No one knows where Kate Middleton is.

She’s probably at home, recovering from the planned yet mysterious abdominal surgery she underwent in mid-January, just as we’ve been told. Occam’s razor says that, rather than one of the many conspiracies — ranging from funny (maybe she’s growing out a fringe?) to much more sinister — is the most likely truth.

Listen: The Conspiracy Theories About Princess Kate.

Kensington Palace said Kate wished for privacy ahead of her medical procedure, which is a fair request for anyone’s health information.

“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 said in a statement, adding that she would not return to public events until after Easter.

But there has been an undeniable air of secrecy about it all that has flamed rumours. 

Palace statements have been short and topline. Following William’s last-minute withdrawal from his godfather’s memorial this week, for an ‘unspecified personal reason‘, Kensington Palace simply said “the Princess of Wales continues to be doing well” in an attempt to quell further speculation.

It did not work on social media, because it is near-impossible to control social media. Traditional media, however? Well, that’s a bit more complicated.

British tabloids have a well-earned reputation for invasive reporting, but many have noticed they have respected the royal family’s wishes around reporting on Kate’s condition.

There have been no paparazzi images of her coming or going from the hospital (images did capture her husband visiting, though). No royal commentators have written speculatory opinions. No ‘well-placed royal sources’ offering unofficial updates. In large mainstream British media, there hasn’t even been the type of coverage of viral online opinions (read: tweets) usually lend themselves to a very quick and easy story when about practically any other famous person. 

In fact, there really has been nothing at all beyond reporting on the sparse palace statements. It’s as close to a media blackout as one of the world’s most famous, talked-about families could possibly hope for.

This is great. Respecting boundaries and less intrusive paparazzi culture is a cause for celebration. Kate deserves her privacy and we should be glad it is being respected.

That it is though also illustrates just how well the royal family can influence what is and isn’t published when it wants to. And how different the treatment of Meghan Markle was at the hands of the same organisations.

Kate and Meghan. Image: Getty. 

Prince Harry has spoken ad nauseam about his hatred of the British press, both in relation to the treatment of his mother Princess Diana and his wife, Meghan. It is undoubtedly personal for him, but during his crusade, he has pulled back the curtain on how he believes the press and the royals work together through planted stories and quid pro quo deals in his book and documentary, as well as in court.

“I have 30 years experience of looking behind the curtain and seeing how the system works and how it runs. I mean, just constant briefings about other members of the family, about favours inviting the press in,” he said in the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan

“It’s a dirty game. You know, there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories. So if the comms teams want to be able to remove a negative story about their principle, they will trade and give you something about someone else’s principle. So the offices end up working against each other.”

In the docuseries, Harry suggests that many negative Meghan stories, which included headlines about her wearing clothes that ‘broke protocol’ or criticising how she held her baby bump, came from his brother Prince William’s staff trading stories.

Meghan has spoken about the deep, deep toll that this constant trolling — when things get so absurd that ethical issues in avocado farming are being reported as “how Meghan’s favourite snack is fuelling human rights abuses”, it surely counts as trolling — had on her.

The royal family could have stopped this from happening, especially after it knew that Meghan’s mental health was deteriorating. Instead, they fed her to the wolves as a way to distract from other royal scandals or give other royal press houses the cachet to block other stories about their heads.

It might even still be happening: in lieu of news about Kate, during an undoubtedly very newsworthy time, British media have published stories of Meghan as a baby, interviewed her estranged cousin and reported on her former best friend going on a night out. 

Here’s hoping that Kate is recovering from her surgery well with the kind of peace and quiet that everyone — even her estranged sister-in-law — should be allowed to enjoy.

Feature image: Getty.

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