Friday, April 19, 2024

At What Point Should We Actually Be Worried About Kate Middleton?

The rumours about Kate Middleton have gone from weird, to weirder, to downright bizarre in the last 48 hours. When is it time to be actually worried?

This is an opinion piece

In the hallowed halls where my friendships now exist (the group chat), we often have a joke of sending a ‘PROOF OF LIFE PLEASE’ message if it’s been too long between chats. Maybe someone has been travelling, maybe (in the young old days, at least) there had a been hot date, maybe the chat has been silent for a while.

But if the photo they sent back was like Kate Middleton’s family photo, there would absolutely be a follow-up ‘GIRL YOU OK?’ message because, like a creepy Magic Eye painting, that photo just gets weirder the longer you looked at it.

And then the AP news sources released an official statement a few hours later acting as a ‘kill notification’ for the photo, citing that ‘the source has manipulated the image’ and ‘no replacement photo will be sent.’ The source, of course, being the palace, who have now been caught out for manipulating an official palace image, and failing to produce a replacement one! Warning bell, warning bell!

The same AP report then told all news companies to pull the photo. (Obviously, most of the British press had run it without questioning, because the British papers and the Royal family are locked in a mutually assured destruction death spiral, as they battle to see who will become more irrelevant to the public first).

What is a kill notification? As one publicist explained on Twitter: ‘So just to be clear here – in the Public Relations industry, a “kill notification” is the coup de grâce of the media circuit. For AP to issue this update, means that something is TERRIBLY wrong. Think of it as a Cat. 5 cyclone. This is literally a death blow to any press source.”

In terms of Royal PR, it might as well be kill-career notice, because if your big move to save your client is to put out a ‘everything is fine, nothing to see here’ photo and then the press agencies OF THE WORLD refuse to run it because it’s manipulated… it’s not a good look.

There’s a reason that this is now a leading global story and many of the fun, gossipy rumours have turned to genuine concern for Kate’s wellbeing. Because just wait, there’s more! This morning, another personal message came through – allegedly from Kate – via The Prince and Princess of Wales Instagram account. “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.”

And that is where even your most disinterested person – or, alternatively, most ardent Royalist – is now being dragged towards the ‘something is fishy in the state of Buckingham’ narrative because, as if. As if! Firstly, Kate is 42 and no offence to my Gen X sisters, but this is not a generation that learned how to use Photoshop for fun. Best case scenario, they’re putting a Nashville filter on a photo and calling it a day.

Secondly, one of the horrible little revelations from Meghan Markle’s Escape From The Palace was that Royals weren’t allowed to have access to their own social media accounts. So now you want us to believe that Kate, a woman who is so ill from surgery that she is taking a four-month break from her job, who is also a mother-of-three, had enough time and wellness to fire up her Adobe Photoshop and swap out her children’s hands – but not pay enough attention to make sure she’s wearing a wedding ring in the photo??

Why, at every stage when they could have just been honest, are the palace just making it weirder? Kate needs to recover from a serious health condition and William needs to be home to help raise three kids – that’s understandable! It’s relatable! People love that! So why instead the cloak and daggers of William pulling out of events at the last minute and the weird maybe body double of Kate in the backseat, or, as of today, a fuzzy shot of her looking pointedly away from the cameras.

Or, say the original photo was legit and they did have to edit it – sure, okay, it happens. Trying to get a decent family photograph of three kids looking at the camera is like trying to take a good photograph of the moon – it’s very hard. But the idea that Kate herself did it, and posted it to Instagram, with no other people involved, only to then have to apologise…. Why, for a family and institution that is ENTIRELY ABOUT PUBLIC RELATIONS, ARE THEY SO BAD AT THIS?

Normally, the British press would have likely pulled focus with some sort of horrible Harry and Meghan story but unfortunately for them, Harry and Meghan have finally done what they kept saying they would do and sort-of disappeared from the public eye. The last headline I read about them had the pair visiting the family of a teacher who was killed in a high school shooting to pay tribute to her on her birthday, and we only know that because a family video was given to the press. Even the most toxic headline writer couldn’t make a meal out of that, could they? So for once, that particular outrage buffer is gone.

And then which other family members are left to fill that space? King Charles has retreated – understandably – while he battles cancer at age 75. Camilla is on holiday. It got so bad that accused underage sexual offender Prince Andrew had to represent the Royal Family a couple of weeks ago, which has to be the moral equivalent of scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I always thought the Queen quite literally worked until the day she died because she had a truly remarkable work ethic, but maybe it was because she knew how quickly the wheels would fall off once she was gone. I mean, it’s only been 18 months since her death and up until that weird car ride this morning, there were global headlines wondering if Kate Middleton was secretly dead and it was being covered up by the palace. The wheels are OFF.

So until we get the proof of life we are looking for – and yes, I do think it’s acceptable that a family who are dedicated to a life of tax-payer funded public service does offer some actual, non-controversial proof at this stage that one of their members is still alive – then we just have to handle this the way our group chats would.


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