Unpacking the Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories Amid a Tangle of Royal News

King Charles battling cancer, wild speculation about Kate Middleton, that never-ending feud between Prince William and Prince Harry: We may be in the middle of the wildest royal timeline of our lives.

By Natalie Finn Mar 09, 2024 8:00 AMTags
Watch: Prince William Addresses Online Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories

And here the royals thought they were being transparent.

When Kensington Palace shared Jan. 17 that Kate Middleton had been hospitalized after undergoing abdominal surgery and would remain out of the public eye for at least three months, and then that same day Buckingham Palace announced King Charles III was being treated for an enlarged prostate...

That was quite the one-two punch of information coming from the least demonstrative family in England.

Then, just when it seemed as if the king was back in action, Charles and Queen Camilla stepping out for church on Feb. 4, the palace shared the next day that the 75-year-old monarch would be undergoing treatment for cancer and he wouldn't be doing public engagements for the foreseeable future, either.

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While Charles hasn't disclosed any other details about his condition, including what type of cancer he has, this is exponentially more information than the public was given in 1952 before his maternal grandfather King George VI died of lung cancer when he was only 56—a shocking turn of events considering the palace never gave any indication of how grave his condition was.

Yet, though Charles is carrying on with the business of royalty behind closed doors, he's certainly left more questions than answers in his wake.

And for a public whose previous queen lived to 96 in a state of relative robustness until the final year of her life, this glimpse of her son's perfectly human frailty wasn't the news they'd been expecting.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

With the family now down two of their full-time faces, there's even been some wishful thinking going around that Prince Harry could be called upon to fill some sort of royal role while his father is recovering.

But though Harry flew out to the U.K. to visit Charles in the wake of his cancer diagnosis and he remains a Counsellor of State (a select group allowed to carry out duties on behalf of the monarchy), the relatable moment—son rushing to see his ailing dad, despite recent bad blood—was also a reminder of the much deeper estrangement between him and brother Prince William.

The two reportedly did not see each other during the short time Harry was in town and Meghan Markle did not make the trip with her husband.

William commented publicly on Kate and Charles' health issues for the first time Feb. 7, thanking well-wishers "for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father" while at the London Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner

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And with the family still rattled (if not outwardly) by these health crises, then came the shocking news that Thomas Kingston, the husband of Charles' second cousin Lady Gabriella Kingston (née Windsor), had died by apparent suicide on Feb. 25 at the age of 45.

On Feb. 27, the same day Thomas' death was announced, William didn't go to a memorial for his godfather King Constantine II of Greece (who died at 82 in January 2023 after suffering a stroke) at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, citing a "personal matter."

Also that day Kensington Palace issued its first update on Kate in a month, stating, "Princess of Wales, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, continues to be doing well."


Maybe it was just one vagary too many, because it seemed like Princess of Wales withdrawal kicked in right then and there with a vengeance. 

Not that speculation about what was wrong with Kate hadn't already run amok, let alone the rumors about "abdominal surgery" being a cover for...you name it, from a bad haircut to having cosmetic work done on [insert body part here].

But in the wake of William going to the 2024 BAFTAs (as he and Kate normally would do together every year), and then not going to the memorial, and then taking a shot with Wrexham A.F.C. co-owner Rob McElhenney at an engagement in Wales two days later, a lot of people were just frustrated.

While others were extremely suspicious.

Ming Yeung/Getty Images

And Kate being seen for the first time since her surgery only made some people more convinced that something was awry. "Pippa" started trending on X (formerly known as Twitter) as conspiracy theorists made the case that it was actually Kate's sister Pippa Middleton sitting in the car alongside mum Carole Middleton in photographs snapped March 4. Cue another wave of where-is-Kate-really hysteria.

The chatter got loud enough that William had to acknowledge it, to a characteristically muted degree.

"His focus is on his work," his office told People March 6, "and not on social media."

Sigh, what a time. Come what may, this will never qualify as the most fraught period in royal history (King Henry VIII did have a couple of his wives executed, after all), but for our lifetime, it's been a lot—and it's still only March.

