Where is Kate Middleton? Bizarre conspiracy theories swirl after Princess goes missing from public eye

Royal commentators say the lack of details is driving rumour mills

73-Kate-Middleton Kate Middleton

What would have been an uneventful Mother's Day turned into a PR nightmare for the British royal family when it emerged that the picture shared by Kensington Palace on March 10 for the occasion was not so innocent, after all. 

All hell broke loose after it came to notice that the picture of Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, with her three children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - was heavily and amateurishly Photoshopped that multiple photo agencies, including the AP and Reuters, issued a kill notice for it.

Ironically, the picture which was aimed at putting to rest all rumours surrounding Kate's illness - she underwent a planned abdominal surgery in January - backfired, triggering further rumours about her whereabouts. Though the Kate and Prince William’s X account posted an apology, claiming to be from Kate, stating "like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing", it only triggered hysterical speculations. 

The fact that Kate hadn't been seen in public for over a month coupled with the Photoshop failure fuelled online gossip mills, which claim the royal family is trying to cover up something that has to do with Kate and her medical condition.   

A week since the public debacle, the Palace has not reacted to the British Press Photographers’ Association's call for an unedited version of the Mother’s Day photo or provided more information on Kate’s whereabouts. In the meantime, conspiracy theories flood the internet, some funny, some alarming and some even scandalous about their marriage and Prince William's "affair with her friend Lady Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley." 

The scandal has now crossed British borders with "Kategate" becoming international news.

While multiple TikTok videos and internet sleuths claim the Mother's Day picture was clicked last year during an event in November during the family's visit to a Baby Bank, Commentator Piers Morgan said on his show that he has been "been told some stuff that, if even half of it is true, it’s pretty alarming." "I don’t know what to believe, nor do any of us – we’re not there," he said. 

Princess-of-wales-kate-middletown-reuters The photo shared by Kensington Palace during Mother's Day

Some even went on with theories about Kate "being in an induced coma", jokes and memes are also doing rounds about the Princess getting a Brazilian butt lift or terrible bangs. Some say Kate has had a facelift, or she is in hiding or has been replaced by a body double.

Nevertheless, the world seems to be fixated on Kate's disappearance. Victoria Howard, a royal commentator and founder of a website devoted to the royal family called The Crown Chronicles, cites lack of information as the reason for the unwarranted speculations. "The length of Kate’s absence is unusual which suggests a significant procedure, but the lack of details is what is driving the rumour mill," Howard told The Guardian. "For those abroad, who don’t have a royal family and liken them more to celebrities, they can’t quite understand why the details aren’t being shared."

She added: "To not be away for so long due to real health issues would be highly risky and take advantage of public goodwill," she said. "No sensible communications team would allow them to do that." 

The rumours are instigated by the fact that people don't really trust the Royal Family, say experts. "A lot of people still hold a grudge against the royals because of Princess Diana and wonder about the circumstances of her death. I also feel like a lot of this distrust stems from what Harry and Meghan have said since leaving working royal life. Their descriptions of a back-stabbing, machiavellian organisation in interviews and Harry’s memoir 'Spare' have definitely made an impact on the public’s perception of the monarchy and the royal reporting beat," royal expert Ellie Hall told Nieman Lab last week.

Then, there is the global penchant for conspiracy theories that make people feel powerful. Since royals lead lives which are unrelatable to most of us, the current drama feels like a fiction which needs to be deciphered. 

But, until the Palace sheds its famous "never complain, never explain" or Kate makes a public appearance, the rumours will continue to swirl.

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