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Where is the Princess of Wales?

No, don’t panic. You haven’t mistakenly clicked onto the Sun or the Daily Mirror. This is still Europinion. Royal gossip has a tendency to position itself within the tabloids, but the unsettling, curious, and downright bizarre nature of Catherine, the Princess of Wales’ disappearance, coupled with the either incredibly indolent or incompetent actions of her PR team, presents a story of particular note. 

On January 17, Kensington Palace announced that the Princess of Wales had been admitted to hospital for planned abdominal surgery and that she was acutely appreciative of the “interest this statement [would] generate”. The statement added that it was “unlikely” the Princess would resume her public engagements until Easter, which this year is celebrated on March 31. Kensington Palace announced on January 29 that Catherine had returned home, all in accordance with the expected convalescence period. 

It’s not Easter yet, so what is all the fuss about? Cue the Royal PR team. You know the one, the same PR team that thought putting Prince Andrew in front of Emily Maitlis for an hour and televising it to the country (and indeed the world) would quell all the rumours of sexual impropriety and exonerate Andrew’s controversial connection with the disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. True to form, the Royal communications department have only served to fuel the fire. 

On February 27, Prince William cancelled a scheduled appearance of his own, citing a “personal matter” as his excuse. Boy, did that send the rumour mill ablaze. Conspiracies and eccentric theories soon swirled. There was talk that their marriage had irretrievably broken down or that the Princess’ operation had been botched with severe complications. There has even been talk that the Princess of Wales was placed in an induced coma. On March 4, Catherine was photographed (albeit rather fuzzily) in the passenger seat of a car driven by her mother, Carol Middleton, near Windsor Castle. Sadly, this did little to reassure the public. Rumours swirled of a body-double. Royalist or not, most people were asking the question: where is the Princess of Wales? And is she okay?

At this juncture, it would be logical for Kensington Palace to arrange for a short video, a statement of some kind, or even a photograph, to appease the public concern. On March 10, to celebrate Mother’s Day, it appeared the Palace had done just that. Kensington Palace circulated a picture of the Princess of Wales, all smiles, alongside her three children: Princes George and Louis, and Princess Charlotte. “Finally!” most people thought. How wrong they were to be. 

Shortly after the picture’s publication, it was embroiled in scandal, adding to the growing conspiracy around the Princess of Wales’ whereabouts. Major photo agencies, including the Associated Press and Reuters, declared the image as “manipulated” or doctored in some way, issuing a kill notice for the image. The day after, the X account of William and Catherine issued an apology. “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing” said the Princess of Wales. I found this particularly insulting to one’s intelligence. An examination of the photo shows, at best, serious editing oversights. At worst, and I sadly believe this to be more probable, the image was deliberately manipulated by AI. What a way to make things seem one hundred times more suspicious. 

You’d be forgiven, though, for assuming all is well. There is, effectively, a media blackout ongoing in the United Kingdom on this matter. But that grotesquely undermines the importance of this story, both domestically and internationally. Constitution Hill, with Buckingham Palace as its backdrop, is presently a hive of activity, day and night, with many international news anchors live-reporting on the speculative whereabouts of the Princess of Wales. Spanish news outlets have referred to the ‘blackout’, and have suggested serious ill health, even alluding to the induced coma some have rumoured. 

Either way, it does not take a Royal expert to notice something is seriously amiss. The Royal Family is currently contending with King Charles’ cancer diagnosis, the William-Harry split, and the loss of a great matriarch - the late Queen Elizabeth II. Not least to mention the somewhat suspicious death of Thomas Kingston, the ex of Pippa Middleton, the Princess of Wales’ sister. It is wholly reasonable to assume that the Royal PR team’s tactic is to ensure maximum damage limitation. If anything untoward has, in fact, happened to do with Catherine, it will only serve to exacerbate the Royal Family’s precarious position. It is hard to argue against the idea that there is only so much negative press the monarchy can take before its value is permanently eroded. 

This leads me to conclude that all is not well in Kensington Palace. If the Palace could photograph the Princess of Wales properly, they would. If the Palace could record the Princess of Wales making a statement, they would. But they haven’t. The monarchy is an integral part of British life. I’d implore Kensington Palace to rethink its communications strategy on the matter, as soon as possible. With rumours and conspiracies only intensifying, how long will it be until the Royal Family is forced to tell us where exactly is the Princess of Wales? 

Image: Odd Andersen/AFP

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