As the Queen struggles to return to public life after a mystery illness, courtiers are deep in planning mode for the coronation of King Charles III – which most palace insiders admit could come sooner rather than later.
The only problem is, the world's longest-serving monarch-in-waiting is getting cold feet when it comes to finally claiming the crown.
Sources tell Woman's Day that Charles is "consumed with dread" at the thought of fulfilling his birthright, to the point where he's raised the idea of standing aside for his son, 39-year-old Prince William.
"Charles is feeling rather glum about it all. He's lost his father, his mother is ill, he's served as an unofficial regent for several years now, and still the British public hasn't really warmed to him," says a source.
"He knows he's not popular, and despite being a trailblazer on things like climate change decades before they were a hot-button topic, people still tend to see Charles as an out-of-touch old duffer. He's starting to wonder if passing the baton down to William, who is very well liked and often tops royal popularity polls, would be the worst thing in the world."
At 73, Charles has been preparing to rule for most of his life, but just as he's reached the precipice of that destiny, there's little doubt the cards are falling around him.
In the past two years, his youngest son Prince Harry, 37, has defected with his family to America, where he's slammed the monarchy as an outdated, sexist and racist institution that made him feel trapped.
His brother Prince Andrew, 61, is embroiled in a sexual assault case in which an American woman claims he raped her when she was a child.
Charles himself is in hot water over a cash-for-honours scandal in which it was revealed a wealthy Saudi businessman had donated millions of pounds to royal charities in exchange for British citizenship and a knighthood.
Sources say he's also wounded by the fact there's so much public opposition to him making his second wife and former mistress, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, his queen – when he'd promised years ago to merely name her princess consort out of respect to his first wife, the late, beloved, Princess Diana.
"Charles is in the worst possible headspace at the worst possible time," laments a palace insider.
"Half of his staff are worried he's just going to call an impromptu press conference and call it quits there and then - which would ruin everything, not to mention break his mother's heart."
One of Charles' greatest fears, says one source, is being humiliated at his own coronation.
"He's dreading it. Don't get me wrong, he's desperate to be king, but he's realising there's going to be some unsavoury elements to it in the first few years, largely because people don't have any affection for him or Camilla whatsoever," says the insider.
"He's dourly predicting that no one will turn out to line the streets during his coronation like they did for the Queen, and every royal wedding after that. He thinks he'll be humiliated and is dragging his feet on getting to planning anything, even though his team is anxious to get started. Charles has always been led by emotion and everyone's worried he's going to throw it all in."