Is King Charles III Healthy? Here’s How One Doctor Interprets the Clues

Updated: Sep. 05, 2023

Despite being the eldest person ever to ascend the British throne, the new king has an impressive health record. How long can we expect King Charles to reign?

portrait of King Charles
Pool /getty images

At nearly 74 years old, King Charles III is the eldest person ever to ascend the British throne—pretty impressive. But while King Charles seems to have inherited the longevity and good genes of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, being sovereign of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is a difficult job that requires significant mental and physical stamina.

So, it may be no wonder some people have questions about King Charles’s health…especially as he was recently spotted with very swollen hands. (Vivek Cherian, MD, an internal medicine physician in Chicago, IL, says swollen hands can be symptomatic of dozens of illnesses, ranging from arthritis to heart failure.)

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While the palace is famously private about the health of the royal family, King Charles has lived his entire life in the public eye and thus given us even more insightful clues about his overall health, starting with what he’s said and written.

As a matter of fact, the king has been quite outspoken about wellness and has made his passion for healthy living a major part of his platform. In 2012, His Royal Highness Charles (then the Prince of Wales), authored a book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World, about what he thinks should be done to improve health around the world. In it, he tackles the elements of good nutrition, exercise, the obesity epidemic, poverty, medicine, and the effects of climate change on human health. He’s also advocated for public health in political forums and global summits.

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black and white photograph of Queen ELIZABETH II sitting and holding baby Charles
-/Getty Images

“Hale and hearty” as a child

King Charles III was born November 14, 1948, via Cesarean performed in the Buhl room—a guest room at Buckingham Palace that had been turned into a hospital suite, of sorts. Queen Elizabeth II was in labor for over 30 hours (ouch!) before the decision was made to deliver Charles by surgery.

Despite his tough entry, Charles was born healthy, weighing in at seven pounds and six ounces. His father, Prince Philip, described him as looking like a “plum pudding.” (We think that’s a compliment..?)

Prince Philip was said to have been a tough disciplinarian. According to his authorized biography, Charles was raised with strict rules, including what to eat at meals (and when), a set bedtime and exercise routine. Mentally, he was always serious and sensitive, leading Winston Churchill to remark that the three-year-old Charles was “young to think so much.” This temperament, combined with his parents’ rules, formed the foundation of the disciplined health code the king has followed throughout his life.

Other than a few reports of broken bones, King Charles appears to have sailed through his childhood and school years with no more than the usual childhood colds and injuries.

After graduating, he went to university, becoming the first heir apparent to earn an official degree. Charles served in the military from 1971 to 1976, which likely instilled even more discipline into his health regimen.

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young king Charles on a horse At Polo
Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Images

Sports, bootcamp and watercolors

As an adult, King Charles has always been known for his love of exercise—particularly outdoor sports. He started playing competitive polo in school and continued until he was thrown from his horse and knocked unconscious at age 44. Even after that event, he continued to play polo recreationally and at charity events. By his own report, he loves hunting, hiking and fishing, and does them alone and with his sons, Princes William and Harry. He’s also a keen gardener. These are all great ways to exercise without working out, says Dr. Cherian.

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He’s similarly strict with diet, eating vegetarian at least two days per week. Although King Charles is not a vegan — his (now retired) personal chef Darin McGrady reported that his favorite dinner is lamb with mushroom risotto. He sticks to fruit and granola for breakfast and loves to snack on eggs.

In addition to a clean diet and plenty of exercise, he looks after his mental health by having a creative outlet in watercolor painting and is so accomplished he’s won several awards for his art.

Throughout his adult years he, like most of us as we get older, had a string of minor injuries and surgeries. He’s had a few broken bones from sports, a cracked rib, knee surgery, a hernia, removal of a small skin cancer lesion and an overnight hospital stay from the horse riding accident. Overall, this is an impressively clean health record for someone his age, Dr. Cherian suggests. It shows that he is staying active, is mindful of his diet, and prioritizes preventive health checkups.

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Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall Undertake Engagements In London To Thank Those Involved In The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
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He caught—and beat—Covid-19 twice

King Charles was unlucky enough to get the original strain of Covid-19 in March of 2020 and then got the virus again in February of 2022. Both times, he recovered without needing hospitalization. This is likely due to his healthy lifestyle and the fact that he received all his recommended Covid-19 vaccines and boosters. He was careful to provide a good example to the public, showing via video how he followed the quarantine and vaccination rules and encouraged others to do the same.

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King Charles smiling and waving to someone
WPA Pool/Getty Images

But what about King Charles III’s swollen hands?

Since Queen Elizabeth II’s death, there has been a lot of speculation in the press and online about his extremely swollen hands. On its own, fluid retention (also called “edema”) in the hands can be a symptom of many conditions, ranging from heart or kidney disease to arthritis to lupus, says Dr. Cherian. He adds that without additional data from other symptoms or tests, it’s impossible to know what the source of the swelling is.

However, it may simply be that King Charles’s hands are genetic and he’s had them his whole life. A press photograph from 1981 shows the then-32-year-old Charles sporting some quite swollen-looking fingers. Royal observers have noted that Prince Philip, his father, was also known for having rather large, swollen hands.

Whatever the reason, with these habits and hobbies—as well as with a father and mother who lived to 99 and 96 years respectively—chances are good Prince Charles will see a nice, long reign.

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