Kate Middleton Reportedly ‘Devastated’ by Photo Furor, May Discuss Her Health

Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters
Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters

Kate and William “will not be rushed” into talking

Friends of Kate Middleton tell the U.K. Sunday Times that she has been “devastated” by the furor over the doctored Mother’s Day image she and Prince William distributed last week showing her and her three children, which caused a frenzy of rumor and speculation about her health—and the state of their marriage. The paper says Kate is now considering revealing details of her health mystery—though how, when, and where are still unknown.

In a detailed report, the paper’s royal editor Roya Nikkhah writes that Kate and William have been “shaken” by all the rumors and conjecture, which went into overdrive when the image showed she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring.

The ensuing PR disaster caused Kate to “own” what happened in a public statement. “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C,” she wrote. However, far from drawing a neat line under the matter, her words, and blurred images of her taken by paparazzi photographers, only served to intensify the rumor-generating.

Kate Middleton Is Suffering From ‘Intense Stress,’ Friends Say

A friend told the paper Kate had wanted to “bring a bit of joy” with the image of her and her kids, published a week ago today, as a way of thanking those who had sent messages of support over her recovery from abdominal surgery.

A friend and adviser to the couple told the Sunday Times: “If you want to call out the mistake, it was Kate not telling her team that she’d done it [edited the photo]. But she came out and said sorry. The photo was a misstep, even with something as innocent as that you should disclose altering it. But in the history of image-cropping and photo-altering to tell a story, a lot of the reaction from picture agencies was hypocritical.” (A number of agencies “killed” the doctored image; and one, AFP, stated that Kensington Palace was no longer “a trusted source.”)

A friend said, “It’s a photo that she knew everyone would pore over so she pored over it herself—she likes trying to make the family look the best they can.”

When the palace announced Kate’s abdominal surgery in January, it added that she hoped her personal medical information would remain private. One friend told the Times, “It’s not that they (Kate and William) didn’t think there would be lots of speculation and interest, but they had confidence that people would give them the space they asked for, which they did for about a month.”

“Those familiar with the couple’s thinking believe they will disclose more information about her recovery in due course, but on their terms,” the Times says.

A royal source told the Sunday Times: “They are at their most open when out interacting with members of the public, and I can see a world in which the princess might discuss her recovery out on engagements. If she was going to do it, that’s how she would do it.”

Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, depart following the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, March 13, 2023.

Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, depart following the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, March 13, 2023.

Jordan Pettitt/Pool via Reuters

A friend said: “They will want to be clear and more open, but they’ll do it when they feel ready. I would expect that to be her instinct and it will be her call. They’re not going to be rushed.”

Another source told the paper: “In Kate’s case, there is almost nobody else in the world whose face, body, clothes are more judged than hers. So it’s entirely right for them not to want to be drawn into a game about what is going on with her health. What is happening is exactly what they said would happen—she would spend two weeks in hospital and be back after Easter. So what if they haven’t pushed her out there to wave from the back of a car? She is not a show pony.”

Despite the controversy over the doctored photograph, the Times also reports that Kate and William plan to continue releasing pictures to mark their children’s birthdays—which means it will be magnifying glasses out all over again on April 23 when Prince Louis turns 6.

“They appreciate the public’s love and affection for their children and know there is a public appetite to see them on their birthdays,” an aide told the paper.

However, in the wake of the brouhaha over the doctored picture, no “firm decision” has been reportedly taken on whether Kate will wield the camera, or if the Waleses will employ a professional photographer.

Indeed, this one of the 20 questions—mainly about the photograph—that the Mail would like answered, pronto. Others include: “When Kate personally apologised on Monday for any ‘confusion’ caused, saying she had edited the image, why didn’t William share the blame as the photo was his copyright?”

William fears “history repeating itself”

The Sunday Times report says that Kate has been supporting her children at Lambrook, the school which Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Louis all attend. She has also been cooking suppers for the family, but friends say what William has “found especially challenging in recent weeks…is the feeling that the couple’s bubble is coming under threat, and that his wife is experiencing some of what his mother went through.”

“They’re not like [Prince] Harry, obsessing and scrolling through Twitter, but they know it has broken through. They follow the news and see the BBC breaking news alerts,” one friend told the Times—apparently unable to make their point without taking a nasty, needless dig at Harry.

The friend added, “Social media has provided the media with plenty of content and the speculation around their marriage is just cruel. These are people with three small children going through the hardest time they’ve had to go through as a family, with that as an awful backdrop. They are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the kids, but it’s not easy.”

