Kate Middleton: A royal dilemma as public curiosity over princess grows

10:41 am on 1 March 2024
Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales chats with well-wishers after attending the Royal Family's traditional Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham Estate in eastern England, on December 25, 2023. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

The Princess of Wales, pictured on Christmas Day 2023. Photo: AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS

By Daniela Relph, BBC News

Analysis - It has been a challenging few weeks for the Royal Family.

The health problems of both the King and the Princess of Wales have raised questions around what Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace want the public to know.

Their advisors are trying to navigate the appetite for information, the social media speculation and the need to protect two people who are not well.

It is all proving quite the dilemma.

The spotlight has shone even brighter in recent days after the Prince of Wales withdrew at short notice from a memorial service in Windsor for his godfather, King Constantine of Greece. He was due to give a reading, and his name was on the order of service.

But less than an hour before the event was due to start came a message from Kensington Palace.

"Unfortunately, the Prince of Wales is no longer able to attend the service this morning due to a personal matter," it said.

This was surprising. Prince William lives on the Windsor Estate. He had a job to do at the service. It was his godfather being remembered.

Immediately the rumour mill cranked into gear - was this a bad sign for Catherine? The advice from the prince's team was that there was no need to panic.

The princess was doing well, they said, implying the absence was not related to his wife's health.

But that was not enough to quell the speculation.

My own WhatsApp messages probably reflected what lots of people were wondering.

What is wrong with Kate? Why won't they tell us? Is that why William has not turned up?

And if you then delved into social media and online searches, you found rumours about the princess's condition growing more outlandish by the hour.

The lack of detailed information and Prince William's sudden withdrawal was fuelling the speculation.

We still do not know why the prince pulled out of the service - but it is worth noting that he attended an event on Thursday as planned.

Advisors to the Wales' are well aware of the online gossip - they read it, they chat about it, they know the conversation.

But they stress that nothing has changed.

A spokesperson for Catherine brushed off social media speculation.

"Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess's recovery. We said we'd only be providing significant updates. That guidance stands."

There is, of course, the issue of privacy.

For Prince William, protecting his wife while she recovers is paramount.

Kensington Palace quite simply does not want the details of her health made public and aides feel no need to say anymore about it.

But when Catherine does return to public duty the scrutiny will be intense.

All eyes will be on her.

How does she look? How does she seem? Does she appear any different?

Her team are well aware of the interest there will be in that moment so protecting her now has added importance.

They will choose when and how we first see her in public again very carefully.

Things are different over at Buckingham Palace as they manage King Charles III's cancer diagnosis and treatment.

There, courtiers feel there is a need to see the monarch in action carrying out some of his duties.

It is why we have seen pictures of the King with the prime minister, going to church, and reading "get well" cards.

This is a King who is compromised at the moment but can still do some of his regular work and the Palace wants to show us that.

There is not that same pressure on Catherine to go public.

She is not the monarch, she does not have to reassure in the same way.

Yes, there is a clamour for information but "so be it" seems to be the mood.

This is a princess who wants to keep things private.

This story was originally published by the BBC.

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