Mystery surrounds Kate Middleton’s whereabouts

You may have recently come across a rumor that Kate Middleton is in a coma, or that she had a face-lift, or that she’s getting divorced. What we do know is that Middleton was not seen in public for several months after Christmas and is purportedly recovering from a “planned abdominal surgery” she had in January. Despite the palace’s vague assurances that she is “doing well,” rumors have been swirling that something else is going on. The fact that the Princess of Wales has appeared only in a handful of blurry and/or apparently doctored images has fueled even more speculation, and recently the spotlight turned to Rose Hanbury, also known as the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, who’s been rumored to be having an affair with Prince William for years. Here’s everything to know.

Did Kate really have surgery?

This mess started on January 17, when the palace shared that Middleton had undergone a “planned” abdominal surgery. According to the statement, she would stay in the hospital for two weeks before continuing her recovery at home and likely wouldn’t be participating in public events until Easter. The statement also noted that Middleton wanted her “personal medical information” to remain private. On January 29, the palace followed up with an update that Middleton had gone home to continue her recovery and was making “good progress.”

Then, in late February Prince William backed out of a royal engagement — a service for his godfather, King Constantine of Greece, who died in 2023 — due to what Kensington Palace called a “personal matter.” The last-minute change surprised royal watchers, particularly because he was supposed to speak during the service. Though the palace didn’t elaborate on what personal matter William was skipping the service for, a royal aide — likely anticipating that William’s absence would prompt speculation about Middleton’s health — told CNN that the Princess of Wales “continues to be doing well.”

Does anyone believe she’s doing well?

This smattering of cryptic updates only fueled more wild speculation that Middleton is not, in fact, doing well. At one point, X was juggling theories that Middleton was recovering from a BBL or at the disastrous Willy Wonka event in Scotland. Other people are convinced the bizarre sequence of events can somehow be chalked up to the fact that she and Prince William are getting divorced.

Amid the rampantly spreading conspiracies, a rep for Middleton reiterated to “Page Six” that the princess was “doing well,” adding, “Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess’s recovery and we’d only be providing significant updates. That guidance stands.”

Also Read: Kate Middleton’s Mother’s Day photo is pulled over ‘manipulation’ fears

What’s this edited photo controversy?

On March 10, less than a week after Middleton was spotted by TMZ for the first time since Christmas, the official social-media accounts for William and Kate shared a photo of her with their three children in celebration of Mother’s Day (which the U.K. observes in March). What was initially deemed another proof-of-life photo quickly backfired when several news outlets retracted the image, citing evidence that suggested it had been doctored.

A day later, a post from Kate and Williams’s official account on X attempted to explain the bizarrely edited photo by claiming that Kate had doctored it herself. “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” the message, which was signed “C,” read. “I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

Has Kate Middleton been seen in any non-doctored photos?

In early March — about a week before the Mother’s Day catastrophe — Middleton was photographed by TMZ in a car near Windsor Castle with her mother, Carole, wearing sunglasses and an inscrutable expression. Another grainy image surfaced a few hours into the Photoshop controversy, when the princess was seen hitching a ride out of Windsor Castle with Prince William, who was en route to an appearance at Westminster Abbey. According to People, Kate was dropped off at a private appointment. Naturally, this photo also spurred accusations of Photoshopping, but the photographer denied editing it beyond cropping and lightening.

The following weekend, TMZ published footage of Kate and William strolling around the Windsor Farm Shop, a grocery store and café on the palace grounds. Naturally, the internet was immediately flooded with conspiracy theories that this was actually a famous Middleton look-alike named Heidi Agan, who has denied standing in for the princess. According to the man who took the video, the royal couple was shopping for bread together, and Middleton looked “relieved, like it was a success going to a shop.” On the other hand, maybe she was just telegraphing the face of someone not currently in a coma.

Have Harry and Meghan weighed in?

Amid the Mother’s Day meltdown, a quote attributed to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle started circulating in which the couple remark that the photo-editing blunder “isn’t a mistake that Meghan would ever make,” thanks to her “keen eye and freakish attention to detail.” Representatives for the couple have denied they ever expressed this notion. What they have expressed is the sudden launch of Markle’s jam and homewares brand. I guess she is not hoping to be stocked at the Windsor Farm Shop?

And what of the marchioness?

Amid all this chatter, a handful of media outlets have decided now is a great time to revisit William’s rumored (emphasis on rumored) affair with Rose Hanbury. Hanbury, who is more formally known as the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, was at some point a close friend of the royal couple’s, but in 2019, tabloids reported that she and Middleton had a falling-out. Around then, In Touch claimed Kate had confronted her husband about an affair with Hanbury and he “laughed it off, saying there was nothing to it.” There was also a 2022 DeuxMoi rumor about an extramarital affair in the royal family that famously led a lot of people to believe Prince William loves being pegged. Another detail that has gotten a lot of airtime on X: Hanbury bears a vague resemblance to Kate, though I might argue most British aristocrats look like that.

This is all to say the rumor that Kate’s semi-disappearance could be explained by an impending divorce has dredged up rumors of this affair. Last week, Stephen Colbert dedicated a two-minute segment to breaking down the gossip, during which he referred to Hanbury as the “marching band of chicanery” and “Marcus Mumford of Chumbawumba.” Seemingly in response to this elaborate display of wordplay, Hanbury denied the affair through her lawyers, who told Business Insider, “The rumors are completely false.” Meanwhile, the palace has not responded to requests for comment from other publications. I’m sure things are totally calm and normal over there.

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