King Charles cancer: Balmoral and Royal Deeside roots for 'tough character' amid sadness of monarch's cancer diagnosis
Many have recalled, in the wake of the announcement, the last time they saw the monarch and how well he appeared, whether that be in a fish restaurant, at the opening of a new bridge or at church just a few weeks ago.
Perhaps, however, something felt a little unusual last month when the King’s stay at Birkhall seemed more muted than usual.
"He has certainly been very low key over the winter,” said Alistair Cassie, now retired owner of the ironmongers in Ballater where the royal family were among customers. “There was never very much movement at all. There was no activity in the area, as there usually is.”
A new royal tradition began earlier this year when the King and Queen Camilla announced they were to spend January at Balmoral in a shift away from Queen Elizabeth II’s favoured Sandringham stop during the first month of the year.
The couple attended the Divine Service at Crathie Kirk on Sunday, January 14. But by Wednesday their stay was cut short when it was announced the King would be leaving Deeside for London to undergo corrective surgery for an enlarged prostate.
To others in the congregation at that last service, there was no hint the King was poorly.
"He looked in very good health,” said Simon Blackett, a history and tour guide in the Braemar area.
He added: “There is a lot of talk about the King today and we are all very sad about the news, but we are also optimistic that everything is going to be fine and that he will make a good recovery. A lot of people are talking about him – we know him well and he is a very faithful supporter of a lot of what we do here. We really are thinking of him and his family.
"He is a really tough character, a very experienced man, a very strong man. He has been waiting a long time to be King and I know he will want to just get back to work as soon as possible.”
The Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie, minister at Crathie Kirk and Domestic Chaplain to the monarch, said the diagnosis came after a challenging couple of years for the royal family.
“All of us want to pass on our very best wishes and assure him that we are holding him in our prayers, as well as other members of the royal family,” Rev MacKenzie said. “They have been through a lot during the last two years and we wish them God’s peace.”
Rev MacKenzie commended the King for being open with the public about his diagnosis.
“Speaking out this way is a gracious and humble thing to do,” he said. “Hats off to him and I am sure it will prove to be very helpful to other people.”
The minister said the King was “very well known and liked” in the community which, in common with many others, was saddened to hear of the diagnosis. Mr MacKenzie said: “Many people in the parish have got to know the King over many years and are concerned for him.
“We are glad that his treatment is underway and hope and pray that all will be well with him. King Charles lives a busy life and I hope that he enjoys a quieter time over the coming months while he recuperates."
The King has now started “regular” treatment for cancer and is recovering at home at Clarence House and Sandringham between hospital visits.
Sheena Fraser, secretary of the Braemar Royal Highland Society, said the King “might want to come and stay at Birkhall for a bit”. “He would be very, very welcome to come and recuperate on Deeside,” she said.
Ms Fraser said she was “very surprised and concerned” to hear of the cancer diagnosis, not least given the operation the monarch underwent last week.
"I was thinking of his age, and how then it is not so easy when you get cancer,” she said.
"Hopefully, his treatment is quick and successful. He, of course, has the support of the society and we wish him all the very best and a speedy recovery.”
She said the King's character made her believe he would be handling the diagnosis “very well”. Ms Fraser said: " I am sure he will be [thinking] ‘I have got to just deal with this and get on with it’.
"This is just another hurdle and you have to take what life throws at you, and he will fight against it, I am absolutely sure of that.”
Over at Invercauld Estate, where the King has been a regular on the grouse moors, particularly with his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh, workers were said to have been “anxious” to hear the news, according to chief executive Angus McNicol.
“We all hope that the King makes a swift recovery and be back to his normal self before long,” he said.
Meanwhile, Philip Farquharson, chief of Invercauld, whose family have been close friends and allies of the royal family for decades, said he was “saddened” to hear of the King’s health diagnosis and sent best wishes to him.
"I am sure His Majesty will handle the news intrepidly and with fortitude, as he handles all matters which come to him,” he said.
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