The Prince and Princess of Wales Have Emerged As the “Pillars on Which the Future of the Monarchy Rests,” Royal Biographer Says

“If either of them starts to wobble, the whole thing can come crashing down.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In addition to the weight of a heavy health diagnosis—like the one the Princess of Wales was dealt earlier this year when she was diagnosed with cancer—Kate and her husband, Prince William, have long before 2024 carried the weight of the future of the monarchy on their shoulders. To put that much pressure on anyone—royalty or not—must feel a bit suffocating, but, while King Charles and Queen Camilla are the present, it’s William and Kate who have emerged as the “pillars on which the future of the monarchy rests,” according to royal biographer Christopher Andersen (per OK).

Prince William and Kate Middleton

The amount of pressure constantly put on William and Kate is staggering.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Calling the couple “far and away the most beloved members of the royal family,” Andersen added that “If either of them starts to wobble, the whole thing can come crashing down,” he said. “At the moment, Kate is at her most vulnerable. The ground beneath Kate is shifting in major ways. Only time can tell if she can stand strong.”

The Wales family of five—William, Kate, and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—were seen on Christmas Day 2023, attending the traditional services at St. Mary Magdalene at Sandringham. Then, nothing—at least from Kate. After undergoing a planned abdominal surgery on January 16, cancer was detected; it’s believed Kate found out about her diagnosis towards the end of February. After a photo scandal and seemingly endless conspiracy theories and rampant speculation, Kate announced to the world on March 22 that she was undergoing treatment for cancer; she remained out of the public eye until June 15, when she emerged—after nearly six months away—back into the royal fold with an appearance at Trooping the Colour alongside the rest of her immediate family and the royal family as a whole. Though William worked off-and-on throughout 2024—though he made it clear that his family was his first priority, taking care of both his wife as she recovered and their three young kids—other than a couple of appearances from George (who joined his father at sporting events from time to time), the kids were also largely unseen through the tumult that was the first half of 2024. All three kids attended Trooping the Colour, though, and did so triumphantly.

The Wales family on the Buckingham Palace balcony at Trooping the Colour

The entire Wales family of five made a hugely anticipated return to public life at Trooping the Colour last month.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With Kate’s diagnosis and absence from royal life, as well as William’s occasional absence as he took care of his family and King Charles’ own temporary step back from public life after announcing his cancer diagnosis on February 5, the slimmed-down monarchy Charles has always said to prefer has felt practically skeletal in its size. After Princess Anne’s injury at her home on June 23 and her absence from public life for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time, it has become incredibly apparent how few working royals there really are—and that, when crisis strikes, as it has with aplomb in 2024, there are so few royals to lean on.

“The simple truth is that the royal family cannot be whittled down to a precious few without the risk of having it grind to a halt altogether,” Andersen said. “For over 70 years, the Windsors had longevity on their side—almost to a ridiculous extent. Queen Elizabeth lived to be 96, and her husband Prince Philip was 99, the longest-living royal male in history [when he died]. The Queen Mother was downing her favorite gin and Dubonnets right up until the end at the astounding age of 101. There seemed to be no need for redundancy, with senior royals seeming practically immortal, and three generations of future monarchs waiting in the wings.”

Princess Anne

The Princess Royal's recent hospitalization further exacerbated how slimmed-down the monarchy has really gotten as of late.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But times have changed, and “It’s hard to blame palace officials for not having a plan in place to cope with the simultaneous cancer diagnoses of King Charles and Princess Kate, much less the sidelining of such a valuable supporting player as the Princess Royal,” Andersen added. “The home team is running out of options.”

As for Kate specifically, “The enigmatic and elegant Princess of Wales is integral to the future of the monarchy,” royal commentator Helena Chard said. “Everyone is wishing her a full recovery. She just needs a few more months of cancer treatment and peace to get fully fit and well. When she is back to regular work, we will have forgotten about health battles and the fragile monarchy narrative.”

Prince William Kate Middleton

Yes, they are the future King and Queen, but we can't expect everything out of just this couple alone when it comes to the survival of the monarchy. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That is, though, so much pressure to put on one person, or even two, as William and Kate hold up the future of the institution. “The Prince and Princess of Wales have been the future of the monarchy since their marriage,” fellow royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said. “After them, their children. Kate has star power, beauty, poise, and dedication. She and William have a very special cachet as a couple. She is championing studies in early childhood, and this is an important cause.”

Fitzwilliams continued of the Princess Royal’s recent incident that “Princess Anne’s accident this week shows what can happen, quite unexpectedly,” he said. “It was she who quite recently said a slimmed-down monarchy was impractical. It depends on what is wanted of the royal family.”

Right now? What is wanted is health and healing—and peace, too, in ample supply. And also? Less pressure on people who, while royal, are still mortal, after all, and only human.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.