‘It’s no wonder people are curious’

In mid-January, the official account on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the Prince and Princess of Wales — Prince William and Kate Middleton — shared a statement about how Kate had recently undergone a “planned abdominal surgery” that would require her to recover out of the public eye for several months.

Despite a statement on Jan. 29 and follow-ups about Kate coming home from the hospital, hundreds of thousands of social media users have taken it upon themselves to play amateur doctors and sleuths to spread conspiracy theories about what is really happening behind the walls of Adelaide Cottage, the couple’s residence on the Windsor Castle estate, where the princess is reportedly still recovering.

“Kate Middleton is one of our most popular royals and one of the most watched and beloved women in the world,” British journalist Sharon Carpenter told Yahoo News. “It’s no wonder people are curious and even concerned about where she is and how she’s recovering.”

The tipping point for online conspiracy theories seemed to be after Prince William backed out of a memorial service for his godfather on Feb. 27, citing “personal reasons.” Royal biographer Phil Dampier told the Daily Mail that the prince’s no-show was “very concerning.”

The timing also coincides with Buckingham Palace’s Feb. 5 announcement that King Charles had been diagnosed with cancer, causing some internet users to question why one diagnosis was specified but not the other.

Ellie Hall, an investigative reporter who has covered the royal family for outlets like BuzzFeed News, told Yahoo News that her theory is that speculation around Kate wouldn’t be as intense if there weren’t such a big difference in the level of information being shared with the public.

“Buckingham Palace hasn’t announced what kind of cancer the king has, just as Kensington Palace hasn’t revealed what Kate’s medical issue is (supposedly at her request),” Hall explained. “But there’s a huge discrepancy in what the public’s being told and the images being presented to the public. The information vacuum has left a lot of room for all sorts of conspiracy theories to grow and spread.”

Hall pointed to the paparazzi photos of Queen Camilla visiting King Charles at the hospital prior to the announcement of his cancer diagnosis and more photos of them leaving together after his treatment. Last week the palace shared a video of King Charles looking at “get well soon” cards.

“Here’s the thing: People have been constructing narratives about the royal families of the world since time immemorial,” Hall said. “But the royal press teams are usually better than this about making sure that they’ve provided enough information to make the conspiracy theories laughably false — the current situation has room for speculation.”

Comparatively, the last time Kate and her children were seen in public and photographed was during the royals’ annual Christmas walk. Prince William, however, gave a speech on Feb. 7 at London’s Air Ambulance Charity and was photographed at the BAFTA Awards on Feb. 18 — one photo with actress Ayo Edebiri even turned into a viral meme.

Fans seem concerned that Kate, who one X user pointed out had posed outside the hospital right after giving birth, still hasn’t been photographed — despite the palace having said in its first statement in January that Kate would not engage in public events until after Easter, which is March 31.

“We’re still not aware of why she had abdominal surgery in the first place,” Carpenter noted. “While Kate, of course, is fully entitled to privacy as she recovers, keeping information away from the public is always going to lead to speculation — and the longer the silence, the more fans start playing detective on social media.”

According to Hall, the question people should be asking shouldn’t be about whether it’s a good idea for the palace to share photos of Kate in recovery, especially when she asked for privacy.

“The question is, ‘Why is Buckingham Palace sharing new footage/video/photos of the king?’ and ‘Why can’t Kensington Palace share a similar piece of media featuring the Princess of Wales?’” Hall said. “Only William and Kate’s press team can answer that question.”

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