King Charles has landed back at Sandringham away from prying eyes after meeting his son Prince Harry for less than an hour in their first face-to-face encounter for nine months.
As the monarch prepares to take the next steps in his cancer fight at their Norfolk bolthole, the red and gold helicopter braved wind and rain before he was quickly rushed inside by waiting aides.
The King, 75, landed on the rare side of the estate, locals told The Sun, which is used by the Firm when they look to ensure their privacy.
Charles and Queen Camilla were seen for the first time since his cancer announcement as they waved to crowds while leaving Clarence House in London in an official car at 3.35pm before catching a helicopter to Norfolk.
The monarch’s Sikorsky S-76C chopper landed less than an hour later at the royal estate at around 4.20pm.
Pictures show the red and helicopter descending to the King’s estate – where the family gathered to celebrate Christmas just two months ago.
Harry was seen driving through the gates of Clarence House at 2.45pm after rushing to Britain following an 11-hour flight from California – where his wife, Meghan Markle, and children, Archie and Lilibet, are staying behind.
A smiling King Charles and Queen Camilla leaving Clarence House this afternoon
Pictures show the red and helicopter descending to the King’s estate
The monarch’s Sikorsky S-76C chopper landed at around 4.20pm after a flight of less than an hour
A helicopter was pictured landing at Buckingham Palace on an overcast day in central London
Charles – seen with Camilla – is said to be ‘on good form’ following the start of his treatment
Prince Harry arriving at Clarence House this afternoon to meet his father King Charles
Charles is said to be ‘on good form’ following treatment earlier today for an unspecified cancer. The royal helicopter was seen arriving in Sandringham just before 5pm.
It is not known if Harry will remain in central London or stay at Windsor, most likely at Frogmore Cottage – which he and his wife had to move out of last June.
Experts have said they hope that Harry’s trip is the ‘sign of a truce’ with Charles, but there remains little sign of a rapprochement with his brother William – with a source close to the Prince of Wales saying there were ‘no plans’ for a meeting.
The source told The Mirror: ‘The prince’s main focus is for his wife, who is recovering from surgery, his three children and now his father.
‘There are no plans for Harry’s visit to act as some kind of vehicle for reconciliation.’
Charles, meanwhile, is said to be ‘on good form’ and in regular contact with the Prince of Wales.
‘He’s on his usual good form in every way, just a little frustrated that his condition has affected not just his own plans but impacted on others,’ a palace source told the Telegraph.
Harry left LAX for London last night after Charles called him personally to tell him the devastating news.
A luxury Range Rover believed to be carrying the royal was seen arriving at LAX’s VIP terminal last night and he boarded the earliest flight so he could be in London by lunchtime.
Harry was accompanied by police security despite his ongoing row with the Home Office.
Daily Mail diary editor Richard Eden tweeted today: ‘After his 5,000-mile flight from Los Angeles, #PrinceHarry is understood to have had a brief meeting with #KingCharles before His Majesty departed for his Norfolk retreat, Sandringham. It will be interesting to see how long Harry stays in this country.’
Earlier, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said it was crucial for the duke to show solidarity with his father.
‘I’m sure Harry will put aside the past right now for this serious issue,’ he said.
‘It’s so important that everyone is pulling in the right direction’.
Kristina Kyriacou, the King’s former press secretary, said: ‘Charles adores Harry. He didn’t want any of this estrangement.
‘If out of bad news, some good news comes and Harry and the King and the Queen and his brother are reunited – how wonderful.’
In Spare, Harry had revealed that Charles had urged his warring sons: ‘Please boys, don’t make my final years a misery.’
Harry’s trip could be motivated by that plea.
The Prince flew into London’s Heathrow on a scheduled British Airways flight from Los Angeles, before being picked up by a black Range Rover.
The prince rushed back to Britain on an 11-hour flight from California as soon as he heard the news
Harry was seen in a large convoy of Range Rovers driving through the gates of the royal residence
This helicopter is expected to take Charles and Camilla back to Sandringham in Norfolk
A police escort outside Clarence House before the Duke of Sussex’s arrival
Flowers are delivered to Clarence House following Charles’s cancer diagnosis
Harry is believed to have been in this Range Rover as it was swept from Heathrow under police guard this afternoon
Police escort a Range Rover believed to be carrying Prince Harry out of Heathrow at around 1pm as he heads to visit his father in London
The prince, who travelled on the overnight 11-hour flight without his wife Meghan, was met off the plane by a convoy of cars
Police waiting for Harry at the VIP terminal of Heathrow where Harry landed on a BA flight
A car believed to be carrying Prince Harry is pictured arriving at a private terminal at LAX to fly to the UK to be with his father, King Charles, after his cancer diagnosis
Frogmore Cottage (pictured) which was formerly the home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. He may stay there or in a hotel
KING’S CANCER DIAGNOSIS: THE ROYAL FAMILY’S RECENT HEALTH SCARES The King’s cancer diagnosis is the latest shock health news to hit the royal family.
