Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Where is Kate Middleton?

Breaking Down the Theories and Social Media Conspiracies Captivating Gen Z
Aria Zhu/The Hoya

If you are anything like us, you have been intrigued by what on Earth is going on with Kate Middleton. Lucky for you, The Hoya has two royal experts, both of whom are Irish-American. (Our British-born executive editor, Evie Steele, declined to comment on this development). 

Even a March 18 video of Kate and her husband William, Prince of Wales, walking together at a local farm shop has not been enough to quell the rumors swirling about the state of Kate. The fallout is a lesson in how rumors can spiral out of control on the internet and why not to believe everything you see in a Tweet or a TikTok. 

It all began with an innocuous announcement Jan. 17 from Kensington Palace that Kate Middleton — formally known as Catherine, Princess of Wales — had undergone abdominal surgery and would likely not resume her public duties until after Easter. The princess had not been seen in public since a church service Dec. 25, and her engagements planned for the next few months were then canceled.

Weeks later, conspiracy theories and memes flooded the internet as users became obsessed with where Catherine had gone. In response, Kensington Palace released a statement Feb. 29 to quell worries about Catherine’s health.

If Kensington Palace thought that statement put an end to the conspiracies, they were woefully naive. Five days later, on March 4, TMZ paparazzi snapped a photo of what many assumed to be Catherine and her mother, Carole Middleton, driving near Windsor Castle. This would have been Catherine’s first public sighting since her surgery in January. 

The low quality of the photo and lack of additional shots added fuel to the theorists’ flames, with X, formerly known as Twitter, users and TikTokers speculating that the car photo was staged and that the Palace was covering up a more sinister reason for Kate’s absence than a planned abdominal surgery.

Then on March 10, Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom, the official social media accounts for the Prince and Princess of Wales released a photo of Kate with her three children, noting William had taken it the previous week. 

However, social media sleuths and news outlets found many irregularities in the photo — the Associated Press issued a “kill” order on the image, asking other news agencies to pull the photo from publication, and the Global News Director of Agence France-Presse labeled Kensington Palace as a non-credible source. The middle third of the photo appears to be altered, as Catherine’s coat zipper and hair are misaligned, the edges of tiles on the floor appear to repeat, Princess Charlotte’s hair has an artificial pattern and a portion of her sleeve is missing. 

Kensington Palace later released a statement on behalf of Catherine, who admitted that, as an amateur photographer, she edited the snapshot, apologizing for any confusion it may have caused. 

The scant information Kensington Palace has released on Catherine’s condition has taken the internet by storm. We, your Hoya Royal family experts, have dissected three of the most viral conspiracy theories, looking into how plausible they are (spoiler alert: none of them are rooted in reality).

Theory 1: William and Catherine are splitting up

Some on the internet believe that Catherine has become fed up with her husband’s alleged infidelity and has threatened to file for divorce. 

Allegations that William cheated on his wife with Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, were first reported in April 2019. Around this time rumors also circulated that Catherine and Hanbury had a falling out, something publications such as Vanity Fair speculated on. Neither the Prince and Princess of Wales nor Hanbury and her husband, David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, have made any public comment about the allegations. 

More extreme theories allege that William is the father of Hanbury’s children. 

Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show both have made jokes about William’s alleged infidelity in the backdrop of Catherine’s health concerns.

Adding fuel to the fire, The Guardian removed a portion of an article about Colbert’s jokes attacking William’s alleged infidelity with Hanbury, removing her name and a paragraph referencing Cholmondeley. No correction is issued on the article as to why this change occurred. 

Despite this, there is no evidence that William has had an affair or that Catherine is considering divorce. This theory is also flawed for those looking for answers about where the Princess of Wales is, as it also does not explain why little has been released about Catherine’s health issues or why she would need to spend three months in recovery. 

Unfortunately for the Waleses, the cheating rumors resurfaced when people began to question Catherine’s whereabouts. Colbert and other late-night comedy hosts legitimized a rumor they had little evidence to support. 

Theory 2: Catherine is dead

Statements released by Kensington Palace and allegedly signed by Catherine have not stopped speculators from spreading the most extreme theory: Catherine, Princess of Wales, is dead.

According to some on Twitter, Jeffrey, a last name-less lawyer for Catherine, has reportedly said that he believes she is dead — but there is no evidence to support this claim nor proof that Catherine even has a lawyer named Jeffrey.  

Tabloids like The New York Post and Page Six have reported that Catherine’s senior staffers have not seen or spoken to her since her surgery, but neither publication provided the names of the sources for these claims.

There are unverified reports of an ambulance being seen leaving Sandringham Estate, where the family spent Christmas, on Dec. 28, but no statement was released from the family. Theorists, with no concrete evidence, have speculated that Catherine was more seriously injured before the Jan. 17 surgery announcement and that she was taken to the hospital in this ambulance.

There is no evidence whatsoever to prove this theory. Rather, the efforts made to heavily edit the Mother’s Day photo, the two enigmatic paparazzi photos reportedly capturing Catherine and her lack of a public appearance in almost three months all fuel this rumor. The Royal Family could not feasibly hide that a figure so famous as Catherine is dead, and her disappearance past Easter would be difficult to attribute to surgery. Eventually, the family would have to admit she is dead. 

Not to mention that versions of this theory suggest that a member of the Royal Family murdered Catherine, something that should not be thrown around lightly and requires an enormous burden of proof. 

Theory 3: Catherine’s appearance has changed after surgery

In a tweet with more than one million views but no corroboration, one social media user speculated that Catherine has suffered from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, and had a resection, the removal of parts of the intestine that the disease has damaged. 

Such an operation is a type of abdominal surgery and would require a colostomy bag or steroids for up to 12 months. Some have argued, without evidence, that the photograph of the woman in the March 4 photo with Carole Middleton could be Catherine suffering the effects of steroids, as many believe her face appears wider than in past photos. 

Of course, there is no evidence to prove that this is true and a video supposedly of Catherine from March 18 shows no steroid-like effects to her face. The brisk walk of the woman at the farmers’ market, who is also carrying a large bag, does not suggest that she is a woman recovering from some kind of abdominal surgery who was unable to take a photograph with her children the week before. Though the video has sparked an additional flurry of speculation, the palace has not confirmed when the footage was taken or commented on its authenticity.

A Hard Lesson Learned 

While the internet loves a good meme, and there have been plenty of good ones about WaterKate, this is a good lesson not to believe everything you read on the internet — Kate’s disappearance displays the power of internet conspiracy theories. It’s a slippery slope from joking about a princess to believing everything you read on the internet without vetting the information you repost. Many of our Georgetown friends have fallen for these fake reports, sending us Tweets that we quickly disproved. As misinformation can rapidly spread online and deepfakes threaten the spread of truthful information, everyone has a duty to scrutinize the information they see on the internet.

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About the Contributors
Caroline Rareshide
Caroline Rareshide, Managing Editor
Caroline Rareshide is a junior in the SFS from New Orleans, La., studying international politics with a minor in economics. She may or may not have illegally walked on the Kennedy Compound. [email protected]
Caitlin McLean
Caitlin McLean, Chair of the Board
Caitlin McLean is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences from New York, N.Y., studying government and history with a minor in journalism. She does not know how to drive. [email protected]

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