OPINION: A personal reflection on cancer, courage and gratitude in the wake of King’s diagnosis

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OPINION: A personal reflection on cancer, courage and gratitude in the wake of King’s diagnosis

Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail and chairman of the editorial board at Jewish News, on how Charles III's cancer battle mirrors his own.

Alex Brummer is a Jewish News columnist and the City Editor, Daily Mail

Chief Rabbi Mirvis with King Charles
Chief Rabbi Mirvis with King Charles

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was quickly out of the box with a special prayer for the speedy recovery of the King. As someone who has been under treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, for much of the last year, I found the prayer for the Charles III particularly poignant. 

I have no idea what kind of cancer treatment the King is undergoing but assume it is some form of chemotherapy or radiology. Both are energy sapping and the side effects very unpleasant including all-embracing tiredness. As the poison fills the body you have the feeling of being a walking medical experiment.

There are several ways of dealing with this. The easiest path is to declare yourself sick, give up on normal life and rest. The other way is to look through it and live life as normally as one can: working and exercising.

Indeed, at times I found that the stimulants pumped into you, notably the steroids, made you operate at speed. My output of words was even greater than usual!

The King understandably will not be performing his public duties. Travelling the country to open buildings and speak at charitable events is not advisable. Apart from anything else one’s immunology system is punctured and one of the greatest risks is that of infection.

The easiest path is to declare yourself sick, give up on normal life and rest. The other way is to look through it and live life as normally as one can: working and exercising.

At this time of the year when influenza and Covid-19 are on the rampage shielding is a good idea. Nevertheless, the monarch is showing bravery at attending church services at Sandringham, working on his ‘red box’ of state papers and plans regular trips to Windsor for audiences with the Prime Minister. Matters of state go on and the King is showing the stoicism and good sense and duty one has come to expect.

Alex Brummer

I have long believed that in a troubled times for the Jewish community in Britain Charles, as the Prince of Wales and long serving heir to the throne, has proved to be one of our greatest friends going beyond his responsibilities to recognise and deal fairly with his Jewish subjects: a true mensch.

Think back for a moment to the coronation. The King made elaborate arrangements to make sure that the Chief Rabbi could be accommodated at Buckingham Palace and Shabbat properly observed. It would be hard to think of another Head of State (with the exception perhaps of the King of Morocco) who would have taken such care.

The King’s public acts as Prince of Wales, in support of British Jewry, speak for themselves. As a former vice-president of the Board of Deputies I will never forget his amazing address at a commemoration of the Board’s 350th anniversary when he laid out the contribution of Jews to British life. It was a historic and detailed account of a kind I have never heard from one of our politicians. No sitting monarch has ever visited Israel which has, over true years, a source of some anguish for British monarchists who have made aliyah.

The King, as Prince of Wales, was different. In 2020 he attended the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Yashem where he spoke moving and eloquently ‘we must never cease to be appalled, nor  moved by the testimony of those who lived through the Shoah.’

The then heir to the throne also visited the tomb of his ‘inspirational’ grandmother Princess Alice buried at the Church of Mary Magdalene on Jerusalem’s ancient hills. She is commemorated at Yad Yashem for her work shielding Jews from Nazis during the occupation of Greece in the Second World War.

Sometimes King’s work for British-Jewry goes unsung. He personally made the journey to Krakow, within ‘ashes’ distance from the chimneys of Auschwitz, to open a new Jewish community centre there, endowed by World Jewish Relief and funded partly by British philanthropist Leo Noe.

From the small acorn the almost extinct Krakow Jewish community has prospered as people, whose identity has been obscured for decades, have rediscovered their Hebraic roots. On a trip to Krakow last year I saw first-hand how the community centre could no longer accommodate Friday night dinner on its own premises because there are so many local Jewish attendees.

Behind the scenes there have been acts of generosity from Charles such as small fund-raising dinners at Clarence House for World Jewish Relief. There is also the enduring image of the King dancing with ancient Shoah survivors at their centre in north London.

This is a long way of saying thank you. There will be trials ahead for the King. UK life sciences, as I have personally learned,  mean for many people cancer is no longer a death sentence.

In the traditional way, I on behalf of my colleagues at Jewish News, would like to wish the King Refual Shlemiah.

Alex Brummer is City Editor of the Daily Mail and chairman of the editorial board at Jewish News



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