Hugh Whitfeld: Kate Middleton photograph debacle highlights gap between differing media strategies

Hugh Whitfeld
The Nightly
2 Min Read
The royal drama rumbles on today with all eyes still firmly on Kate Middleton after her bombshell revelation that she was the one behind the edited Mother's Day photo.

It’s almost part of Royal folklore that Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth quipped ‘I have to be seen to be believed.’

At her public engagements, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch would often shine brightly. Yellows, pinks and greens dominated her wardrobe. It meant even the most distant onlooker would be able to pick her out, often to great delight.

In 2024, seeing isn’t always believing. This week’s PR blunders by Kensington Palace, and more pointedly, the Prince and Princess of Wales, have exposed the pitfalls of clumsy media management in the modern age.

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In a blizzard of online conspiratorial fervour, it seems as though almost everyone has a theory on why Kate was in hospital and has been absent from public life since Christmas Day.

A simple, somewhat traditional Mother’s Day snap (it’s celebrated on a different day in the UK to Australia) should have put that all to bed.

The fact that it has only served to kick the hornets’ nest that is the online rumour mill isn’t just due to the Princess’s admission that she edited the picture.

Both the King and Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales operate separate ‘courts’. Both have different press offices, planning teams and private secretaries. Charles and William have different jobs and agendas.

And both Buckingham and Kensington Palaces are attempting to play very similar games with different strategies. One of them is working. The other isn’t.

While we don’t know what sort of cancer King Charles has, we are told he’s being treated for it. And there have been serious efforts at providing, for want of a better term, ‘proof of life’.

His Majesty has been driven between Buckingham Palace and his home at Clarence House in the Royal Bentley with its big, clear windows allowing photographers to get a shot.

A news camera operator, paid for by the UK broadcasters, filmed his first in-person audience with the British Prime Minister since his diagnoses. The Palace even released a social media video of the King reading his ‘get well’ cards sent by the public.

The King is being believed.

By contrast, Kensington Palace on January 17 announced the Princess of Wales underwent abdominal surgery and ‘her personal medical information remains private.’

And that’s pretty much it.

Into that void, cruel gossip about the Princess and her husband, the future King, has spread from the sewers of social media to the borderline of the mainstream because after being supplied with an edited photograph, trust has been broken.

No one knows what to believe anymore.

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