Queen gives update on King's cancer treatment amid change in tradition

The Queen arrives for a reception with authors, actors and lovers of literature at the Queen’s Reading Room Literary Festival at Hampton Court Palace (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
-Credit: (Image: Jordan Pettitt/PA)


The King is "doing fine" but "won't slow down and won't do what he's told", the Queen has told a prominent author. Camilla provided the update to author Lee Child, who appeared at Saturday's Queen's Reading Room Literary Festival at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey.

The Jack Reacher writer, 69, added: "Sounds to me like a typical husband." Charles has recently returned to public-facing duties while still receiving treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer.

The King's appearance at a D-Day event in Portsmouth on Wednesday was his first public speech and most high-profile appearance since his cancer diagnosis. He is expected to take part in the upcoming Trooping the Colour ceremony, but will inspect the soldiers from a carriage rather than on the traditional horseback, it is understood.

Child said: "I asked her how the King was doing because he did my investiture when I got the CBE, so I have a soft spot. And I hope he's doing fine. She said he is doing fine, except he won't slow down and he won't do what he's told, which sounds to me a typical husband."

Camilla spoke to a number of authors and actors at the festival, including Sir Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Miriam Margolyes and Elizabeth McGovern. Sir Ian said the Queen told him that "her whole family were fans of my books".

He said he told the Queen he came down from Edinburgh where he left the "madness" as Taylor Swift is performing, then compared the two saying Camilla would also be "used to a three-hour set and 16 costume changes", which he said she laughed at. Margolyes said she told the Queen "how much I love the King" at the literary festival. Speaking after she met Camilla on Saturday evening, Margolyes said the royal family has had "a hell of a time recently".

She said: "I just told her how much I love the King, because I do. He's an absolute darling, and he's brave as a lion and he's warm and kind and he cares and they've had a hell of a time recently so I just wanted him to know that I love him very much. She said she would tell him."

Margolyes said she first met the King about 10 years ago and that she is "very fond of him". The actress added that she was "chuffed" to be at the Queen's Reading Room Festival and it was "an incredible honour". Meanwhile, the Queen told Elif Shafak she is "longing" to read her upcoming book, the novelist said.

Shafak said: "She asked about my upcoming book, There Are Rivers In The Sky, she knew about it and she said I am longing to read it. I was really honoured."

Elif Shafak and Harlan Coben welcome the Queen to a reception at Hampton Court Palace (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Elif Shafak and Harlan Coben welcome the Queen to a reception at Hampton Court Palace -Credit:Jordan Pettitt/PA

Author Harlan Coben said the Queen is "fantastic" and has "such a warm personality" after speaking to her at her literature festival. He said they discussed how well the festival went and "how pleased" they both were and spoke about books and literature.

Coben said: "There's nothing bad about a book festival, it's one of the few things in life, there's no controversy, there's nothing negative. It's just people enjoying books. Everybody is smiling, the Queen's Reading Room festival has done a great job in using science to show us that reading is actually good for us, reduces stress, it increases our mental health and our empathy. And so I'm very excited to be able to help spread that message."

After arriving and greeting guests, the Queen watched a short excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by Downton Abbey star McGovern. McGovern met Camilla afterwards, then said during their conversation she was "expressing my support and gratitude for the work she's doing with this charity".

She also listened to the joint chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Tracy Borman speak of the Hampton Court Palace's literary connections. The Queen then joined the audience of thousands of people at the festival's evening session in Base Court, which included a performance by Margolyes and highlights from her one-woman show.

This is the second year that the festival has taken place, with both the King and Queen attending last year. The former Duchess of Cornwall launched The Reading Room on Instagram in January 2021 and the project was relaunched as charity The Queen's Reading Room in February 2023.

It also has a podcast whose second series guests included Good Omens and Stardust author Neil Gaiman and Withnail And I actor Richard E Grant. The Queen's Reading Room festival is a co-production between The Queen's Reading Room and Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for Hampton Court Palace.