Kate’s health and Charles’s cancer struggle: What royal commentators are saying about the Windsors

Royal commentators offer their verdict on the varying royal crises

Lydia Patrick
Tuesday 19 March 2024 03:59 GMT
William praises his mother Diana at awards event

With its numerous health struggles, bitter fallouts, high-profile feuds and the never-ending rumour mill capturing the public’s imagination like no other, rarely has scrutiny on the royal family been so high.

King Charles being diagnosed with cancer following a routine prostate procedure was followed by the altogether more alarming news that Kate Middleton was to remain in hospital for 14 days following surgery on her abdomen.

The Princess of Wales has not attended any public engagements since undergoing surgery in January, opening up the floodgates to wild social media theories about her whereabouts.

Social media sleuths were given further cause for concern when Kensington Palace released a family picture on Mother’s Day which was later found out to have been doctored, triggering a further sense of mistrust within the court of public opinion.

Charles, meanwhile, has taken a step back from the majority of his public duties as he undergoes treatment for an unspecified form of cancer, and Prince William has stepped in to carry out his public-facing responsibilities while also remaining near Kate and their three children.

Elsewhere, estranged Prince Harry is living in apparent Californian bliss alongside Meghan Markle who recently returned to Instagram to launch her new lifestyle brand American Riviera Orchard.

Prince Harry tells Diana Award recipients ‘Mum would be incredibly proud (Sky News)

The younger Prince has faced criticism for his swift 45-minute meeting with his father in the wake of his diagnosis and appeared virtually for Diana Legacy Awards last week after Prince William’s in person speech - further fueling talk of a rift between the once inseparable brothers.

Amid the chaos, the British appetite for information about their monarchs is at an all time high, meaning seasoned royal commentators are offering their verdicts on the latest sagas.

Here, the Independent rounds up what writers from across the divide are saying about Kate, William, Charles, Meghan, Harry and the rest of the royals.

Sally Beddell Smith: Meghan as narcissistic as Wallis Simpson

Royal biographer Sally Beddell Smith hits out at Meghan Markle - labelling her as “narcissistic, controlling and dominating” as the Duchess of Windsor.

The “authorised” royal biographer draws parallels between Meghan and Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who married King Edward VII, looking at how King George VI “saved the monarchy” after the abdication.

(FILES) Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attends the "Keynote: Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen (AFP via Getty Images)

Comparing the Windsors in the 1930s to the Sussexes now, she describes how Simpson was a divorcée and the decision for her to marry a monarch led to a constitutional crisis, triggering Edward’s abdication.

Bedell Smith says Meghan is as strong as the Duchess of Windsor, while Harry is as “weak” as the Duke. She also blames Meghan for playing a part in the growing rift between Harry and William.

Camilla Long: Our Kate fetish has gone too far

Camilla Long argues in her Times column that women in the royal family are subject to indefensible criticism after Kate’s viral photoshop faux-pas made the princess the target of obsessive social media sleuthing.

Long stands up for Kate and her amateur Adobe skills, saying the press outrage is somewhat hypocritical given that members of the family have filled newspapers and magazines over the years.

She explains the media’s problem with Kate-gate is their dwindling profits in the digital age with royals now releasing and editing their own social media content.

The columnist links the growing visual culture of “seen to be believed” to the late Queen and laments that the public has turned the royal family into content mines “for our shallow entertainment.”

The doctored photo the Palace shared on Mother’s Day leading to mass outrage (Reuters)

Rob Jobson: Kate has been let down by the royal family in ‘photoflop’

On the flipside, commentator Rob Jobson hits out at Kate Middleton’s ‘photoflop’, labelling it a huge embarrassment for Kensington Palace.

However, rather than damning the Princess individually, he blames the institution for letting Kate take the fall for her mistake and argues that the palace needs to introduce better communications advisers.

He tells The Sun: “Now it hasn’t passed that muster, if you like, and that’s because it was pretty much an amateur job on doing so.

"So really, there needed to be some advisers around doing that job, making sure that in this modern world of modern communications that you cannot tamper with photographs that are being issued as official photographs.

"It damages the integrity of the organisation that is issuing a photograph."

Sympathetically, Jobson says Kate “had done her best” to release a photograph of her and her kids as she recovers from surgery.

A picture shows stories in Britain's national newspapers, about the altered mother's day photo released by Kensington Palace on March 10 (AFP via Getty Images)

Richard Kay ‘Royal family perilously close to the 11th hour’

Writer Kay, a very close friend of Diana Princess of Wales, says the mass media criticism of the royals in recent weeks has been warranted and the string of scandals has led to devastating reputational damage.

He states that the royal reputation is at an all time low and he writes in Mail Plus: “If we are not quite at the 11th hour, we are ­perilously close.

“There still may be time for the high tide of public disapproval to recede, but the cost to the royal image and to individual reputations has been high.”

He says crises are more common than not and points to the presence of the disgraced Prince Andrew with his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, at a memorial service for the late King Constantine of Greece at Windsor Castle.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of Yor (Getty Images)

The transition from the late Queen to King Charles’ reign was smooth sailing but his current absence from the public eye is unsettling for the public, he adds.

William has made a series of mistakes, the royal commentator claims, including not attending the monumental final of the Women’s World Cup in Sydney to cheer on the Lionesses last summer.

As with Jobson, he criticises the palace’s decision to let Kate face the wrath for her photoshop job but says the biggest threat to the royal family is the growing rift between Prince William and Harry.

Tessa Dunlop: The uncomfortable truth about Kate and William that nobody wants to admit

Royal expert Tessa Dunlop, the author of Elizabeth and Phillip: A Story Of Young Love highlights a growing public resentment towards the royals with anti-monarchism on the rise.

In The Independent, Dunlop blames Prince William for appearing to be “apathetic” in the wake of his new found responsibilities and notes his mysterious absence from Constantine of Greece II’s memorial service.

Kate Middleton’s public persona has always been well-polished and glamourous, the behind-the-scenes reality is that Kate is probably a stretched middle-aged mum trying to avoid the spotlight, Dunlop adds.

FILE - Britain's Prince William, left, and Britain's Kate, Princess of Wales, attend a ceremonial welcome for the President and the First Lady of the Republic of Korea at Horse Guards Parade in London, (AP)

She attributes the new found fascination around the Cambridges, made apparent through Kate’s editing mishap, to the absence of the King and Harry.

She concludes: Republican zeal tends to fade with age; but it’s likely Generation Z will simply mature into royal agnostics, a potentially fatal match for Britain’s future royal family under William, with pots of money and a take-me or leave-me approach.

“A civilised handshake and it could all be over. Apathy on both sides of the palace wall, not revolution, is the real scourge of modern monarchy.”

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