William in ‘Protection Mode’ After Kate’s Cancer Announcement

Jon Super/Pool via Reuters
Jon Super/Pool via Reuters

William “fully supported” Kate’s announcement

Prince William, the Sunday Times reports, understood why Kate Middleton felt she had to make the public announcement of her cancer diagnosis and preventative chemotherapy treatment, but wished she hadn’t been made to feel that she had to.

“She did it with his full support and advice, he joined all the conversations around it,” a close friend told the Times, in an extensively sourced piece about Kate’s statement and its aftermath. “On every level he wishes she didn’t have to do it. But it was her decision, it wasn’t begrudged, and he fully supported it.”

After Kate’s Cancer Diagnosis, William and Harry Should Reconcile—and Save the Monarchy

As to why he wasn’t physically sitting alongside her, “This was her as a strong woman sharing an innately strong message to the nation. She didn’t need anyone sitting next to her,” a royal source told the Times. “He has been supporting her and the family in the background.”

His mother Princess Diana’s death when he was 15 (and she 36) has had a profound effect on his response, a friend told the paper. “Undoubtedly what has happened to him in his life [with his mother] has led him into the protection mode he is in now.”

An aide said: “All he wants to do is protect his wife and children. The family just want to go away for Easter, spend time together, the five of them, close off from the world and move on.”

The Telegraph adds the couple will “circle the wagons,” and retreat from public view for several weeks. They are now not expected to be seen on Easter Sunday.

Charles’ hospital visits with Kate—and their “emotional” lunch

King Charles’ closeness to daughter-in-law Kate Middleton was evident in his warm statement of support he gave her after she divulged her cancer diagnosis, saying he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did.” Now the Sunday Times reports that when the pair were both at the London Clinic in January (he for treatment for an enlarged prostate, she for abdominal surgery, both predating their respective cancer diagnoses), Charles would visit Kate in her room.

A source close to the king told the Sunday Times: “The king has always had a close, warm and unique relationship with the princess. She has a great love and respect for him and his position. When they were in hospital together there was a lot of toddling down the corridor to spend time with her. He has been encouraging and supporting her throughout.”

“There is a very strong relationship between their majesties and the Waleses. They are very close, even more so at the moment,” a senior royal source told the paper.

King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Mia Tindall arrive to attend the Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene's church, Sandringham, Dec. 25, 2023.

King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Mia Tindall arrive to attend the Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene's church, Sandringham, Dec. 25, 2023.

Chris Radburn/Reuters

Meanwhile, the Sun on Sunday reports that Charles and Kate had an “emotional” private lunch in Windsor together the day before Kate made her public announcement. Kate reportedly wanted to hear how Charles was coping, and to tell him about her imminent announcement. He had been made aware of Kate’s diagnosis before the lunch.

“It is highly unusual for just the two of them to sit down together like this,” a source told the paper. “The king had already been made aware that the woman he calls ‘my beloved daughter-in-law’ had cancer. They would have had lots to discuss and share because just weeks earlier the king had begun his course of treatment and dealt with announcing his diagnosis. The king left his lunch feeling very emotional. They are very close, and he thinks of Catherine as his daughter. There is no doubt there is a lot they can share and can use each other for support during their own deeply personal cancer battles.”

On Friday, a palace spokesperson said that after spending time in the hospital with Kate, the king had “remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks.” The spokesperson added that both Charles and Camilla would “continue to offer their love and support to the whole family through this difficult time.”

How Kate wrote her statement to the world

Kate “wrote every word” of her Friday address, the Sunday Times reports.

“It allowed her to speak directly to the public who, overwhelmingly, have always been with her and her family and who don’t buy into the noise and gossip,” a close friend told the paper. “It was all her, she wrote every word of it, it came together very quickly.” Her openness surprised those closest to her. “I didn’t expect this,” a close friend of Kate’s told the paper.

Kate also wanted to quell speculation that she’d be returning to work around Easter. “What had shifted in the last few weeks was the sense that she felt: ‘I’m not going to have a normal return to work after Easter that everyone is expecting,’ and everyone was anticipating some kind of update around Easter,” the close friend said.

Kate Middleton appears in this still image from a handout video released March 22, 2024, in which she announced that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy after cancer was found to have been present, following her abdominal surgery in January.

