Home News Kate Middleton in command, showing ‘the fortitude’ of Elizabeth II

Kate Middleton in command, showing ‘the fortitude’ of Elizabeth II

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It’s entirely possible that Kate Middleton felt “bullied” into going public Friday with the news of her very private struggle with cancer.

But the Princess of Wales didn’t come across as any kind of victim in the video released Friday by Kensington Palace. She didn’t seem oppressed by the unique demands of her royal life or the vicious conspiracy theories that have surrounded her since she retreated from public view in December. Instead, she appeared to be a woman very much in command, both of how she wanted to deliver difficult news and in how she wanted to present herself to the world at this key moment in her life.

Kate filmed her statement alone, sitting outside on a bench near a bloom of golden daffodils – a symbol of spring and new beginnings if ever there was one. The 42-year-old mother of three wore an “everymum uniform” of striped sweater and jeans and didn’t use titles. Though she appeared a bit pale, she calmly disclosed that cancer was discovered after she underwent abdominal surgery in January for a condition that wasn’t believed to be cancerous at the time. In words she reportedly wrote herself, she said she had begun “preventative chemotherapy” but she assured the public, “I am well and getting stronger every day.”

Kate also included comments that seemed designed to quash gossip about her marriage to Prince William and to explain why little information had thus far been released about her condition, according to The Atlantic. She referred to the importance of having “William by my side,” while saying the couple prioritized their children’s well-being before going public with her diagnosis. “It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK,” she said.

Kate ended her video by talking to “everyone facing this disease.” She said, “Please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.” New Yorker writer Anthony Lane said this pledge “could have been spoken by the late Queen Elizabeth II, who was well-versed in stoic fortitude.” London Times fashion editor Harriet Walker similarly wrote that Kate’s final line had “the same quality as the late queen’s lockdown message: ‘We will meet again.’”

SANDRINGHAM, NORFOLK - DECEMBER 25: Catherine, Princess of Wales and Mia Tindall greet well-wishers after attending the Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church on December 25, 2023 in Sandringham, Norfolk. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
SANDRINGHAM, NORFOLK – DECEMBER 25: Catherine, Princess of Wales and Mia Tindall greet well-wishers after attending the Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church on December 25, 2023 in Sandringham, Norfolk. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images) 

Many noted that Kate’s statement didn’t answer some key questions, especially what type of cancer she has. But the release of her video made the world pause, with the sense that this “commoner,” who married into the royal family, delivered what could be the most memorable address by a member of that family in recent memory. In the U.K., many expressed their shock and concern for a well-liked member of the monarchy, the New York Times reported. Get-well messages poured in from world leaders and celebrities. So, too, did self-recriminations from Blake Lively and others who had made jokes at her expense. Late-night host Stephen Colbert, though, has yet to say anything about his comedy bit that pushed the unfounded cheating rumor about William into the mainstream.

Meanwhile, Kate’s video prompted calls for Prince Harry to end his feud with his brother and the rest of the royal family. Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, were in the dark about Kate’s cancer but issued a statement, wishing “health and healing” to her, and privately reached out to her and William, reports say.

For the royal family, Kate’s video may have put the brakes on a spiraling narrative that prompted even ardent royal supporters to say she had suffered a stunning fall from grace because Kensington Palace mishandled news about her health crisis. Certainly, the palace “comms” team has made itself into a PR case study, especially about the dangers of disseminating digitally manipulated images of very important clients.

But Kate’s video also may offer “a reset” for the palace, especially as it insisted all along that it was trying to respect her desire for privacy, the BBC reported. There also are other ways the video offered a rebuke to some of the assumptions made about her in recent weeks.

After Kate took personal responsibility for the “amateur” edits to the infamous March 10 Mother’s Day photo of her and her children, many chastised the palace, or William, for “throwing her under the bus,” as she was dealing with a serious health crisis. In a New York Times op-ed, novelist Jennifer Weiner bemoaned the way that “Windsor women” regularly become the scapegoats for situations botched by their husbands or by the institution. But Kate’s quiet steeliness in the video shows that she could have willingly taken responsibility for the Photoshop fail because she’s not afraid, like so many others in the public eye, to own her mistakes and apologize.

Kate’s presentation also challenged criticism that William did not appear with her in the video. Christopher Bouzy, the tech CEO who has been one of the leading disseminators of #KateGate conspiracy theories, rather paternalistically blasted William on X for not being by her side, “to give her moral support while she shared her cancer diagnosis with the world.”

But many women, including self-described cancer survivors, excoriated Bouzy, by replying, “It’s her story!” Another person said, “Ultimately Kate fights this battle alone — it is her body and life.  Of course, she would make the announcement as she did. Bravely and with grace.” In an interview with the BBC, Stuart Higgins, the former editor of The Sun who also has cancer, likewise praised Kate’s “enormous courage, dignity and composure to face the camera,” instead of letting the palace issue a message on her behalf.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children Britain's Prince George and Britain's Princess Charlotte visit Cardiff Castle in Wales on June 4, 2022 as part of the royal family's tour for Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee celebrations. - Over the course of the Central Weekend, members of the royal family will visit the Nations of the United Kingdom to celebrate The Queen's Platinum Jubilee. (Photo by Ashley CROWDEN / various sources / AFP) (Photo by ASHLEY CROWDEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children Britain’s Prince George and Britain’s Princess Charlotte visit Cardiff Castle in Wales on June 4, 2022 as part of the royal family’s tour for Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee celebrations. – Over the course of the Central Weekend, members of the royal family will visit the Nations of the United Kingdom to celebrate The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. (Photo by Ashley CROWDEN / various sources / AFP) (Photo by ASHLEY CROWDEN/AFP via Getty Images) 

Back in December, controversial author Omid Scuba published a book, “Endgame,” on the current state of the monarchy and was particularly tough on Kate.  In his book, Scobie described the future queen as a “sometimes Stepford-like” royal wife who has “crippling stage fright” and who has “sublimated her authentic self” in order to fulfill her role as “a vessel for a dynastic family,” according to a review by The Kit.

It’s true that Kate is mostly seen at events, often on behalf of good causes, always smiling and looking great in clothes. She never sits for personal interviews and doesn’t give many speeches, so the public never really knows what’s going on with her. Walker, of the London Times, wrote that her “reserve” inspires fascination. But now comes her speech, her voice “clear and crisp,” while delivering news that makes “souls tremble,” Walker said, adding, “We have never seen her like this.

According to the New Yorker’s Lane, the video points to serious communications skills that were innate or that Kate has acquired in the 13 years she’s been in her royal job. Her statement was designed to “establish an affinity between (her) and any other parent, anywhere, whose prime of life had just been invaded and upended by the bitterest of shocks,” Lane said. “Whether this reaching out is a matter of instinct or design is not the point; some public figures have a talent for kinship, and some don’t. Kate has it.”





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