestigious surgeon Harold Ellis later claimed that George’s thrombosis was “90% due to smoking” and that since he died at the depressingly young age of 56, he “should be on every cigarette packet” as a warning to others!

Fergie had skin and breast cancer

Sarah Ferguson, like all royals, has a pretty cool title: Duchess of York. However, those of us who remember the days when she constantly appeared in tabloid stories will always remember her cute media nickname “Fergie.” Part of what made Fergie so famous was her great beauty, but in recent years, she has been in the headlines for a completely different reason: repeated cancer health scares.

The first cancer scare came in 2023, and via a spokesperson, Fergie told The Guardian that had recently received a mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, her wealth and station entitled her to the very best medical care, and she received swift treatment and a positive prognosis for the future.

Unfortunately, that future got a bit scarier when Fergie received another cancer scare. Via a spokesperson, she told AP News that doctors took a closer look at some of the moles on her skin after breast reconstruction surgery. She was then diagnosed with skin cancer, but once more, she swiftly received great medical care and remained in good spirits the entire time.

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