Royal watchers analyze Kate Middleton’s cancer announcement video

Catherine, Princess of Wales, shocked the world on Friday when she announced her cancer diagnosis while sitting on a bench in front of yellow flowers and lush greenery: a two-minute, plain-spoken video that ended weeks of widespread speculation about her whereabouts and health.

“It’s a very powerful statement,” said Sarah Hewson, a royal editor for Talk TV. “To see her directly address the camera — the world — to share her devastating diagnosis is profoundly moving.”

Catherine’s family members and government officials across the globe immediately issued statements of support for the princess. Some princess watchers who spent the past month spreading outlandish rumors, jokes and memes on social media felt twinges of regret. But the princess shared more than just her cancer diagnosis in the video, and experts say some of her most powerful messages were unspoken.

Here’s what Catherine revealed between the lines.

The video’s creation means the royals are taking this very seriously

Catherine, Princess of Wales, said in a video shared on March 22 that she was diagnosed with cancer following an abdominal surgery in January. (Video: BBC Studios, Photo: BBC/BBC Studios)

Public concern and speculation about Catherine spiked after her abdominal surgery in January and retreat from public view. Those concerns were hardly assuaged by an edited family photo and grainy tabloid photos released in recent weeks. Experts consider the video to be the royal family’s latest attempt to finally stop the rumors.

“I think it all goes back to that statement by the late queen: you ‘have to be seen to be believed,’” said Emily Maitlis, a host of the “News Agents” podcast who’s known for an extraordinary interview she conducted with Prince Andrew several years ago. “The video allowed her to end all the speculation in one go. It couldn’t be Photoshopped. It couldn’t be faked.”

Catherine’s prerecorded video also directly credited its broadcaster and filmer, BBC, perhaps a “visible sign it was done independently,” Hewson said.

The video is a far cry from Buckingham Palace’s brief statement in February announcing King Charles III’s cancer diagnosis. British publicist Mark Borkowski said the grander gesture was necessary: “If it had been a statement, no one would have believed it, and many of the crazy rumors would have carried on percolating.”

Catherine and her family want privacy

In a video statement shared on March 22, Princess Catherine asked for privacy for her and her family as she completes her cancer treatment. (Video: BBC Studios, Photo: BBC Studios/BBC Studios)

Catherine’s video doesn’t mention the online obsession with her whereabouts, and Borkowski believes that’s on purpose: “They don’t want to send any signals out that they were influenced by this noise on social media.”

But she does repeatedly speak about her family and their needs after what she calls “an incredibly tough couple of months.”

“It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them,” she said. “… We hope that you will understand that, as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment.”

“She doesn’t directly address the conspiracy theorists, but this statement has some very clear messages,” Hewson said. “Where was Kate? Reeling from a shock diagnosis, putting all her energy into getting strong enough to start chemotherapy and, above all, protecting her children.”

Catherine has support, but she’s her own person, too

In a video statement shared on March 22, Princess Catherine paid tribute to Prince William and thanked the public for their support. (Video: BBC Studios, Photo: BBC Studios/BBC Studios)

In the video, the princess briefly mentions the support she’s received from her husband, Prince William: “Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance, too.”

The statement prompted some confusion, because William is nowhere in the shot. Many wondered why the prince didn’t sit with Catherine to present a united front.

Justin Vovk, adjunct professor of history at Redeemer University, thinks the choice to film only the princess was intentional.

“It really was Kate’s moment to make this declaration, to reaffirm her own personhood,” he said. “She is not simply somebody’s wife, but she is a woman going through cancer treatment.”

Even though he wasn’t seen, Hewson said, mentioning William may have been intended to quell “scurrilous rumors about the state of their marriage.” (An illicit affair was among the rumored conspiracy theories for Catherine’s pause from her public duties.)

Catherine is encouraging other cancer patients

In a video statement shared on March 22, Princess Catherine sent a message of solidarity to others impacted by cancer. (Video: BBC Studios, Photo: BBC Studios/BBC Studios)

Catherine ended her video with a message for other cancer patients: “For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.”

Maitlis believes the princess knew the profound effect her news would have on families, cancer patients and mothers with difficult news to share with their young children. The video, Maitlis said, even shows Catherine surrounded by what appears to be daffodils, which symbolize hope for those affected by cancer.

“Even in her darkest hour,” Hewson said, “she managed to issue a message of hope and support to others.”

Zach Purser Brown and Adela Suliman contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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