What Will Happen If King Charles Abdicates?

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Mar 05, 2024

With King Charles III recently being diagnosed with cancer, this has made room for a lot of public speculation.

One bit of speculation that has risen since the news of King Charles’ cancer diagnosis is whether he will abdicate, and what this could mean for the monarchy.

King Charles Has Stepped Back from Royal Duties

Following the announcement of his cancer diagnosis, it was also revealed that he will be stepping back from his royal duties and engagements, as reported by The Independent.

An image of King Charles looking into the camera and smiling. The background is blurred, but there are a few images hanging up on the wall in a gold frame.

Source: White House/Wikimedia Commons

In his place, it is expected that other members of the royal family will take his place, including Queen Camilla and Prince William.

King Charles Will Still Be Working Behind the Scenes

While he is expected to not be seen out engaging with the public for a while, King Charles is still planning on doing some work behind the scenes.

King Charles and Emmanuel Macron at a state dinner. There is a Union Jack flag behind them. On the table, there are flowers and drink glasses. Charles is holding his arm out towards Emmanuel and they are both in black suits with black bow ties.

Source: UK in France/Wikimedia Commons

It is believed that Charles will be working on state business and official paperwork whilst he is receiving treatment.

Shortage of Working Royals

When King Charles took to the throne, it was said that the monarch wanted a “slimmed down” monarchy, as reported by The Mirror.

Queen Camilla and Prince William sat in a carriage. Camilla is wearing a pink hat and coat with a white dress underneath. William has a blue army suit and hat with medals and a sash. There is a crowd in the background, with some holding up cameras.

Source: Robert Payne/Wikimedia Commons

However, with his cancer diagnosis, Princess Catherine being out of action until Easter after her recent operation, and Princes Harry and Andrew no longer working, this is expected to pose an issue as to who will be carrying out royal duties. Princess Anne, Prince Edward, and Duchess Sophie are said to have more work added to their schedules.

Prince William Is Next in Line for the Throne

Whenever there is an abdication, this throws into question who is going to become the next king or queen of the U.K.

Prince William wearing a suit and tie and in a crowd full of people. One person to the left of the image is holding the Malaysia flag.

Source: AD Vedder/Wikimedia Commons

As he is King Charles’ eldest son, Prince William will take the throne after Charles, whether he abdicates or not.

The Line of Succession Would Completely Change

If King Charles were to abdicate the throne and William became king, this would change the line of succession completely.

An image of some of The Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Present are Queen Camilla and King Charles (then the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall), Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry.

Source: Ben/Wikimedia Commons

With William as king, this would make his son George heir, with his other two children being second and third in line. Fourth in line would be Prince Harry, and his children would be fifth and sixth.


King Charles Can Elect Counselors of State

In the event that King Charles becomes seriously ill, he would be able to elect some counselors of state to look after the country.

An image of King Charles looking somewhat serious against a plain background. He is wearing a blue suit and a white collar shirt.

Source: Arnaud Bouissou/Wikimedia Commons

This most commonly happens when a monarch is overseas. Once elected, they are able to carry out royal powers and hold Privy Council meetings, according to The Conversation.


Regency Is a Potential Option

The Regency Act would only be enacted if King Charles’ illness meant he was no longer of a mentally sound body or mind.

Prince Harry, Prince William, and King Charles sat next to each other. They are at a conference and are sat at a table wearing suits with microphones in front of them, looking serious. On the table is a card saying ‘United Kingdom’ and some bottles of water. Behind them are three men in suits, also looking serious.

Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Wikimedia Commons

In this instance, Prince William would become prince regent. This would enable him to have the same powers as the king, but would not be able to change the line of succession.


Edward VIII Was the Last British Monarch to Abdicate

Abdication is a rare occurrence in Britain. So much so that the last monarch to abdicate was Edward VIII in 1936.

A black and white photo of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson on a beach. There is a crowd of people behind them. Edward is wearing a shirt and trousers and Wallis is wearing a hat, shirt, and skirt and is holding a bag.

Source: National Media Museum/Wikimedia Commons

Edward abdicated because he wanted to marry the divorced socialite Wallis Simpson. It was seen as completely unacceptable at the time for a monarch to marry someone who was already divorced.


Abdications Are More Common in Europe

Where Britain has only been witness to one abdication in the last 100 years, the same cannot be said for other monarchies in Europe.

An image of the Dutch Royal Family from 2016. They are on a skiing holiday and the photo is taken of them all in the snow.

Source: Vorsten TV/Wikimedia Commons

According to The Guardian, in just under 18 months 10 years ago, two kings and a queen abdicated. The countries where abdication is more common are the Netherlands and Spain.


Royal Commentators Believe King Charles Will Abdicate

As reported by Live Now Fox, Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, has said that he believes King Charles and Queen Camilla will stay on the throne for 10 years and then abdicate.

A photo of King Charles and Queen Camilla at a state dinner. Charles is wearing a suit with a blue sash and his medals. Camilla is wearing a tiara, a white dress, and a blue sash.

Source: The White House/Wikimedia Commons

Royal biographer Phil Dampier also believes that Charles will step down in the next five or 10 years for the sake of his health and pass the crown over to Prince William while he is still young.


King Charles Is Expected to Return to His Royal Duties

Even though for the time being he is taking a step back from the monarchy, King Charles is hopefully expecting to return to royal life soon.

King Charles at Trooping of the Colour. He is wearing a red army suit, complete with a blue sash, gold detailing, and medals. On his head, he is wearing a bearskin. He is riding a horse.

Source: Katie Chan/Wikimedia Commons

When this will be is unknown, but is likely to depend on his treatment and the outcome of his cancer diagnosis.


King Charles Is Unlikely to Abdicate the Throne Soon

Despite his recent cancer diagnosis, it is believed that King Charles is highly unlikely to abdicate the throne.

King Charles wearing a black suit. He is standing outside a black car and is waving to onlookers. Behind him are a group of people, who are also wearing black suits.King Charles wearing a black suit. He is standing outside a black car and is waving to onlookers. Behind him are a group of people, who are also wearing black suits.

Source: Northern Ireland Office/Wikimedia Commons

As he holds the world record for the longest serving heir apparent, according to the Guinness World Records, lasting 70 years 214 days, it’s unlikely he will give up the role he has spent his life training for.