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

The only thing the Kate rabbit hole has proved thus far is that we literally cannot believe anyone requires a two-week hospital stay and a two-and-a-half-month recovery period for anything that is not documented as immediately life-threatening and/or a cover-up for something else.

If Kate comes out of this advocating for longer hospital stays and more emphasis on rest and self-care, I for one will cheer.

Blake: I’ll be right there cheering with you. One of the more shocking discoveries I made thanks to the accounts of the many medical experiments lurking in the Royals Gossip subreddit is just how rare it is for any kind of abdominal surgery to require more than a few days in the hospital. And I know from the experiences of friends that, in this country at least, hysterectomies are typically an outpatient procedure, with patients going home to recuperate before they even have time to tuck into some bad hospital food.

Could it be that we are just telling on ourselves as Americans (accustomed to a brutally cost-conscious health care system) by being so surprised that Kate — who has the money to go to private doctors rather than rely on the overstrapped, underfunded National Health Service — would take more time to recover than might be typical for an American patient, or regular working folks in the U.K.? Maybe. But I hope that whenever she is better, she does speak out about her experiences — and acknowledge that she has it far, far better than virtually all of her countrymen.

Outside the issues of medical privacy, I think there is something else going on: the objectively very strange handling of this delicate matter is feeding into a larger meta-narrative that, barely a year and a half after Elizabeth’s death, the pared-down monarchy is in disarray. Charles, 75, who spent his entire life waiting to take over the big job, is now fighting an undisclosed form of cancer, and it’s not clear who could really step in for him should he need to take an extended break from public life — or if, well, things take a turn for the worse.

William is bailing on royal funerals for unexplained reasons and is probably, quite understandably, feeling overwhelmed by the problems of middle age coming at him all at once. (Having busy young kids, sick parents and a spouse with a medical emergency all at once? Welcome to your 40s, Will!) Princess Anne has already played pinch-hitter for her brother Charles since he began treatment, but she’s 73 and already one of the busiest members of the family — a notoriously uncomplaining workhorse. And despite an apparently very brief visit to see his father after the cancer diagnosis, Prince Harry still remains on the outs with his family. The royal tensions that Harry and Meghan helped expose after they defected to Montecito and built a media empire by spilling the family tea have not gone anywhere, it seems. By trying to suppress Kate’s illness — or failing marriage, or whatever it is that’s keeping her from leaving Sandringham or even posing for a glamour shot — the Firm has just invited more scrutiny for the princess, her digestive system and the dysfunctional institution she represents.


Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got some Reddit threads to catch up on.


(Mary McNamara is a culture columnist and critic for the Los Angeles Times. Meredith Blake is an entertainment reporter for the Los Angeles Times based out of New York City, where she primarily covers television.)


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