Unpacking the Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories Amid a Tangle of Royal News

Prince William Addresses Online Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories

And here the royals thought they were being transparent.

When Kensington Palace shared Jan. 17 that Kate Middleton had been hospitalized after undergoing abdominal surgery and would remain out of the public eye for at least three months, and then that same day Buckingham Palace announced King Charles III was being treated for an enlarged prostate…

That was quite the one-two punch of information coming from the least demonstrative family in England.

Unpacking the Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories Amid a Tangle of Royal News

Then, just when it seemed as if the king was back in action, Charles and Queen Camilla stepping out for church on Feb. 4, the palace shared the next day that the 75-year-old monarch would be undergoing treatment for cancer and he wouldn't be doing public engagements for the foreseeable future, either.

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While Charles hasn't disclosed any other details about his condition, including what type of cancer he has, this is exponentially more information than the public was given in 1952 before his maternal grandfather King George VI died of lung cancer when he was only 56—a shocking turn of events considering the palace never gave any indication of how grave his condition was.

Yet, though Charles is carrying on with the business of royalty behind closed doors, he's certainly left more questions than answers in his wake.

And for a public whose previous queen lived to 96 in a state of relative robustness until the final year of her life, this glimpse of her son's perfectly human frailty wasn't the news they'd been expecting.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

With the family now down two of their full-time faces, there's even been some wishful thinking going around that Prince Harry could be called upon to fill some sort of royal role while his father is recovering.

But though Harry flew out to the U.K. to visit Charles in the wake of his cancer diagnosis and he remains a Counsellor of State (a select group allowed to carry out duties on behalf of the monarchy), the relatable moment—son rushing to see his ailing dad, despite recent bad blood—was also a reminder of the much deeper estrangement between him and brother Prince William.

The two reportedly did not see each other during the short time Harry was in town and Meghan Markle did not make the trip with her husband.

William commented publicly on Kate and Charles' health issues for the first time Feb. 7, thanking well-wishers "for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father" while at the London Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner

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And with the family still rattled (if not outwardly) by these health crises, then came the shocking news that Thomas Kingston, the husband of Charles' second cousin Lady Gabriella Kingston (née Windsor), had died by apparent suicide on Feb. 25 at the age of 45.

On Feb. 27, the same day Thomas' death was announced, William didn't go to a memorial for his godfather King Constantine II of Greece (who died at 82 in January 2023 after suffering a stroke) at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, citing a "personal matter."

Also that day Kensington Palace issued its first update on Kate in a month, stating, "Princess of Wales, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, continues to be doing well."


Maybe it was just one vagary too many, because it seemed like Princess of Wales withdrawal kicked in right then and there with a vengeance. 

Not that speculation about what was wrong with Kate hadn't already run amok, let alone the rumors about "abdominal surgery" being a cover for…you name it, from a bad haircut to having cosmetic work done on [insert body part here].

But in the wake of William going to the 2024 BAFTAs (as he and Kate normally would do together every year), and then not going to the memorial, and then taking a shot with Wrexham A.F.C. co-owner Rob McElhenney at an engagement in Wales two days later, a lot of people were just frustrated.

While others were extremely suspicious.

Ming Yeung/Getty Images

And Kate being seen for the first time since her surgery only made some people more convinced that something was awry. "Pippa" started trending on X (formerly known as Twitter) as conspiracy theorists made the case that it was actually Kate's sister Pippa Middleton sitting in the car alongside mum Carole Middleton in photographs snapped March 4. Cue another wave of where-is-Kate-really hysteria.

The chatter got loud enough that William had to acknowledge it, to a characteristically muted degree.

"His focus is on his work," his office told People March 6, "and not on social media."

Sigh, what a time. Come what may, this will never qualify as the most fraught period in royal history (King Henry VIII did have a couple of his wives executed, after all), but for our lifetime, it's been a lot—and it's still only March.

Before there's more, here's a rundown of the pileup of royal news in 2024 so far:

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