Prince William kept calm and carried on. “I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the kind messages of support,” Prince William said in a speech at a charity dinner on February 7, his first official day back at work following his wife, Kate Middleton’s abdominal surgery and his father, King Charles’ cancer diagnosis. He even ended his remarks at the fundraiser for London’s Air Ambulance Charity, where he shared a warm chat with Tom Cruise, with a little joke: “It’s fair to say the past few weeks have had a rather ‘medical’ focus, so I thought I’d come to an air ambulance function to get away from it all!”

That’s the kind of stiff upper lip that has defined his family for generations. “The queen would be so proud of how well he’s managed to compartmentalize everything and prioritize his duties to the crown,” a source exclusively tells In Touch of William, who’s been juggling childcare and his wife’s convalescence with his own charity work and some of his dad’s royal obligations. “Charles is definitely impressed by how easily William has filled his shoes.” And while the king’s cancer was caught early and he’s vowed to return to public duty as soon as possible, the palace is bracing for a new bombshell. “Charles can’t help but consider stepping down instead, for the sake of the monarchy,” says the source — “meaning William and Kate will be crowned king and queen much sooner than anyone expected.”

Charles may have no choice. “He’s got a serious battle ahead, and he’ll need to focus on beating this cancer,” the source says of the 75-year-old, who was diagnosed following a procedure for an enlarged prostate, though palace officials have said he does not have prostate cancer. And while he’s continuing some of his duties — such as reading the famous “red box” of government papers daily and meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (by phone for now) — the source notes that the king has experienced increased tiredness from the treatments. “The side effects are a lot worse than anyone knows.”

William has already had to pick up the slack. “He’s taken more control at the palace, staying in constant contact with Charles’ aides,” says the source. “He’s basically the Firm’s point man right now.” He and his famously hard-working aunt, Princess Anne, have also added multiple engagements to their diaries that Charles simply can’t make. Willam, 41, “has tended toward less of the day-to-day routine work of the monarchy, compared to his father, instead focusing on bigger, glitzier engagements,” says royal historian Ed Owens. “But now he’ll be expected to fill in on many of these more mundane public outings.”

Kate, meanwhile, will have to hit the ground running. “She’s still recovering and isn’t expected to be fully back in action until April,” the source says of the 42-year-old princess, who had to cancel a series of official appearances when she had abdominal surgery in January. “The timing isn’t ideal, but she’s ready to step up. They’ve both been preparing for this for years.”

But their lives will never be the same again. Until now, Kate and William have maintained a relatively normal routine at their Windsor home, Adelaide Cottage. “They’ve been able to pick their kids up from school and enjoy family dinners,” the source says of the parents to George, 10, Charlotte, 8, and Louis, 5. Now, they’ll be spending a lot more time in London — either at their Kensington Palace apartment or, eventually, Buckingham Palace — “because their schedules will be packed.” (Charles attended 425 engagements, and Queen Camilla did 233 last year, compared to just 172 and 125 for William and Kate, respectively.)

Prince William and Kate Middleton Will Be Crowned King and Queen ‘Much Sooner’ Than Expected
Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images

They’ll still have their passion projects — conservation for him and early childhood development for her — “but they’ll also have to squeeze in lots of random events, from ribbon-cuttings to factory tours,” adds the source. “There will be a learning curve.”

Palace officials are secretly working hard to ensure the transfer of power is as smooth as possible. “Considering the circumstances, they won’t have an elaborate coronation — William thinks his father’s was over-the-top anyway,” the source says of the celebration for Charles’ ascension last May, which cost an estimated $125 million. “William and Kate don’t want all the traditional pomp and circumstance that make them seem out of touch, so it would be scaled down significantly. They’ll likely do the religious ceremony and a small reception, hopefully for less than $15 million.”

It will be a bittersweet event for Charles, who waited his whole life to take the throne. “The idea that he won’t get to make his mark as king is a hard pill to swallow,” says the source, adding that Camilla is actually relishing the chance to have a relaxing retirement. “She’s urged him to let it go and enjoy their golden years. It also helps that Charles has a lot of confidence in William and Kate, and in the end, he’s doing what’s best for the monarchy. So he can feel proud knowing he’s done his job well.”

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at