Now That Kate Middleton Has Revealed Her Cancer Diagnosis, It’s Time to Give Her the Privacy She Deserves

Catherine, Princess of Wales - seen here in 2023 - deserves privacy for herself and her family after her heartfelt video revealing her cancer diagnosis. Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

I’ve been thinking about Catherine, Princess of Wales, a great deal since she released a video in which she details her cancer diagnosis

This feels like a potential turning point, a reckoning about the way that social media has changed all of our lives. That Kate felt it necessary – as the hysteria around her absence from public life reached a fever pitch – to go “public” with a very personal, life-changing diagnosis feels just plain wrong. It has, indeed, been satisfying watching the most vocal of her critics of the past few weeks eat some crow.

Medical privacy is a universally acknowledged principal. She owed the British public – and even less the rest of the world – none of the candour and the valour that she showed with her thoughtfully worded and personally delivered statement.

Anyone who has been touched by cancer knows how awful the prying questions of “what kind of cancer” and “what stage” can be. It is never going to be anyone else’s business the handing out of such intimate information and the armchair layperson speculation that comes with it.

Her medical information was compromised at the hospital. Is there anything more invasive, or upsetting, than medical officials (who should strive to safeguard the privacy and dignity of their patients) trying to access and sell off that very precious information? Totally gross, and it makes me sad that there might even have been a market for that purloined information.

But the more important point here is that royal women are subject to far too much speculation about their appearance. The fashion messaging is totally fair: royal women speak rarely and often dress to tell a story – of diplomacy, of respect for flag or military service, or of their part in the costume drama fairy tale that underpins the entire concept of the monarchy.

We are all guilty of prying too much. When it comes to commentary on royal women’s bodies and appearance – who is “too thin,” who hasn’t “lost the baby weight,” who is looking tired, or older, or distressed or is having a bad hair day or wearing a dress we don’t like – we are all diminished. The crazy speculation about whether the “sightings” of Kate in the wild, in the car with her Mom, or at a market with Prince William, inevitably lead to conspiracy theories that it wasn’t the “real” Kate. 

For goodness’ sake, since when does anyone need to give proof of life to the baying mob? Yes, Kate is not a private citizen. She is in line to be Queen. Yes, she is paid in part by the British taxpayers. But she is not a politician representing the people, nor is she a head of state whose state of health could move money markets. The palace released a statement saying she would be off-duty until at least Easter. That’s fair. That was enough.

Why things had to get so ugly is what needs to be examined. True, the photo editing scandal – in which the palace released a manipulated image of Kate and her children that four major photo agencies had to pull from circulation – was like throwing gasoline on the already raging fire of “Where’s Kate?” speculation. A royal own goal that didn’t help things, to be sure.

But the real low was American talk show host Stephen Colbert taking a quick and dirty joke at the old rumour of an affair between William and family friend Rose Hanbury. Apparently for Colbert the “Marquess of Cholmondely” (pronounced Chumly) was a funny name to invoke. Yes, British names and titles are silly to North American ears. But why did he feel free to cast aspersions on any of these people? The Marquess has served legal papers, and good for her.

All the social media peacocks who loudly speculated about the whereabouts of the princess over the past few months have egg on their faces. Most of them have abjectly apologized. Kate’s heart-wrenching statement, on the heels of the announcement of the King’s own cancer treatment, should put all the tabloid frothing to rest.


Speculation of Kate’s whereabouts – and the public reaction to it – kept the British tabloids busy. Photo: Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Images


It will not put anything to rest. Kate’s appearance will remain under intense scrutiny. No wonder she wants more time to adapt to this news, tend to herself and her family while undergoing potentially debilitating treatments, without the microscope of everyone’s thoughts on how she is “coping” or “looking.” It’s barbaric.

Kate has done a truly remarkable job since the moment she became engaged to William and took on “the job.” It is a job. It should not be her entire life. She never puts a foot wrong. And if she does – see, the frenzy over the photo editing scandal – she owns the mistake. That is setting a standard to emulate. 

That both the King and the Princess of Wales are enduring the most frightening moments of their lives right now is a shock. But it is their shock, not ours. The King, because he made a point of declaring that his rule would be one of transparency – and the fact he is head of state for not just Britain but Canada as well as other Commonwealth realms – announced his cancer right away. 

That transparency will help raise awareness about cancer and the need to be vigilant in testing and observation – that cancer can and does happen to anyone at any station and stage in life. Kate’s announcement will do the same. But now that she has made it, it would be lovely – in a dream world, beyond social media, beyond conspiracy theorists, beyond the droning threat of AI – if she could be left alone to heal and to put herself and her family first.