“Privately, he’s dealing with more than he has for a long time in his life and it’s tough to see. He is OK, but it is hard,” a friend told the Times of William, referring to not only Kate’s medical issues, but the impact of King Charles’ cancer diagnosis.

Britain's Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, accompanied by their parents Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive for a settling-in afternoon at Lambrook School, Berkshire, Britain, September 7, 2022.

A source who has known Kate and William since their early days as a couple at St Andrews University in Scotland, told the Times that one of William’s “greatest fears” remains being all-too-aware of the “hounding” that happened to his mother Princess Diana, and “history repeating itself” with Kate.

The source added: “William has always made it clear he wants to shield his family and his friends from the madness of some media where he can. He is approaching this from his desire to protect Kate and his family, and not get drawn into the media and social media craziness. Kate is smart, tough, resilient, and has good common sense. They will keep their cool heads over it. The public should leave her to recover in peace and leave William to do both his job as the Prince of Wales and his job of looking after his wife and his family as best he can.”

The Times notes that the rumor-mongering became more frenzied after William pulled out of attending and speaking at his godfather King Constantine’s memorial service. A friend who knows why he pulled out doesn’t reveal that reason to the Times, but says, “He had no choice but to pull out, but the reaction was disappointing. That blew the lid off everything with people’s impatience to know what was going on. He’s not in ‘blaming the media’ mode. He’s just really upset that his wife is having to go through all of this with her recovery, and then having to think about making statements about a family photo.”

The Times says that when the palace initially said in January that Kate would likely not resume official duties until “after Easter,” they meant after their children’s school Easter holidays, not the Easter weekend itself. So, the paper extrapolates—the public can expect to see Kate out and about sometimes around April 17, although what her first engagement will be hasn’t been decided yet.

William and Kate have been “buoyed” by public support, the Sunday Times reports, noting they will “keep calm and carry on,” as Queen Elizabeth was wont to do when engulfed by crisis after crisis.

“I don’t think they should engineer what they do next,” one royal insider in touch with William and Kate told the paper. “The royals are at their best when they get on with their job. Don’t strategize about how to recover ground lost over Photogate. Do what you were always intending to do, and when you take the next picture, make sure you take enough so you don’t have to use Photoshop.”

Earl Spencer talks trauma and conspiracy theories

Earl Spencer has said that that press attention endured by his sister Princess Diana was “more dangerous” than the current scrutiny swirling around Kate Middleton. “I think it was more dangerous back in the day,” he said.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Spencer said that he worries about “what happened to the truth,” when it came to the gale of conjecture and conspiracy theories that have proliferated around Kate’s health and absence from public life.

“I think, if I look back to ’97 and Diana’s death, I think that was so shocking too—the circumstances of her death were so shocking, that it did make the industry that supports the paparazzi really consider more carefully what it could and couldn't do,” Spencer said. “Not because they had a moral judgement, but because it was unacceptable to the public.”

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, talks with his uncle Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, during the unveiling of a statue commissioned of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London, Britain July 1, 2021.

Earl Spencer gave the interview to publicize his new book, A Very Private School, about the violence and sexual abuse he suffered as an 11-year old at the hands of a female staff member at his boarding school, Maidwell. He writes that he self-harmed and forced himself to be sick in reaction to the abuse. Spencer said that that an assistant matron manipulated him and his peers into thinking they were having romantic relationships with her when really she was a “voracious pedophile.”

Re-living the experience in therapy as an adult led to him suffering a breakdown, and receiving residential treatment for trauma, Spencer told the BBC, but he remains adamant that abuse victims “must speak out.”

Maidwell School has said in a statement: “It is sobering to read about the experiences Charles Spencer and some of his fellow alumni had at the school, and we are sorry that was their experience. It is difficult to read about practices which were, sadly, sometimes believed to be normal and acceptable at that time. Within education today, almost every facet of school life has evolved significantly since the 1970s. At the heart of the changes is the safeguarding of children, and promotion of their welfare.”

In the BBC interview, Spencer also spoke about the violent punishments a family nanny had given him and his sisters when they were children.

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew at Ascot, 2015

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew at Ascot, 2015.

Toby Melville/Livepic/Reuters

This week in royal history

On March 18, 1986, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s engagement was announced by Buckingham Palace; their separation was announced by the palace on March 19, 1992. On March 20, 1974, a kidnap attempt was made on Princess Anne on The Mall in London just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s younger daughter, turns 34 this week—she was born on March 23, 1990.

Unanswered questions

All eyes turn to the great royal comeback, as implied by the Sunday Times report: Will Kate Middleton address questions over her health, marriage, and absence from the public eye—and, if so, when and where? And will an unsuspecting member of the public get the exclusive, rather than the media?

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