The conspiracies surrounding Kate Middleton have reached a peak of madness

The conspiracies surrounding Kate Middleton have reached a peak of madness
The conspiracies surrounding Kate Middleton have reached a peak of madness

The public absence of Kate, Princess of Wales, went from the concern of just a niche royal watcher to an international topic in a matter of weeks. Although Kensington Palace said her January abdominal surgery was planned and indicated that Kate would be out of the public eye until March, several unusual details – unclear photographs, an altered image, vague medical information, spotty family updates British royal – kept the public guessing.

This is never good.

Catherine’s supposed disappearance has sent TikTok and X users delving into bizarre conspiracy theories and jokes so densely intertextual they make us wonder if social media really gives us brain worms.

In recent months, multitudes of amateur detectives have created timelines and delved into the princess’s movements, combining royal concerns with bizarre conspiracies. Ordinary people who work as forensic photography experts have suggested that recent images of Kate were fabricated, creating theories about where she really is and who they think she is trying to cover up the “truth.”

And yes, there are a lot of jokes. At first, it was just the typical jokes that appear whenever something worthy of social attention hits social media: Maybe Kate had a Brazilian butt lift! Maybe she’s got horrible bangs and is hiding it until it grows out! Maybe she is from a long off season from MLB!

After it was believed that a photograph of the princess and her three children on Mother’s Day had been altered – and subsequently taken down by news agencies – things started to get more serious and more disturbing. The typically complimentary British media began asking more pointed questions. American television shows openly mocked what was quickly becoming a real mess, even floating theories that had previously been the preserve of gossip enthusiasts – more on that in a moment.

Oh, and Kate still hasn’t been seen in public since December.

The fuss, the theories, the analyses, the jokes and, yes, the serious concern – it all shows the multiplicity of ways in which people interact with and view the royal family.

Everyone likes a mystery

It’s not hard to see why people are so interested in this particular drama. After all, he calls it “palace intrigue” for a reason. On social media and digital discussion forums – and in fact, even before the Internet, royal watchers come together to discuss who is doing what, who is out of the loop and what the juiciest secrets are.

“They lead unattainable lives, lives that have no relation to the rest, and yet all my life I have been aware of the royal family,” said Susan Graves. The 40-year-old moved to the US almost 20 years ago from Birmingham, UK, and keeps up to date with royal news on sites like Reddit, where the subreddit r/RoyalsGossip has more than 44,000 subscribers.

“I’m old enough to remember Princess Diana’s death and the whole scandal and the sadness that followed,” he told CNN. “And now, with everything that’s going on with Prince Harry and his wife, and the most unpleasant things that are going on with Prince Andrew, and with the King being sick. It’s always something.”

Carly Wainsworth, a 28-year-old American who also follows royal gossip on Reddit and elsewhere, told CNN that this all feels like some sort of mystery resolution.

“It sounds like fiction, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s real enough to be real, if that makes sense. Then you throw things together like a Photoshopped photo, and you can’t help but be intrigued by what’s going on.”

He says that even friends who normally don’t care about the royal family are interested in the princess’s drama.

“Everyone loves a mystery. A lot of these people think it’s fun to look for clues, to guess what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s the same thing people do when they gossip about people they really know.”

Both Graves and Wainsworth say that shows like “The Crown” and the controversies surrounding various members of the royal family – from the media treatment of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and the fallout from Harry’s memoir, “Spare “, even more serious matters such as the allegations surrounding King Charles’ brother Prince Andrew and even the enduring interest in the life and death of Princess Diana have influenced how people view the monarchy.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m American, but I assume they’re always hiding something,” Wainsworth said. “No [a família real] specifically, just anyone in that kind of position.”

Catherine, Princess of Wales, was seen during the opening of Evelina London’s new children’s day surgery unit on December 5, 2023, in London, England. (Ian Vogler/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

It all seems very serious, but most Kate truthers are, to use our British friends’ term, just taking the piss.

Social media platform X now supports groups known as “communities”, and a so-called “where is kate middleton” attracted 4,400 members ready to put on their research hats.

“Kate is missing and Twitter is on the case! Join us and indulge in our guilty pleasure [prazer secreto]”, the description reads. “Friends don’t let friends go down the royal rabbit hole alone.”

Oh, and what a royal rabbit hole this is: The videos and posts in the group describe stories that could surpass any fictional mystery thriller. On the other hand, there are also Photoshop works of Kate holding hands with her eternal celebrity boyfriend Pete Davidson and jokes that Kate may be taking a turn on the reality show “The Masked Singer”.

People don’t know what to believe

It’s one thing for gossip lovers at home to delve into royal conspiracy theories, but as Kate’s absence from the public eye lengthens, the media and entertainment media are getting bolder in their speculation. In a recent episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, host Stephen Colbert even openly fueled rumors about Kate and William’s personal lives.

In a single sentence, he also summed up what many interested parties feel about the controversy: concern for Kate as a person, but a guilty hunger for more details.

“My heart goes out to Kate. Now let’s get to some hot gossip!”

The Daily Show made fun of the Mother’s Day photo controversy with a fake London correspondent reading out a list of things that were “also Kate’s fault”, including “colonization and the whole Prince Andrew thing”.

Even Dublin Airport made an attempt of an obviously Photoshopped Cillian Murphy by his “social media intern named Kate.”

Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince George of Wales on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Color on June 17, 2023, in London, England. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

More serious than the growing transatlantic comedy routine is the apparent dissolution of trust between some media outlets and the royal family. After Catherine apologized for the doctored Mother’s Day image, the director of one of the world’s largest news and photography agencies said that Kensington Palace, which released the photograph, was no longer considered a “trustworthy source”.

“As with everything, when we are let down by a source, the bar is raised and we have big internal problems,” said Phil Chetwynd, director of the AFP, in an interview with the BBC.

The British Press Photographers’ Association issued a statement urging Kensington Palace “to make the original images available for inspection so that we can assess what has been done” and “ensure it does not happen again”.

The British media are also beginning to openly question the official narrative of Kate’s absence. “The frenzy over Kate proves the royals MUST be more transparent,” read a recent headline in the Daily Mail, a media outlet that is generally sympathetic in its news coverage of the royals.

The royal reaction didn’t calm things down

Throughout the controversy, official information from Kensington Palace, which is Prince William and Kate’s London residence and office, has been spotty. Royal experts have noted that the palace does not typically respond to rumors about the royal family, but has made the rare move of responding to unconfirmed reports about Kate’s condition.

At the same time, the palace did not respond to requests to release an unedited version of the Mother’s Day photo, nor did it provide further information about Kate’s whereabouts.

Mark Borkowski, a London-based public relations and crisis communications expert, told People magazine that the royal family’s long-standing culture of silence isn’t doing them any favors when it comes to stamping out conspiracies about the royal family’s absence. Kate.

“The difficulty now is because there is so little information about what is happening to Kate, that for them to project that things are all normal like this – with a photo that is now considered fake – is quite damning about the poor decision-making that is happening,” Borkowski said.

While some voices have called on speculators to give Kate and the royal family some privacy, and others have suggested for Kate’s disappearance, the fact is: for one reason or another, people care about royalty. And, as national figureheads, it is part of your duty to care about them.

“In a constitutional monarchy where kings and queens wield little real power but a lot of soft power, visibility is everything,” Politico UK deputy editor Rosa Prince wrote for CNN. “They may not be able to pass laws, negotiate treaties or order troops into battle, but British royalty can open supermarkets, attend premieres and visit the sick. Without that, like Barbie, what were they created for? “

The article is in Portuguese

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