King Charles attends Easter church service in most significant public appearance since cancer diagnosis

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King Charles III has made his most significant outing since his cancer diagnosis last month, attending the traditional Easter Mattins church service in Windsor on Sunday.

Charles, 75, appeared to be in good spirits as he arrived by car to St. George’s Chapel, a 14th-century building on the grounds of Windsor Castle, around an hour’s drive from London. He was accompanied by his wife, Queen Camilla, for the event – a staple in the royal calendar.

Typically, the extended royal family gathers for Easter at Windsor Castle before heading to church together. Their arrivals are usually watched by staff living at Windsor, either from a nearby grassy bank or from their doorsteps.

The royal couple waved delightedly to a crowd of well-wishers before making their way into the chapel through the Galilee Porch.

One member of the public called out “Happy Easter” to the British monarch, to which he responded, saying: “And to you.”

Anne Daley, a retired air stewardess, was one of those who waited several hours outside the chapel for the King’s arrival. She told CNN she had made the three-hour train trip from the Welsh capital of Cardiff “to support him” and the Princess of Wales following their cancer diagnoses.

“He looked wonderful. He smiled at me and had a little laugh, loved the Welsh flag,” she added.

King Charles and his wife leave St. George's Chapel after attending the Easter Mattins Service. - Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
King Charles and his wife leave St. George's Chapel after attending the Easter Mattins Service. - Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
The King appeared at ease during the outing on Easter Sunday, his most significant public appearance since being diagnosed with cancer. - Hollie Adams/Pool/Reuters
The King appeared at ease during the outing on Easter Sunday, his most significant public appearance since being diagnosed with cancer. - Hollie Adams/Pool/Reuters

This year’s celebration is a quieter affair with fewer royals in attendance to minimize the King’s contact with others during his treatment.

The King and Queen sat apart from the rest of the main congregation for the one-hour service.

Similarly, the late Queen Elizabeth II sat separately to her loved ones when she attended the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip, which took place amid strict pandemic regulations in 2021.

The King’s siblings were the first family members to arrive. Prince Edward and Sophie – the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – were accompanied by their son, James, Earl of Wessex. They were followed by the King’s sister, Princess Anne - who gave a quick wave to the crowd - and her husband, Tim Laurence, as well as Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

Following the service, Camilla was presented with a bouquet of white and yellow flowers by a young boy as the royal couple departed the chapel.

With more cries of “Happy Easter,” Charles thrilled well-wishers by unexpectedly making his way over to them, sparking applause from the public. During the surprise walkabout he appeared at ease, stopping to chat at various points and shaking hands.

It was unclear if Charles would attend the usual post-service family lunch. In the days ahead, he and Camilla will reportedly take a break for Easter.

The Princess Royal waves to members of the public as she arrives for the family outing on Sunday. - Hollie Adams/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
The Princess Royal waves to members of the public as she arrives for the family outing on Sunday. - Hollie Adams/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The King’s presence will be an encouraging sight for many royal-watchers after he temporarily paused public-facing engagements on the advice of his doctors.

He has, however, kept a steady hand on the tiller, seeing to state business and official paperwork with his daily red boxes from the UK government while maintaining a diary of private audiences as well as his regular weekly meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

In recent days, he greeted the new ambassadors of Moldova and Burundi at Buckingham Palace, met with secretary-general of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, as well as sat down with a group of community and faith leaders from around the UK.

Charles sought to reassure the nation he has been handling constitutional matters behind the scenes in a personal message ahead of Easter weekend.

In a recorded audio address for the annual Royal Maundy service on Thursday, he reiterated his coronation pledge “not to be served but to serve” with “my whole heart.”

He also shared his “great sadness” that he wasn’t able to join the congregation, saying the service “has a very special place in my heart.”

The Queen deputized for her husband, distributing the traditional Maundy money - specially-minted coins - to people in recognition of their service to the church and local community.

A notable absence from Sunday’s Easter festivities were the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children. The Waleses attended last year with Prince Louis making his debut at the family outing to the delight of royal-watchers.

The family of five have been laying low since Catherine disclosed a little over a week ago that she had started chemotherapy for cancer found in post-operation tests after a planned abdominal surgery in January.

The Waleses are spending the Easter holidays together as they continue to adjust to Kate’s diagnosis.

A Kensington Palace spokesperson said last Saturday that the prince and princess had been “extremely moved by the public’s warmth and support” and were “grateful for the understanding of their request for privacy at this time.”

Kate has not been seen in an official capacity since Christmas Day. Easter had initially been suggested by Kensington Palace as the period when she would resume duties following her operation. However, her return has been postponed until cleared to do so by her medical team.

Prince William is expected to resume public engagements in mid-April once Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis have restarted school.

CNN’s Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou contributed reporting.

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