IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Will King Charles rule for a long time? What we know about his health

He's pledged to serve his country “throughout the remaining time God grants me.”
/ Source: TODAY

With the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, all eyes are on King Charles III, who becomes monarch at 73 — an age when most people are already years into their retirement.

It can be a demanding job with daily official engagements, lots of travel and non-stop meetings with advisers, dignitaries and ordinary citizens.

While the new king won’t match his mother’s record of 70 years on the throne, he’s already demonstrated his stamina as he takes part in 10 days of ceremonies to mourn her death.

On Monday, Sept. 12, the septuagenarian was on the go since early morning, walked uphill behind the queen’s casket on the cobbled Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, then stood vigil by her coffin at St. Giles’ Cathedral, observers pointed out.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, he greeted crowds in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with many more events to come in London.

King Charles III views floral tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II outside Buckingham Palace on September 9, 2022, in London, England.
King Charles III views floral tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II outside Buckingham Palace on September 9, 2022, in London, England.Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Will his strength hold up in the coming years? His parents’ famous healthy longevity offers some clues, experts said.

“King Charles, whose mother made it to 96 and father died last year at 99, may be looking forward to a decent reign in spite of only having started at 73,” said Andrew Steele, a British scientist and author of the book “Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old.”

Here is what we know about King Charles’ health:

He’s had COVID-19 twice

The monarch first tested positive for the coronavirus in late March 2020 as the illness was spreading around the world. He had mild symptoms but otherwise remained in good health, Clarence House said at the time.

He tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in February of this year. After self-isolating, he resumed his royal duties a week later.

The royal has received the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster, the BBC reported.

There’s been concern about his swollen hands

For a few years now, British media have wondered about the royal’s swollen fingers and hands. Photos from a 2019 trip to the Solomon Islands showed the extent of the issue:

In 2019, attention focused on the swollen fingers and hands of then-Prince Charles.
In 2019, attention focused on the swollen fingers and hands of then-Prince Charles.Tim Rooke / Getty Images

King Charles’ hands still looked swollen in recent days as he met with British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Sept. 9.

King Charles III appeared to also have swollen hands during his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss at Buckingham Palace in London on September 9, 2022.
King Charles III appeared to also have swollen hands during his first audience with Prime Minister Liz Truss at Buckingham Palace in London on September 9, 2022.Yui Mok / Getty Images

There’s no official word about his diagnosis, if any, but in general, doctors said this symptom can be due to a variety of issues.

Heart, liver and kidney disease are common causes of swelling, but it usually involves the whole body, said Dr. Jeffrey Linder, chief of internal medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

“The feet and ankles are usually affected first and swelling generally has to be pretty advanced to involve the hands,” Linder told TODAY.

“For what it’s worth, I haven’t noticed obvious leg or ankle swelling in recent pictures in which he’s wearing a kilt.”

Fluid retention can also cause swelling in the hands and ankles, which can be more marked in older adults who’ve been inactive or sitting, he added. Some medications can make hand and ankle swelling worse.

For isolated hand and finger swelling, osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, can sometimes be the cause, but osteoarthritis is usually associated with bony changes, Linder said.

Inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and other forms of arthritis or inflammation in the skin are also possible causes.

“However, I would expect most of these conditions to be associated with other symptoms, like marked joint pain, fevers or rashes,” Linder noted.

He’s had a non-cancerous growth removed from his face

That “minor and routine” procedure took place in 2008 and involved a spot on the side of his nose, the Associated Press reported.

Both of his parents had similar non-cancerous growths removed from their faces in the previous years.

He’s been treated for sports injuries

The royal has a collection of scars from his days of playing polo. He broke his right arm in two places after falling from his horse during a polo match in 1990, the Associated Press reported.

In 1998, he cracked a rib after falling from his horse while hunting, according to the BBC. That same year, he had surgery to repair the cartilage in his right knee.

In 2001, the royal was knocked unconscious when he fell from his horse during a polo match. That same year, he fractured a bone in his shoulder when he fell off a horse during a fox hunt, the BBC noted.

He gave up polo in 2005 at the age of 57.

Royals Celebrate Queen & Duke of Edinburgh Wedding Anniversary
In this file photo, King Charles III sits with his late parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, while his siblings, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Prince Edward, stand in the background.Tim Graham / Getty Images

He’s had hernia surgery

In 2003, then-Prince Charles injured himself laying hedges in the gardens at one of his estates and needed a “fairly routine operation,” the BBC reported.

Hernias are common and happen when part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through a weak area of muscle, often during straining, according to the National Library of Medicine. Most hernias occur in the abdomen and surgery repairs the opening in the muscle wall, it noted.

Bottom line:

Like his late parents, King Charles appears to be in good health in his 70s. He's already pledged to serve his country "throughout the remaining time God grants me."