Heavy Lies the Crown

I was in London last week when the febrile madness of Where Is Kate? was blowing up social media, and The Curious Mystery of the Doctored Mother’s Day Photograph consumed every news outlet and dinner table conversation.

After The Associated Press issued a “kill notification” on the botched Photoshopped image of a suspiciously glossy Princess of Wales flanked by her beaming progeny, there was a typical outburst of tabloid pomposity questioning whether Kensington Palace could ever be considered a “trusted source” of news.

Huh? When was the last time any tabloid considered the palace a trusted source of news? As editor of Vanity Fair in 1985 I wrote a piece revealing that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were having awful marital fights. The palace roundly denied it and the royal couple denied it in a television interview, confirming in my mind — correctly as it turned out — that it was all true.

But this time, the volume and tenor of the gossip was off the charts. In all the raucous, salacious and often cruel rumor-mongering last week about Catherine, almost no one considered that behind the scenes something tragic was unfolding. When social media shrieked that there would be a very somber press announcement on Friday, royal-watchers assumed it would be from King Charles, who is battling an unspecified cancer.

But then the bombshell: Catherine announced in a video message that she, too, has cancer. After which there has rightly been a wave of cosmic shame at what this gracious public servant has been made to endure.

Catherine’s explanation of her cancer diagnosis was composed and moving, her face strained but brave. Filmed on a bench against a glimpse of spring daffodils, here was an ill mother trying to cope with a shocking diagnosis and painful medical treatment while shielding her young, worried children from the vultures of modern media.

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