– Tuesday January 16
Kate, 42, is secretly admitted to the London Clinic and undergoes abdominal surgery.
– Wednesday January 17
2pm – Kensington Palace announces the princess’ operation and says she will remain in the private hospital for 10-14 days.
She is not expected to return to duties until after Easter, taking up to three months to recover.
The Prince of Wales steps back from his official duties temporarily to care of his wife and children.
The exact nature of Kate’s condition is kept private, but it is not cancerous and Kensington Palace says the planned procedure was successful.
3.25pm – Buckingham Palace announces the King, 75, is to have treatment for a benign enlarged prostate and will be admitted to hospital in a few days.
A source later says the princess is ‘doing well’.
– Thursday January 18
The Prince of Wales spends time at his wife’s bedside, driving himself away from the back entrance during the low-key, private visit.
The Queen says the King is ‘fine’ and ‘looking forward to getting back to work’ during a visit to the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
– Friday January 19
The King flies back from Scotland with the Queen and heads to his Sandringham estate in Norfolk to rest ahead of the procedure.
– Sunday January 21
It is announced that the King’s former sister-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York, has malignant melanoma, a form skin cancer.
It is less than a year since the duchess, 64, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
– Monday January 22
The Queen tells 86-year-old well-wisher Jessie Jackson that the King is ‘fine’, and thanks her for asking, while she carries out engagements in Swindon.
Sarah, Duchess of York, meanwhile, describes her shock at having skin cancer but says she is in ‘good spirits’ and ‘grateful for the many messages of love and support’, in a post on Instagram.
– Tuesday January 23
Kate’s hospital stay passes the one-week mark.
Camilla urges the King to take it easy. An insider told The Sun: ‘The Queen has told him he needs to slow down a bit.’
– Thursday January 25
The King carried out behind the scenes official duties, meeting academics from Cambridge University at Sandringham House.
The King arrives back in London from Norfolk ready for his treatment.
– Friday January 26
The King, with the Queen at his side, is admitted to the London Clinic for treatment for an enlarged prostate and also visits the Princess of Wales, who is recovering in the same hospital.
– Monday January 29
The King is discharged from hospital and waves at well-wishers. Kate leaves the clinic the same day to continue her recovery at home.
– Wednesday January 31
Camilla says the King is ‘getting on, doing his best’ as she opened a Maggie’s cancer support centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
– Sunday February 4
The King and Queen attend church in Sandringham, with Charles waving at well-wishers.
– Monday February 5
Kensington Palace confirms the Prince of Wales is returning to official duties this week, beginning with an investiture.
6pm – Buckingham Palace announces the King has a form of cancer – but not prostate cancer – and has started treatment as an outpatient.
He will not carry out public-facing duties, but will carry on with behind the scenes state business and official papers.
– Tuesday February 6
Prince Harry lands in the UK to see his father.
He is seen arriving at Clarence House
His father the King could be absent from public duties until at least March following yesterday’s dramatic announcement about his health.
The Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman said this morning that the King’s ‘first pronounced absence’ could come on Commonwealth Day, which is traditionally held at Westminster Abbey on the second Monday of March.
Mr Hardman, the author of ‘Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story’, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I would imagine we probably won’t see him at Westminster Abbey now.
‘I’m sure there will be a statement, a message – he’ll want to engage with that. It’s moments like that when an absence is noted, but the day-to-day running of the monarchy will not really change.’
Former royal’s communications secretary Julian Payne said the King would be ‘chomping at the bit’ to return to public engagements and will be ‘deeply frustrated’ by having to step back.
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said this morning that he was ‘shocked and sad’ to hear about the King’s cancer diagnosis but was ‘thankful’ it had been caught early.
Family and friends were said to be amazed by the King’s determination to carry on with ‘business as usual’. It is understood his condition has been caught very early and the prognosis is good. A family friend said: ‘He and his doctors are very, very positive.’
Charles has been making frequent Sunday night trips in recent months to Windsor Castle to spend time with Prince William, The Sun reported, with the father and son becoming closer.