Before there's more, here's a rundown of the pileup of royal news in 2024 so far:

Kate Middleton Focusing on Health

Nearly two months after the Princess of Wales went public with her cancer diagnosis, a spokesperson for Kensington Palace said the royal has no immidiate plans to return to her public-facing duties.

"The princess is not expected to return to work," the rep said in a May 21 statement to BBC, "until it's cleared by her medical team."

New Role for Prince William

On May 13, King Charles III bestowed the title of Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps to his oldest son, sparking controversy as many royal watchers believed the title would be more suited for Prince Harry, who trained and served in the military branch.

Kin Charles III Returns to Public Duties

On April 26, nearly three months after sharing his cancer diagnosis, Buckingham Palace announced that Charles will return to public-facing duties

Queen Camilla Attends Royal Maundy Service

The queen consort attended the Royal Maundy Service on March 28 in place of King Charles III, making her the first spouse of the Monarch to continue the ancient tradition.

Kate Middleton Shares Cancer Diagnosis

In a March 22 video message, the Princess of Wales shared that she'd been diagnosed with cancer after undergoing abdominal surgery in January.

"It was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful," she said before noting that tests after the operation found cancer had been present. "My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy and I am now in the early stages of that treatment."

Kate Middleton Apologizes for Edited Family Photo Controversy

After photo agencies pulled the picture Kensington Palace shared of Kate since having her abdominal surgery on March 10, the Princess of Wales addressed claims the photo was doctored. 

"Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing," she tweeted on March 11. "I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day. C."

Lady Kitty Spencer Privately Welcomes Baby

Princess Diana's niece celebrated Mother's Day in the U.K. by sharing she and her husband Michael Lewis privately welcomed their first baby.

“It’s the joy of my life to be your mummy, little one. I love you unconditionally," she captioned her March 10 Instagram post. "Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate today."

Queen Camilla Takes a Break

After keeping up her full slate of engagements in the wake of her husband's cancer diagnosis, the palace cleared Camilla's schedule.

The Times pointed out March 2 that the 76-year-old didn't have any engagements on her calendar until March 11, when she'd be due at Westminster Abbey to observe Commonwealth Day.

Thomas Kensington Dies at 45

The husband of Lady Gabriella Windsor and ex-boyfriend of Pippa Middleton, was found dead Feb. 25. Days later, a coroner's inquest found that he died by suicide.

King Charles Diagnosed With Cancer

While King Charles III was in the hospital for his benign prostate enlargement procedure, the royal family member was diagnosed with cancer.

"His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties," Buckingham Palace said Feb. 5. "Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake State business and official paperwork as usual.The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure. He remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible."

Sarah Ferguson Is Diagnosed With a Second Type of Cancer

The Duchess of York's rep said in a statement on Jan. 21 that Sarah was recently diagnosed with malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Several months prior, she underwent a single mastectomy to treat breast cancer.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark Abdicates the Throne

On Jan. 14, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark made history as she officially abdicated the throne, handing the crown over to her son, now known as King Frederik the 10th

Kate Middleton Is Hospitalized

Kensington Palace announced on Jan. 17 that Kate Middleton underwent planned abdominal surgery and was set to remain in the hospital for 10 to 14 days.

"Based on the current medical advice," the Palace said, "she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

Prince William Adjusting His Schedule

Amid Kate's recovery, Prince William postponed a number of engagements as he supported his family, including the couple's three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

King Charles III Undergoing Treatment

Shortly after Kate's hospitalization was made public, Buckingham Palace shared that Charles "has sought treatment for an enlarged prostate."

"His Majesty's condition is benign and he will attend hospital next week for a corrective procedure," the statement added. "The King’s public engagements will be postponed for a short period of recuperation."

Luxembourg Welcomes a New Baby

Princess Claire and Prince Felix of Luxembourg welcomed son Balthazar Felix Karl on Jan. 7, the first royal baby of the New Year!