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Queen Camilla stands in for cancer-stricken King Charles as she attends Worcester Cathedral to hand out Maundy gifts at annual ceremony

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Queen Camilla deputised for King Charles at the ancient Royal Maundy ceremony for the first time today as she continued her royal duties while he is treated for cancer.

Held this year at Worcester Cathedral, it is one of the most significant set-pieces in the royal calendar and it held huge spiritual significance for Queen Elizabeth II.

Charles has recorded an address to be played at the service after being advised not to undertake major public engagements while he is being treated for cancer.

And the King will use his Maundy message to emphasise helping those in need, as a new portrait of the 75-year-old monarch was released ahead of Easter.

Earlier this month Charles recorded a special message and Bible reading in the 18th Century Room at Buckingham Palace, to be played to the congregation.

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning 

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning 

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

There is to be no mention of family health matters – his own cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as that of his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales.

Instead, the King is to stress the importance of acts of friendship ‘especially in a time of need’ in the personal Easter message.

Charles’ pre-recorded audio – his first public words since Kate revealed she was undergoing chemotherapy – will be broadcast in his absence.

He will say how Jesus Christ set an ‘example of how we should serve and care for each other’, and how as a nation ‘we need and benefit greatly from those who extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need’.

While the King does not directly refer to his and his daughter-in-law’s health, his words will be interpreted as reflecting on the nation’s response to his and Kate’s challenges as they continue treatment for cancer.

The Princess released an emotional video message last Friday revealing she has started a course of preventative chemotherapy.

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Camilla is greeted today by the Right Reverend Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

Queen Camilla arrives for the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral this morning

A photograph issued by the Royal Household of King Charles III during the recording of his audio message for the Royal Maundy service, which was done at Buckingham Palace

A photograph issued by the Royal Household of King Charles III during the recording of his audio message for the Royal Maundy service, which was done at Buckingham Palace

She later was said to be ‘extremely moved’ by the public support following her announcement.

Kate faced mounting online conspiracy theories about her whereabouts and her condition after retreating from public view to recuperate following major abdominal surgery in January.

The King told last month how he had been reduced to tears by the messages and cards of support he received from well-wishers.

The 75-year-old, who only acceded to the throne 18 months ago, will also reamplify his Coronation pledge ‘not to be served but to serve’.

He has recorded a Bible reading and, in his brief personal message, will describe the Maundy money recipients as ‘wonderful examples of such kindness’ in ‘giving so much of their lives to the service of others in their communities’.

He will also re-amplify his own Coronation pledge: ‘Not to be served but to serve.’

It was recorded as an audio instead of on video as Worcester Cathedral does not have the capacity to play a television message.

Protesters stand outside Worcester Cathedral this morning ahead of the Royal Maundy Service

Protesters stand outside Worcester Cathedral this morning ahead of the Royal Maundy Service

An anti-monarchy protest by Republic at Worcester Cathedral today ahead of the service

An anti-monarchy protest by Republic at Worcester Cathedral today ahead of the service

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, protests at Worcester Cathedral today

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, protests at Worcester Cathedral today

Protesters stand outside Worcester Cathedral this morning ahead of the Royal Maundy Service

Protesters stand outside Worcester Cathedral this morning ahead of the Royal Maundy Service

The portrait accompanying the message shows the King looking relaxed and in good spirits, with a posy of spring flowers and two microphones ready to capture his words.

The Royal Maundy service is a major fixture on the royal calendar and normally the monarch, who is the head of the Church of England, presents specially minted coins to people recognised for their community service.

The ceremony, held on the Thursday before Easter Sunday, commemorates Jesus’s Last Supper when he washed the feet of his disciples as an act of humility the day before Good Friday.

Today sovereigns no longer wash the feet of the needy as they did in medieval times but 75 women and 75 men – signifying the King’s age – will be presented with two purses, one red and one white, filled with Maundy money.

The Maundy Money ceremony began in 1662, when Charles II gave out coins.

The King’s message comes as he prepares to attend church at St Goerge’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on Easter Sunday with Camilla – his most significant public appearance since his diagnosis in early February.

But there will be a reduced number of royals present in order to avoid the health risks associated with large crowds.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their family will be absent.

YESTERDAY -- Queen Camilla meets well-wishers during a visit to Shrewsbury farmer's market

YESTERDAY — Queen Camilla meets well-wishers during a visit to Shrewsbury farmer’s market

YESTERDAY -- King Charles III smiles during an audience with Mohamed Nasheed, Secretary-General of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, at Buckingham Palace in London

YESTERDAY — King Charles III smiles during an audience with Mohamed Nasheed, Secretary-General of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, at Buckingham Palace in London

LAST FRIDAY -- The Princess of Wales revealed she had cancer in a video message last Friday

LAST FRIDAY — The Princess of Wales revealed she had cancer in a video message last Friday

LAST YEAR -- King Charles III at the Royal Maundy service at York Minster on April 6, 2023

LAST YEAR — King Charles III at the Royal Maundy service at York Minster on April 6, 2023

Kate was last seen at a public engagement on December 25, then underwent abdominal surgery in January, after which cancer was found.

The King is continuing private meetings and work on state business, and yesterday received Mohamed Nasheed, secretary general of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, at Buckingham Palace.

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, had a small contingent of activists demonstrating in Worcester for the Queen’s visit.

The group said last week on social media: ‘We’re very sorry to hear about Kate’s cancer diagnosis and wish her a speedy recovery.’

But Graham Smith, chief executive of the group, said on Wednesday: ‘Unlike royalists, we don’t conflate the family with the institution. It’s the institution we’re protesting against this week.

‘This is a campaign about principles, politics and reform.’

He added: ‘Republic’s campaign continues unabated and the protests will continue for as long as the monarchy is there.’



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