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Kate Middleton and the end of all boundaries

  • 09 April 2024
Over the last few months, online discussion on the whereabouts of Kate Middleton reached fever pitch. This, despite her clear announcement through Kensington Palace that she’d be stepping back from public duties until Easter following abdominal surgery in January. So instead of demonstrating basic human decency, the media predictably whipped themselves into a frenzy, indulging in wild speculation and conspiracy theories around her ‘disappearance’ (she was in a coma, she died, she’d had plastic surgery, she was getting a divorce). But we knew where Kate was and why she was taking some time off. So why the fuss? It's easy now to look back and see the media furore over Kate’s whereabouts as silly, disrespectful, and cruel. And all it took was a cancer diagnosis for everyone to back off a little. The palace statement explained her need for privacy — warranted, given the diagnosis. Like anyone in such a situation, especially a mother of three, she deserved time to focus on recovery.

But all this begs the question: in a world where the public appetite for private news on public figures is insatiable, how do we foster ethical media behaviour that respects privacy and dignity in situations like this? Would well-wishes for Kate's recovery, even before her diagnosis was public, have been too much to ask?

Similarly, we should also ask why boundaries — critical for healthy relationships and personal well-being — are so frequently ignored when it comes to public figures like Kate Middleton. The lines may be blurred when it comes to personal boundaries in celebrity culture, yet we instinctively know a line was crossed here. It reveals the public’s sense of entitlement at best and at worst, a disturbing shift from adoration to invasive obsession.

According to palace reports, Kate’s recovery is positive, but it’s worth turning from Kate to consider media decision-makers who clearly lacked a basic sense of empathy when it was required. It would do well for members of the media — and the public for that matter — to remember that Kate Middleton is more than a public figure: she’s a wife, a mother, and a woman deserving of dignity and respect beyond her status.

And finally, the media’s strange and speculative treatment of Middleton during the last few months highlighted something of a double standard in how women’s health issues are treated compared to men’s. When male members of the royal family like King Charles face