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King Charles Is 'Coping Well' amid Cancer, But Speculation Looms: 'There Are Constitutional Implications'

As the details of the King's cancer diagnosis and Kate Middleton's abdominal surgery remain undisclosed, there are increasing calls for transparency

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty</p> King Charles attends the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

King Charles attends the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

A source close to the royal household says that King Charles is "coping well" with his cancer treatment, but despite his limited appearances, there is still growing concern about his health.

"Even though he has revealed that he has a form of cancer, that has done nothing to quell the speculation about how seriously ill he may or may not be,” royal biographer Sally Bedell tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story. “That is not doing the monarchy any favors. He is the head of state, and there are constitutional implications.”

Nearly 19 months after bidding farewell to their matriarch Queen Elizabeth — who provided decades of stability to her family and the nation until her death at age 96 in September 2022 — the royals appear vulnerable. Along with the absence of  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle since their rocky departure in 2020, the current onslaught of issues feels unprecedented.

“The monarchy needs to be that anchor in times of trouble, and any sense of instability, which is inevitable when you have two of the key players are out of action, is understandable,” says Bedell Smith.

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images</p> King Charles and Queen Camilla attend the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 18.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

King Charles and Queen Camilla attend the Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 18.

Related: Royal Family in Turmoil as Demands Mount for More Transparency: 'There Is Too Much Uncertainty' (Exclusive)

Adds Catherine Mayer, who wrote the biography Charles: The Heart of a King: “This is massively exposing how the royal family has gone from too many people to too few in a short space of time.” 

As the royals navigate these challenges, the spotlight has intensified on the King, 75. Amid his cancer diagnosis, which the palace announced on Feb. 5 without disclosing the exact type of cancer, he remains a central figure. Despite his health difficulties, he has kept up appearances, attending church services and sharing glimpses of his life, including a photo displaying his appreciation for the uplifting get-well cards he has received and a video clip of his usually private weekly meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Queen Camilla represented the family at King Constantine’s memorial service at St. George’s Chapel and is expected to stand in for her husband at the annual Royal Maundy service this month, but demands are mounting for King Charles to be more transparent about his condition.

<p>WPA-Rota/Press Association Images</p> King Charles reads a card from a well-wisher at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 21.

WPA-Rota/Press Association Images

King Charles reads a card from a well-wisher at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 21.

Related: Queen Camilla to Make Royal History by Stepping in for King Charles with Ancient Tradition

Throughout the unfolding events, Prince William has kept calm and carried on — as his grandmother Queen Elizabeth would have done — returning to duty and carrying out two consecutive days of royal outings on Feb. 29 and March 1.

“His focus is on his work and not on social media,” a spokesman says.

<p>TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images</p> Prince William with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Renee Salt at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue on Feb. 29.

TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Prince William with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Renee Salt at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue on Feb. 29.

However, questions persisted regarding Prince William's mysterious absence from his godfather King Constatine’s memorial, with palace aides declining to elaborate on the reason behind his last-minute decision not to attend. Although royal sources clarified that it wasn’t due to his father’s health or Thomas Kingston’s death, information remained limited as public concern over Kate Middleton’s well-being escalated amid her private recovery from abdominal surgery.

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PEOPLE Magazine, March 18.
PEOPLE Magazine, March 18.

With pressure growing, the palace issued a terse comment noting that the Princess of Wales "continues to be doing well" in her recovery. This scant update — along with a brief sighting of the royal riding in a car with her mother, Carole Middleton, on Monday — comes amid what one palace insider describes as complete “radio silence” regarding her condition.

“Everybody feels unsettled by uncertainty, and there is too much uncertainty that is surrounding the monarchy right now,” Bedell Smith tells PEOPLE. “Queen Elizabeth used to say, ‘I need to be seen to be believed.’ It is important for Charles and his reign for the public to know a little bit more.”

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