King Charles Wanted a Slimmed Down Monarchy—But Without Kate & Will, Is It Actually Time to Panic?

Princess Anne’s words have never rung more true

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King Charles’s own sister, Princess Anne, said it herself: A slimmed-down monarchy (aka a much smaller group of family members dominating the royal spotlight) “doesn’t sound like a good idea.” Still, the concept—originally designed to center the monarchy around seven core individuals, Prince Harry included, as a way to provide taxpayers with more value for their money—has long been considered a hallmark of the new monarch’s agenda.

But, as Anne herself described in an in-depth interview with CBC last year ahead of the king’s coronation, a slimmed-down monarchy is perhaps an idea that was dreamed up during a time “when there were a few more people around to make that seem like a justifiable comment.”

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It’s true—and as my co-host Roberta Fiorito and I discuss this week on the Royally Obsessed podcast—the notion of it has certainly been put to the test this month as news of a health crisis for Kate Middleton led to canceled engagements and royal tours, including one to Rome, Italy, that was already on the books for March. As part of Kensington Palace’s announcement that the Princess of Wales is expected to be out of commission until after Easter, it was also revealed that Prince William plans to pick up the slack for his wife at home—a natural response—handling the school runs and prioritizing family first (and duty second) while Kate recovers.

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On the heels of that, we got word—this time from Buckingham Palace—that King Charles will also be taking a brief (and largely routine) health-related pause to undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate. Count ‘em, but this means not one, not two, but three senior members of the royal family are all temporarily unavailable to run the show.

For her part, Queen Camilla is certainly doing her best to fill the gap; so are Prince Edward and Sophie, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, who just this week met an ancient turtle, joined a menstrual health workshop and volunteered at a food bank. Still, it calls into question the gaping hole that’s left behind when the king, followed by the monarchy’s more modern players (William, but mainly Kate) are unavailable. To put it bluntly, who’s left?

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“The king needs to be careful when he’s going for this slimmed-down monarchy because we’re literally on skeleton staff,” royal expert and commentator Afua Hagan says on the latest episode of Royally Obsessed. “What it does is make the monarchy look old. So maybe it’s time to bring in a Princess Eugenie, a Princess Beatrice—maybe it is time we see some of these younger royals stepping up and filling these roles because there are no understudies. Like, if this was Hamilton and Eliza’s out, there’s another Eliza, there’s another Hamilton.”

Hagan has a point. Without a “B team”—or understudies as she refers to them—it starts to feel like the monarchy’s unflappable message of continuity and stability seems to wobble. The royals’ charitable impact (i.e. the media spotlight on so many organizations that benefit so greatly from their support) also takes a hit.

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Another, perhaps more gossipy, downside: With Charles, Kate and William all missing in action, even briefly, royal watchers will once again draw a direct line to the absence of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the total bummer of a question. What could have been?

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Don’t get us wrong: We’re confident that we’ll see Charles and Kate—and subsequently, William—back to business as usual in the near future. (We wish them a speedy recovery, too.) Still, as royal expert and author of both The Diana Chronicles and The Palace Papers Tina Brown mentioned when she dropped by the Royally Obsessed podcast last year, there’s a bit of a waiting game to endure before the next generation of royals—namely, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis—can share the stage.

So, what’s a monarch to do? Charles, if you’re listening, we’re with Hagan: Bring Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, even Zara Tindall, into the mix more often. Also, to William and Kate, please take care of yourselves. The future of the monarchy kind of depends on you? No pressure.

For more about the latest news on the royal family, listen to the Royally Obsessed podcast with co-hosts Rachel Bowie and Roberta Fiorito. Subscribe now or follow us on Instagram @royallyobsessedpodcast.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...