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How a king earned his spurs in 2024

King Charles has performed a great service for  his nation by going public about his cancer diagnosis

Recently, in an attempt to tune out from an increasingly worrying modern world, I have been listening to podcasts about medieval history. A consistent theme is the need for young Kings to ‘win their spurs’, – that is to perform some act of martial valour to justify a position otherwise bestowed  by accident of birth.

There were plenty of opportunities in those days, when Kings ascended to their position in their late teens or twenties, and wars with neighbours could literally go on for a century. There aren’t so many for today’s incumbent who ascended the throne in his seventies, and maintains fairly cordial relations with the French and the Scots.

But arguably King Charles has shown more bravery, and performed a greater service for  his nation by going public about his recent treatment for prostate problems, and subsequent cancer diagnosis. 

It’s not always been the Royal way. In 1951, his grandfather’s lung cancer diagnosis was kept so secret that historians think he didn’t even know about it himself. But in 2024, we live in an age where candour can be kinder. And famous cancer patients can save lives. Reality TV star Jade Goody’s death from cervical cancer in 2009 saw the number of women attending screenings rise by half a million, and presenter Bill Turnbull’s revelations about his prostate  cancer led to a 20% rise in referrals to the NHS for the disease. Star power can help to facilitate the early diagnoses desperately needed   to boost chances of surviving the disease.

Bravery comes in many forms, and the King deserves credit for this honesty. We wish him, and the men that may follow him by getting themselves tested, a very speedy recovery.