While cancelling all his public engagements, Charles is insisting on carrying on with his ‘red boxes’ of paperwork and he may even conduct a small number of face-to-face private meetings.
The Mail has learnt that the King has known about his diagnosis since early last week, insisting on going to church in Norfolk on Sunday and waving warmly to well-wishers.
Camilla also stoically insisted on opening a new Maggie’s cancer care unit in London on Wednesday in the knowledge that her husband was about to have treatment.
She carefully told well-wishers at the Royal Free Hospital that he was ‘getting on, doing his best’. A source said: ‘Full credit to her. She has been marvellous.’
In a statement Buckingham Palace said last night: ‘During the King’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer.
‘His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties. Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake state business and official paperwork as usual.
‘The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure.
‘He remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible. His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world affected by cancer.’
Former royal communications secretary Julian Payne told Newsnight last night that the King will be ‘deeply frustrated’ by having to step back from work.
He added: ‘His work schedule is punishing and he really enjoys being out and meeting people and having the chance to speak up on causes that he cares about on representing the nation.
‘He will find that difficult. The reality of course is the machinery of state continues, the red boxes will come, the meetings with the PM will happen and the Privy Counsellors.
‘That side of things will continue but he will be itching to get back to things as quickly as he can.
‘The good thing of course is that although he is 75 he is a very fit and healthy 75-year-old.’
‘So I think he’s in as good a position as anyone can be to get through this next chapter. And he’ll be absolutely chomping at the bit to get back out as quickly as he can.’
Sunday Times royal editor Roya Nikkhah added: ‘He won’t want to step back. If he can continue with his duties… he’s not going to want to step back if he doesn’t have to.
‘It’ll be about other members of the Royal Family picking up the slack while he can’t be on public duties. The Queen is 76, she is very energetic 76 but 76 nonetheless.
‘So there’s a lot of pressure on her not only doing more duties, worrying about her husband too.
‘I think we will see her step a lot to fill that void and I’m sure we will see Prince William more doing public facing things.
‘We know the King will be frustrated but he will know he has members of the family who he trusts to the roles if needs be.’
Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are seen leaving Clarence House this morning
Royal biographer Matthew Dennison told BBC News that the country is ‘going to see something that’s a little like what we saw in the last months of the reign of the late Queen.’
He explained: ‘The Queen maintained all of the functions associated with her role as head of state, the red boxes, the prime ministerial encounters, where possible Privy Counsellor meetings – but she didn’t do as many public engagements which are that head of the nation side of being the sovereign.
‘What we’re going to see is something remarkably similar that the King will continue as head of state but some of that head of the nation meeting and greeting that being a figurehead a focus of royalty, affection, unity he won’t be doing that in the short term.
‘Members of his immediate family who of course stepped up when the late queen died scaled back her public engagements will do the same in this case I think.’
He added: ‘The challenge for the Royal Family is fitting in engagements to what are often really very busy diaries which have been planned long in advance.
‘I would imagine we would see increased numbers of engagements for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh and possibly the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who are of course trusted members of the Royal Family too.’
And Dame Julia Cleverdon told BBC Radio 4: ‘I am absolutely sure that this reign will continue and that the determination of the King, who is a very determined man, knows a lot about cancer. I always remember when organising programmes within the last engagement of the day was always the visit to hospitals because he didn’t want any time taken – if he was going to use longer time it would be his time.
‘He will be really really a) knowledgeable b) determined and c) absolutely clear that the show will go on.’
Following last night’s devastating health update, Princess Anne got back to business as usual by handing out honours at Windsor Castle before she travels up to the Midlands for a busy day of royal engagements.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: ‘During The King’s recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer’
Princess Beatrice of York, the King’s niece, was seen driving to Clarence House this morning.
Royal aides said they were carefully balancing the King’s right to privacy at a difficult and sensitive time with his role as head of state. But he hopes that by sharing the news that it will enable accurate reporting of his condition and prevent speculation on an issue that affects so many other families.
No further details of which cancer he has been diagnosed with are being shared, aside from emphasising it is not prostate cancer, which is the biggest cancer killer of men in the UK each year. It is being stressed it was found only when the king had treatment for a benign enlarged prostate.
He was admitted for surgery on January 26 and remained in the private London Clinic in central London for three days.
It was during this intervention that a ‘separate cause for concern’ was noted and subsequently diagnosed as a form of cancer.
Details of his treatment are not being disclosed.
A royal aide said: ‘No further details are being shared at this stage, but His Majesty is receiving expert care and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.’