There Has Been Talk of King Charles Stepping Down Even Before His Recent Health Issues

Melissa Willets - Author
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Feb. 5 2024, Updated 2:38 p.m. ET

King Charles III en route to his coronation on May 6, 2023 in London, England
Source: Getty Images

Amid the upsetting news in February 2024 that King Charles III was diagnosed with an undisclosed cancer following a routine procedure for an enlarged prostate, many have wondered what this could mean for the future of the British royal family.

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Only a month earlier, before the news of the king's health issues, a royal expert had actually speculated that Charles might follow in the footsteps of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who stepped down at the time in order to let her son take over.

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Earthshot Prize 2021 at Alexandra Palace
Source: Getty Images
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Is King Charles stepping down?

Buckingham Palace revealed in February 2024 that the king had begun "regular treatments" for cancer and that he remained "wholly positive" while "[looking] forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible."

But the king's diagnosis is not why some royal watchers have speculated lately that the king may step down. Rather, it had to do with a shocking move by Denmark's Queen Margrethe II the previous month.

As royal watchers know, typically the throne changes hands only when a monarch passes away. But on New Year's Day 2024, 83-year-old Queen Margrethe II of Denmark revealed that she was stepping down as of Jan. 14 so that her son, Crown Prince Frederik, could take over.

Did this set the stage for King Charles stepping down to allow his son and heir Prince William to assume the British throne?

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Well, according to royal biographer Phil Dampier, Queen Margrethe II's decision has potential implications for how King Charles will act in the coming years. Will he step down, unlike his mother, Queen Elizabeth II? This expert on the family believes the answer may be "yes."

As Phil told the Daily Mail in early January 2024 regarding the announcement about the future of the Danish throne (and before Charles's health issues came to light), "It must make you wonder if in five or 10 years" the British royal will take a cue from the queen in Denmark and allow William and Kate to assume the throne well before he had the opportunity.

"Our late queen would never abdicate because of what happened in 1936 when her uncle abdicated and her father came to the throne. But times change," the royal expert opined.

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He had more to say about the Prince and Princess of Wales too, telling the British outlet, "William and Kate get on very well with Frederik and [his wife] Mary and will be among the first to congratulate them. They will be fascinated to see how they get on as king and queen and it will make them think about their future as well."

Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London, 1953.
Source: Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London, 1953

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Queen Elizabeth was young when she became monarch, while her son had to wait ... and wait.

Queen Elizabeth II sat the British throne for an incredible near 71 years. Her son and heir apparent, the former Prince of Wales, spent many, many years twiddling his thumbs as she ruled the United Kingdom until her death in September 2022.

Indeed, King Charles was 73 when he finally became monarch, which made him the oldest sovereign in British history to do so.

At present, Prince William is 41 — young, to be sure in comparison to his father's age when he became king, but still far older than his grandmother's 25 years of age when she became queen upon her father's death.

Of course, only time will tell what King Charles actually decides to do.

Either way, we wish him all the best with his health, and hope he makes a full recovery.

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