King Charles III was recently diagnosed with cancer, and there could be a silver lining to his health battle.
Charles’ son Prince Harry, who has had a strained relationship with the royal family since he stepped back from his senior royal duties and relocated to the United States in 2020, flew to the United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 6, one day after Buckingham Palace confirmed the king’s diagnosis.
“We often see in families, incidents like this bridge a gap,” royal expert Gareth Russell exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday of Harry’s trip across the pond. “They build a bridge [between] formally estranged members of a family. Cancer is nothing to be taken lightly and maybe it puts into perspective quarrels and fights that you’ve had before.”
While Harry, 39, didn’t hesitate to go to his father’s side after the health update, Russell pointed out that the visit doesn’t necessarily indicate a lasting reconciliation.
“It could also be a case of as it was with [Queen] Elizabeth II‘s funeral, that this is more of a temporary emotional rebounding that will then fall apart, partly because of the geographical distance,” he said, referring to Harry’s September 2022 reunion with his family after the queen’s death at age 96. Charles, 75, became king upon her passing.
Harry’s visit to the U.K. comes amid speculation that the prince might resume his royal duties in some capacity in the future.
“That conversation absolutely is happening,” Russell told Us, noting that it’s less clear whether Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, would ever return to her former role.
“I think many of [Meghan’s] sympathizers and supporters would say, ‘Why would she want that?’ She’s made it very clear that she had a difficult time in Britain, and in particular, that she felt very unfairly treated by sections of the British media,” he said. “I’m a great believer that time can tend to soothe a lot of things that once seemed impossible. Who knows what will happen?”
Harry and Meghan spoke out about their royal exit for the first time in March 2021 during a tell-all CBS interview. At the time, Harry claimed that Charles had stopped answering his phone calls. However, the father-son duo have since shown their love for each other on several occasions.
During his first address as king in September 2022, Charles noted that he wanted to “express [his] love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.” The following May, Harry attended his father’s coronation ceremony while Meghan, 42, remained in California with the pair’s two children: son Archie, 4, and daughter Lilibet, 2.
While Russell thinks Harry’s latest trip to the U.K. speaks more to “human spontaneous emotion” than to the severity of Charles’ condition, he noted that, “like any cancer, [Charles’ diagnosis] has to be taken seriously.”
He continued: “The king is immensely grateful and relieved to the medical staff for having spotted it so soon.”
The monarch’s cancer was discovered while he was in the hospital receiving treatment for benign prostate enlargement. Buckingham Palace said in a Monday, February 5, statement that Charles feels “wholly positive” about his treatment.
“His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties,” the statement continued. “Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake State business and official paperwork as usual.”
Although the palace did not specify what type of cancer Charles has or what stage it is — royal reporter Omid Scobie reported on Monday via X that the diagnosis is “not prostate cancer” — the announcement still demonstrates more transparency than the royal family has provided in the past.
“Part of it is generational,” Russell said of the king’s candor. “I think if you look back, Elizabeth II was very much of the second World War generation and it was a much more privacy-prizing generation. … I also think Charles III is generally a more open person. … So, in that sense, I think it’s partly because the king is just more inclined towards openness and also because you can clearly see a tangible positive impact for people in the country to have more frank and honest discussions in public life about illness.”
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi