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Kate Middleton Made Her Cancer Announcement on Her Own Terms

the duchess of cambridge visits cumbria
Kate Made Cancer Announcement On Her Own TermsMax Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

The British royal family is truly in unprecedented times. The King and the Princess of Wales have now both shared that they are being treated for cancer. The focus, rightly, is on allowing them the space they need to recover privately, so a threadbare number of working royals will now keep the show on the road publicly while also dealing with this personal turmoil.

If unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures then the Princess of Wales certainly honored that this week when she took the step of announcing her diagnosis to the world via video message. Video messages have become an increasingly popular way for the royal family to make charity announcements or give addresses, but personal matters and particularly health matters have remained confined to written statements from the Palace. So Kate broke ground this week and became the first family member ever to update the public on her health directly in this way.

The BBC filmed the video on Wednesday in Windsor and it was released at 6 p.m. on Friday evening. Much was made of the fact that it came after a series of escalating conspiracy theories online about her condition, and after footage of her outside a shop near her home had been published. Kate is obviously aware of the intense interest, but far from being a reaction to it, the timing of her video was entirely about considering what was best for her family.

Friday evening is a very unusual time for the Palace to make any kind of announcement, and with the video being filmed on Wednesday it was clearly not a last-minute decision. But the reasoning for this timing was specifically because George, Charlotte, and Louis finished school for the Easter holidays on Friday. William and Kate were then able to take them into a bubble to be private and together as a family so that they were shielded from any reaction when the news hit the world and everyone started talking about it.

Given the not unsurprising explosion of coverage, the thinking behind William and Kate’s decision makes complete sense. Kensington Palace has not disclosed when they told their children of Kate’s diagnosis but it is clear from Kate’s own words that it was not immediately and they took time to consider the best way to do this. Shielding them from any unnecessary worries because of their positions is, and always has been, their number one priority.

There had been many saying that a change of strategy and communication was required once conspiracy theories took hold and the Mother’s Day photograph had a question mark over its head. But William and Kate had stuck to their guns and not shown any kind of knee-jerk reaction to immediately release new material. Her personal apology for making what was ultimately a silly mistake over the image editing, and not hiding behind her staff in a vague statement, was in the end a glimpse into the dignity and courage that Kate would later display to take center-stage and tell the world of her diagnosis.

Whether she felt compelled to say more than she would otherwise have done as a result of the intense interest is impossible to rule out. But it is likely that there would always have been some kind of update around this time with Easter fast approaching, as the original Palace guidance was always that she may return to duties after the holiday.

By making it clear now what she is going through, the public has much more context for any decisions made moving forward about what the Princess can or cannot do. Just as with King Charles, the overwhelming sentiment is of compassion and empathy.

The final effect that such a message has is ultimately to be a personal plea for space and privacy. Kensington Palace did not push back when the video of Kate at a farm shop was published in the wake of the Mother’s Day image. But it is now clear that a firm stance can be expected to be taken over any future breaches of privacy.

The hope will be that this kind of fight-back is not needed and that Kate’s wishes will be respected when she looked people in the eye, told them she has cancer and said, “We hope that you will understand that, as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment.”

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