The friend said: “It wasn’t really about the drama of the last few weeks, though obviously that has been upsetting. She felt she had to do it because of who she is. It was more that she knows she is a public figure and has a wider leadership responsibility. She knew she had to share the news because of how it was going to affect her work and her short-term future role, and [it was about] what was the most compassionate way she could deliver the news, so that it would land with the public in the least shocking way.

“A written statement, she felt, would be too jarring. It was about people seeing her, and her reassuring people that she was positive about it. Knowing it was news that was going to shock people, she wanted to do it as compassionately as possible. When things are really tough, that gratitude to the public for their support is their mantra.

“She also wants to be able to carry on with as active and normal a routine as possible, and not have it become a huge issue when she goes to a farm shop near their home in Windsor, with people then suggesting that’s a PR move,” the friend told the Times. “Moving forwards, they will be very strict on enforcing their right to privacy.”

Facing down the trolls

Kate made the announcement precisely timed to coincide with her children’s Easter break from school, which began Friday afternoon—hours before she revealed her cancer diagnosis to the world.

“George is ten now and can’t be shielded from any of this now,” a palace source told the Sunday Times. “Once it’s at the school gate and in the school playground, he won’t be able to avoid it.” The children will be on holidays until April 17.

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, accompanied by their parents Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive for a settling-in afternoon at Lambrook School, near Ascot in Berkshire, Britain, September 7, 2022.

One friend echoed the anger of many members of the public on Kate’s behalf, furious at the rumor-mongering and speculation of recent weeks. “Catherine’s message was so honest,” a friend said. “Isn’t it sad that she has to be so honest and share that because of all the nonsense that has been around? I feel like the whole world has been gossiping about her and there is so much bullshit out there about her and her family. It was almost desperate that she had to do it.”

“For her to come out and say that gives us hope,” a source close to William and Kate told the Times. “This could be one piece of good news to come out of this. There is so much misinformation out there. She’s in a position to do something about it.”

However, as the Mail on Sunday reports, Kate’s announcement has only fueled the engines of some conspiracy theories online.

Wednesday worries explained

A rumor swept online forums earlier this week that a dramatic royal announcement was going to be made on Wednesday. Although royal sources dismissed it to The Daily Beast at the time, it seems there was a grain of truth at the heart of this particular story; it was on Wednesday afternoon that a BBC crew, sworn to secrecy, made their way to Windsor to film Kate’s announcement.

BBC Studios released a brief statement after the video was aired, saying: “BBC Studios filmed a message from the Princess of Wales at Windsor this week. We would like to wish Her Royal Highness a speedy recovery.” A source from BBC Studios told Birmingham Live that the footage was not edited or manipulated in any way. They said the public saw “exactly what was filmed by the crew.”

Future of the royals

What this week’s events means for the future of the monarchy is a larger question. William and Kate are keen to be as private and family-focused as possible as Kate continues her treatment, while also remaining aware of their public roles, the Sunday Times reports.

“Of course they feel the burden and weight of responsibility on their shoulders, because it is there,” a close friend told the Times. “But hopefully this will be a positive thing for them because of the public reaction and support. That is the strength of the institution. This is a family with real human beings at its heart.”

Prince William, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and their children Prince Louis and Prince George and Britain's King Charles stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony following Britain's King Charles' coronation ceremony in London, Britain May 6, 2023.

A source close to the royals sought (inevitably) to be positive about the monarchy’s future, with two of its key principals unable to carry out duties, and the institution looking so fragile. Charles is expected at the Easter Day service at Windsor next Sunday if he’s well enough, the paper said; Kate and William not, but Kate will carry out duties as and when she is well enough. Queen Camilla will continue to carry out as many official duties as she is able. A royal source said: “The king’s doctors are optimistic, the patient is positive and the outlook is for a sunny summer. He hopes to attend Trooping the Colour in some form [in June], and you can expect to see a slight ramping up of his public-facing duties from the early summer, as the risk threshold [from large crowds] diminishes.”

As for William, “he has looked to balance his private life supporting his family and his public life quite successfully for the last couple of months, and he will continue to do so,” an aide told the Sunday Times.

This week in royal history

On March 30, 2002, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died at Royal Lodge, Windsor at 101; she was the mother of the late Queen Elizabeth.

Unanswered questions

As Kate and Charles continue their cancer treatments, what shape will the royal family assume as time unfolds?

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