Commentary: What the frenzy over Kate Middleton's 'disappearance' says about the royals -- and us

Mary McNamara and Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In case you’re keeping track, and many people are, it has been more than two months since Kate Middleton was seen in public.

According to a Jan. 17 announcement by Kensington Palace, Catherine, Princess of Wales underwent a “planned” and “successful” abdominal surgery on Jan. 16. She would remain in the hospital for 10 to 14 days “before returning home to continue her recovery,” the statement continued. “Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.”

In the months that followed, Palace reports indicated that the princess had indeed returned home, where she was recovering nicely. But the complete absence of Kate (and her children and her parents) from the public eye, coupled with King Charles’ recent announcement that treatment for an enlarged prostate revealed an unnamed form of cancer, has sparked an increasingly agitated royal watch, replete with conspiracy theories ranging from a looming royal divorce to “Kate’s in a coma,” all of which have been denied by the palace.

This week, when Prince William cited“personal reasons” for his absence from the funeral of his godfather, King Constantine of Greece, the hysteria hit a fever pitch, with some demanding that the palace provide proof of life (preferably with Kate holding today’s Guardian high enough so the date is visible).

L.A. Times senior writer Meredith Blake and columnist Mary McNamara discuss the ever-deepening “Where is Kate?” rabbit hole.

Mary McNamara:“The Crown” may be over, but the drama around the House of Windsor continues. Things have gotten even crazier than usual in the land of royal watchers, with folks parsing photos from long before Kate’s last public appearance — apparently there was a “mysterious” finger injury in the fall — and late-December reports of an ambulance at Sandringham, where the family spent the holidays. Her weight (she’s a woman, so, of course) has also become a matter of close scrutiny. She’s always been thin but seemed, to some, to be growing thinner. And the fact that her kids didn’t visit her in the hospital has led to all manner of alarming suppositions, particularly about the state of the Waleses’ marriage.


Me, I just thought she was living every working mother’s dream: Who among us hasn’t longed for a bit of non-life-threatening surgery so we could just lie the hell down and read, undisturbed, for a bit?

Certainly this story hits pop culture where it lives — no matter what anyone says, we remain obsessed with royals, and in these days of oversharing, who isn’t interested in a medical mystery? In our current burn ’n’ churn medical climate, many people wondered from the first exactly what kind of surgery requires a two-week hospital stay and an almost three-month recovery period. But that says as much about the state of medical care, and the capitalism-run-riot belief that everyone should get back to work the moment they can stand up for five minutes without fainting, as it does about Kate. She is a princess, after all, so extra attention is not surprising. She is also entitled to privacy, both medical and personal.

Although I’m more interested in which co-star Rebecca Ferguson was talking about when she recently described being yelled at and insulted on set, I now find myself keeping an eye out for Kate Middleton news. How about you?

Meredith Blake: I will readily admit to burrowing myself deep into this particular rabbit hole. And I make no apologies for it: Those Reddit threads aren’t going to read themselves! What else am I supposed to do when I’m jolted awake for some ungodly reason and unable to fall back asleep at 4:30 a.m.? (For what it’s worth, I found the theory that she was getting some rather complicated bowel surgery she found too unseemly or embarrassing to acknowledge publicly to be rather compelling, except for the fact that Charles was issuing statements about his enlarged prostate while all of this was going down. So, really, I have no clue.)


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