Kate Middleton’s disappearance

The conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton’s disappearance

The conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton’s disappearance

Until March 4, the princess hadn’t been seen in public since Christmas.

Princess Kate, in a royal blue coat and hat, bends down to accept a bouquet of red roses from a little girl amid a crowd of onlookers. Princess Kate the last time she was seen in public, greeting the crowd after attending the Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church on December 25, 2023, in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Princess Kate, formerly Kate Middleton, one day to become Catherine, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, has finally reappeared. Sort of. 

The sighting, captured by Backgrid near Windsor Castle in the U.K., depicted Catherine seated in the passenger seat of an Audi, chauffeured by her mother, Carole Middleton, as reported by TMZ.

The Daily Mail noted that the paparazzi images capturing Catherine's Monday outing were unauthorized by the palace, adding to the intrigue surrounding her reemergence.

Seen in a relaxed setting, sporting sunglasses and without visible security, the 42-year-old princess was observed in public for the first time since joining her husband, Prince William, and their three children at the Sandringham estate for Christmas celebrations, according to People magazine.

The Princess of Wales was photographed on March 4 riding in a car driven by her mother, Carol Middleton, near Windsor Castle in the UK. The picture marks Kate’s first reappearance since Christmas Day, when she was photographed in jaunty royal blue at church with her family. Since then, one of the world’s most photographed women, a figure who has lived her life genteelly in public since she was Prince William’s college girlfriend, had apparently vanished from public view.

On January 17, Kensington Palace announced that Kate had entered the hospital the day before for planned abdominal surgery. “The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate,” the announcement read. “She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.” It added that she was “unlikely” to resume her public duties until Easter, which falls this year on March 31.

So far, Kate has stuck to the previously announced schedule. Kensington Palace announced on January 29 that she had returned home, on track with her planned 10 to 14 days of hospital recovery. Currently, it is not yet Easter, and she has not yet resumed her duties. Yet the long pause in Kate’s public appearances and the lack of concrete information about her health has created a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. When Prince William canceled a planned appearance of his own on February 27, citing a “personal matter,” rumors began to fly.

Something, some people theorized, had gone terribly wrong with Kate’s health. Perhaps she was in real danger of dying. Perhaps she was in an induced coma. Perhaps her marriage to William was on the rocks, and she was in hiding. Perhaps she’d been killed and would be replaced by a body double. As the story took off, the joke theories began to take up more space: Kate was waiting for bad bangs to grow out, or to recover from plastic surgery; she’d become the villain in the viral Willy Wonka experience. The Palace, meanwhile, has responded to the flagrant rumor-mongering by telling People magazine that Kate “continues to be doing well.”

Most of the conspiracy theories are silly, but they’re all reacting to a real issue. Kate has long been a reliable pillar of the British family, showing up and smiling at every public event at which she was asked to appear, reacting to the strum and drag of royal drama with an air of determined normalcy. Then she did something decidedly out of the ordinary: She disappeared.

Why some people think Kate’s cover story is fishy Officially, Kate was in the hospital for planned abdominal surgery. Still, skeptical onlookers pounced almost immediately on an apparent discrepancy in Kensington Palace’s first statement about her health on January 17. If Kate’s surgery was “planned,” the onlookers demanded to know, then why had the Palace also said that she was “postponing her upcoming engagements?” How far in advance could this surgery really have been planned?

Also raising eyebrows was the detail that Kate would be recovering from her surgery for “10 to 14 days.” Some abdominal surgeries can be minor, like an appendectomy, but those procedures don’t come with such lengthy in-patient stays. What kind of surgery was Kate undergoing that she wouldn’t be able to go back home for two weeks afterward?

The speculation only increased when Buckingham Palace announced the same day that King Charles would be receiving treatment for an enlarged prostate. For two such high-ranking royals to be undergoing medical procedures at the same time was unusual, almost shocking. Royal watchers speculated that the palace was trying to cover something up.

As the weeks went by, Kate’s condition remained mysterious, while Charles was almost pointedly transparent about his own health. In February he announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, that it had been caught early, that he was doing well, and that he had begun treatment. As for Kate, Kensington Palace would only say tersely that her condition was “not cancerous.” Why, royal watchers demanded, was Kate’s condition so much more mysterious than the king’s was?

The more time went by without so much as a single blurry telephoto lens shot of Kate, the more the rumors built. William was photographed visiting the hospital, but no one saw Kate make her way out of the hospital and back to her own home in Windsor Home Park. She has posted no recovery photos to Instagram, and no paparazzi have caught her ducking into the back seat of a discreet and unmarked car.

Under normal circumstances, the lack of photos of a woman recovering from a medical procedure would be recognized as a reasonable respect for someone’s privacy. However, the life of a future queen of England is not normal circumstances. In a country with a notoriously ruthless tabloid press, royals are considered to be fair game as much as anyone.

Royals are expected to keep the public informed on their well-being, to play the game with the media.  

Daily Mail Editor Charlie Lankston echoed the palace’s statement and told Access that people should not listen to any rumors surrounding her health.

“I think it’s important to remind everyone that she did have a fairly serious procedure,” she told Access. “All of the wild conspiracy theories that are going around out there, that Kate’s in a medically induced coma, that Kate’s died, that Kate’s had some sort of face lift, I would urge people to not pay them any mind.”

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