All the Times the Royal Family Hid Health Issues

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Mar 03, 2024

With the recent revelations of Princess Catherine’s stay in the hospital and King Charles III having been diagnosed with a form of cancer, this is seemingly the most open Buckingham Palace has ever been regarding the royal family’s health.

However, there have been many times throughout the history of the monarchy where the royal family has tried (and failed) to keep their health issues out of the limelight.

King Charles III’s Scary Polo Incident

When he was still a prince, King Charles III was out playing polo with Princes William and Harry, when he had what Buckingham Palace described as “a tumble,” but all wasn’t what it seemed.

King Charles III (then Prince Charles) with a crowd of people. One woman at the front of the crowd is holding a flag pole with the Union Jack flag attached.

Source: Tyle/Wikimedia Commons

What later transpired, according to NBC News, was that Charles III and his pony fell during a sharp turn, and he hit his head. He said he was swallowing his tongue, which can lead to death in the most extreme cases.

Meghan Markle Was Refused Help for her Mental Health

In 2020, the world was shocked when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced that they would be stepping down from royal duties and moving to the U.S. However, a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey a year later revealed the extent to which many struggles had not been reported.

A picture of Meghan Markle smiling.

Source: M Doucette Production/Wikimedia Commons

Meghan said that she had been experiencing suicidal thoughts and depression and had asked for help, but was refused, being told that her having depression would be a bad look for the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Hospital Visit Was Hidden

During the later years of her life, Queen Elizabeth II was believed to have been suffering from ill health. However, Buckingham Palace wanted to ensure everything was considered business as usual.

An image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a tiara and wearing a formal dress.

Source: Julian Calder/Wikimedia Commons

It was then discovered that Buckingham Palace had lied to the public and journalists, even going as far as to pretend that the queen hadn’t spent the night in hospital by flying the flag at Buckingham Palace to suggest she was there. This caused a lot of anger regarding how the public and journalists had been misled, as reported by The Daily Mail.

Duchess Sophie of Edinburgh Nearly Died During Labor

Possibly one of the most shocking cover-ups by the royal family was their cover-up of Duchess Sophie of Edinburgh almost dying when she went into premature labor with her daughter.

An image of Duchess Sophie of Edinburgh sitting at a wooden table. The wall behind her is made of wooden paneling and there is a wooden door.

Source: UKinUSA/Wikimedia Commons

Sophie needed several blood transfusions and came close to losing consciousness; her daughter was transferred to a separate hospital to receive specialist care, where Sophie couldn’t go to see her for almost a week. A statement released at the time downplayed this, stating that mother and baby were both “stable” and that the baby had been moved as a “precautionary measure,” per The Royal Household.

Prince William’s Hidden COVID-19 Worries

When the world was shut down in 2020 by a new virus called COVID-19, the royal family wasn’t immune to this, as they also got sick.

Prince William in a crowd full of people. One onlooker is holding the Malaysian flag.

Source: AD Vedder/Wikimedia Commons

While Buckingham Palace announced King Charles III (then Prince Charles) had contracted the virus, Prince William also contracted it. The palace refused to release this news. William’s symptoms were said to be severe, to the point where he was struggling to breathe.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Cousins’ Deaths were Faked

Possibly one of the most shocking cover-ups by the royal family, two of Queen Elizabeth II’s cousins had their deaths faked, as a way to hide their learning disabilities.

An engraving of the Royal Earlswood Hospital

Source: Edmund Evans/Wikimedia Commons

The deaths were faked in 1941 when the sisters were put in the Royal Earlswood Hospital. In 1987 The Sun released an exposé on what had happened. Buckingham Palace simply responded by saying “no comment” and that it was “a matter for the Bowes-Lyon family,” as reported by The Independent.


The Public (and King George VI) Were Lied to Regarding His Cancer Diagnosis

In perhaps one of the stranger turns of events, a mass was discovered on King George VI’s left lung, which was later discovered to be lung cancer. Both he and the public were told it was a “structural abnormality.”

A black and white photo of King George VI wearing his ceremonial uniform with medals.

Source: Matson Photo Service/Wikimedia Commons

When George VI died a year later, this came as a shock to many as he was thought to have made a full recovery. His cause of death at the time was said to be coronary thrombosis, however, it is now believed to have been a complication from lung cancer.


Another Mental Health Cover Up

Just as George III’s mental health was kept quiet and he was kept hidden from the public, Princess Margaret also suffered a similar fate.

Princess Margaret visiting a Rolls-Royce service garage. There are two cars behind her and a few men walking around the garage.Princess Margaret visiting a Rolls-Royce service garage. There are two cars behind her and a few men walking around the garage.

Source: Michael Yada, Los Angeles Times/Wikimedia Commons

There were various reports during her life regarding her mental health that Buckingham Palace rarely commented on. In 2000 when continuous reports came out regarding Margaret’s depression, the palace instead chose to claim she had had a possible stroke, which has not been confirmed.


King George III’s Mental Health

One of the first instances of a royal cover-up regards King George III’s mental health. Historically, he is often referred to as the ‘mad king’, but at the time, his issues were hidden from the public.

A painting of King George III wearing his Royal robes.

Source: Allan Ramsay/Wikimedia Commons

From 1765 onward, George III was in a cognitive decline, which was exaggerated during his last years. Modern doctors say they now believe this to have possibly been bipolar disorder.


Prince Philip’s Health Was Always Downplayed to the Media

While Prince Philip’s hospital visits were sometimes made apparent to the media and public, there were some occasions, particularly during his last few months, where this was completely downplayed.

A black and white image of Prince Philip. He is sitting in an armchair, writing something down in a book. To the right of him, there is a table with a lamp and phone on top.

Source: Michel Claude/Wikimedia Commons

Two months before he died, the media was told that Prince Philip was spending a few days in the hospital as “a precautionary matter,” as reported by the BBC. When he died, the public was told it was due to “old age,” with no other reason given.


Are the Royal Family Going to Be More Open About Their Health?

With The Telegraph regarding the announcements of the hospitalizations of Princess Catherine and King Charles III as “admirable honesty,” there are many questions regarding whether this could be a new era for the royals.

An image of some members of The British Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. There is Queen Camilla, King Charles III, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry.

Source: Ben/Wikimedia Commons

This sudden move from the royals to be so open and honest is refreshing; only time will tell whether this is going to continue, or whether they will go back to maintaining their privacy.