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Archbishop of Canterbury Issues Warning as Kate Middleton Conspiracy Theories Escalate

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken out about the public's obsession with conspiracy theories amid the frenzied interest surrounding Kate Middleton, pictured here in 2023. Credit - Chris Jackson—Getty Images

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton “village gossip,” adding “gossiping in that way is wrong,” and said people who have health concerns should be allowed “to live their lives in peace.”

The Princess of Wales was hospitalized for two weeks for a “planned abdominal surgery” in January that Kensington Palace said would take her out of the public eye until Easter, which falls on March 31. However, that hasn’t stopped a media and public frenzy around her health and whereabouts, with some even questioning a video of Kate and her husband, Prince William, that was reportedly captured on March 16.

During an interview with Times Radio released on March 21, the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to a question about whether the frenzied conspiracy theories pointed to a moral issue.

“We are obsessed with conspiracy and we have little sense of the humanity of those who are caught in the glare of the news,” Welby responded. “It doesn’t matter who it is, people should be allowed to be ill, have an operation, whatever it is, and to live their lives in peace without everyone demanding that they prove something every other day.”

“It’s the web that has made these conspiracy theories, for all kinds of people, run riot,” he continued. “It’s extremely unhealthy. It’s just old fashioned village gossip that can now go round the world in seconds. We have to turn away from that. Gossiping in that way is wrong.”

Other public officials, including the U.K.’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, have also spoken out to defend Kate and her privacy.

“I think that we should leave her alone,” Starmer said during an appearance on U.K. TV show Jeremy Vine on 5 on March 21. “She’s had a difficult operation and she deserves privacy.”

When asked if he would advise Kensington Palace to do anything differently, he responded: “No, I think politicians advising the royal family, Kensington Palace, is wrong.”

“But I do feel, just as a guttural thing really as a human being, that we should just butt out and leave her alone,” he added. “That’s not really a political response, it’s a human response as a dad and as a human being.”

Welby and Starmer’s comments come after former U.S. President and 2024 election candidate Donald Trump defended Kate Middleton in an interview with GB News on March 19, after the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media accounts released an edited photo of Kate and her three children on U.K. Mother’s Day. Press agencies retracted the picture after discovering it was manipulated and did not comply with their editorial standards. Kate took credit and apologized for the edited photo.

Trump said in response: “That shouldn’t be a big deal because everybody doctors [photos].” He added it was a “rough period” for the royal family.

Contact us at letters@time.com.