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Kate Middleton and the media


Catherine, the Princess of Wales, is undergoing treatment for cancer. Kate Middleton revealed the news in a video released yesterday.


KATE MIDDLETON: In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London, and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. However, tests after the operation found cancer had been present.

DETROW: Elizabeth Holmes is now back with us again this week to discuss the major update to the Kate Middleton story. She writes a regular newsletter about the royal family called "So Many Thoughts." Hey, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH HOLMES: Hi. Thanks for having me.

DETROW: How surprised were you by this news?

HOLMES: Very surprised. I think everybody was very surprised.

DETROW: When we talked last week, and we were primarily talking about that edited photo and how it sent all of the speculation into overdrive, you had so many questions about what the palace was doing and why. What of those questions are now answered? And what are you still trying to figure out here?

HOLMES: Well, I certainly look at that photo with a bit more sympathy. I certainly don't think it excuse as releasing an edited photo - a photo edited to that degree, I should say - to the news media because it's not a family photo, right? It's an entry into the historical record, but you can sort of see how they would want to put forth that image of a very happy, smiling family in an attempt to quiet the speculation that had been rampant at that point. And unfortunately, it fanned the flames further.

DETROW: We're talking about 24 hours after this news has been released. Do you have any firm thoughts on kind of what you make of the way that this storyline kind of mainstreamed conspiracy theories and became, like, a fun entertainment?

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness, so many thoughts. I think certainly the way that Twitter and TikTok and certainly Instagram as well drove this narrative and the ways in which conspiracy theories were treated as legitimate information when they were actually disinformation, I think, will take some time to reflect. But certainly, all of that led to this unprecedented place where Catherine delivered this news herself via video, right?

And I just want to talk about that video for a second because it's so striking. The royal family will often release a video from the sovereign, right? From the late Queen Elizabeth, we saw a lot of these - certainly from King Charles. They're often seated in in in a palace somewhere or someplace that looks grand at a desk. It's very formal.

And there were hints of that with Kate, right? But instead, she's seated in a garden. She's wearing jeans and a sweater. It's very familiar. It's not particularly royal. It's much more relatable. And here she is in a single shot. You know, that video was not edited. She's talking directly to the camera, and she's essentially pleading for space and time and privacy.

DETROW: How do you explain the disparity between how the Palace revealed the news about King Charles's cancer diagnosis, and how it revealed the news of Kate Middleton's cancer diagnosis? What do you think that says about how they view the media landscape?

HOLMES: I mean, so the teams at Buckingham Palace that manage Charles and his communications and the teams at Kensington Palace are separate, and we have seen that play out because there are so many similarities here, right? Both of these people underwent a medical procedure. Cancer was found as part of that, and then they've wanted privacy and time and space to go through treatment and recover.

However, Buckingham Palace came out. They were very forthcoming. They did not say what kind of cancer Charles had, but just that he was starting treatment. We have seen him quite often during his treatment, and I think that has been very reassuring. Kate, on the other hand, they handled this very differently. We have not seen her before the video, certainly. But I should also say there are, like, very significant differences.


HOLMES: Charles is the king. There are expectations of his public presence. I would say there's much greater interest in Kate. Also, she has three small children. She wanted, first and foremost, to manage this news with them, which I can understand as a mother myself.

DETROW: Yeah. One of the things we also talked about last week and one of the things you've written a lot about is the way that the British media had handled all of this and how it had a surprisingly more hands-off, a surprisingly more passive approach to the last few weeks of this story, compared to the way that a lot of the tabloids typically would have treated a storyline like this. Do you think this actually makes the British media look better for once? Or what do you make of this now that we know this key fact?

HOLMES: Well, they certainly did give Kate the time at the beginning - right? - and the privacy. Nobody dug into what could have prompted this major abdominal surgery. But the problem is the internet filled in the white space.


HOLMES: And so just because the tabloids weren't doing it, it doesn't mean that wasn't happening elsewhere. And I think that's the big sort of learning from all of this, that Kensington Palace put forth this request for privacy, and they had this expectation around giving Kate space to recover. And yes, right? A woman should be given the space to recover from a major health event. And the tabloids, for the first time, really obeyed that. But the rest of the world did not.

DETROW: That's Elizabeth Holmes. Her newsletter about the royal family is called "So Many Thoughts." Thank you so much.

HOLMES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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