These last few weeks, one burning question consumed the nation: Where was Kate Middleton? And now that we know the answer, how do we even begin to apologise to her?

Until an abrupt announcement of a cancer diagnosis on 22 March, the Duchess of Cambridge was unseen by the public and paparazzi for almost three months. During this time, Kate’s unusual disappearance from the public eye caused a stir online, sparking a global movement of conspiracy theorists. According to BrandMentions, the hashtags #whereiskate #katebodydouble and #katemiddleton were used on social media accounts and web pages, reaching over 400 million people within a week alone.

Everyone had their theories – was she dead? In a coma? Had she fled the country? Was she divorcing Prince William?

Admittedly, until this all blew up online, I’d had very little interest in the royal family – even believing their ‘job’ a sham. But, like many across the globe, I was sucked into the cesspool vortex of #WhereIsKate threads online. At the time, the iceberg of the Kate Middleton debacle was a worthy rabbit hole to fall into, and the theories only got wackier the more you dug. 

Kate underwent abdominal surgery on 16 January, and later released a Mother’s Day post celebrating the holiday, posing with her children and smiling happily. However, the internet was quick to notice several errors within the photo, which appeared altered and manipulated. Kate made an announcement taking accountability for the Photoshop fails, without disclosing why she had touched the photo at all. This was like adding gasoline to sparking embers, and, of course, the conspiracies continued to grow.

Therefore, when the truth came out about her cancer diagnosis, many online felt nothing but shame and regret for their theories. Many lines were crossed and jokes made to the masses, but how were any of us to know the extent of the devastating reason Kate was MIA?

The attempted hush-up and subsequent mishandling of Kate’s illness (from Photoshop fails to the rumours of body doubles) has opened a can of worms for the royal family. It raises the question of how much they owe our country for their service. How much privacy do they deserve?

Many argue that the royal family ‘survive’ on our tax payments and therefore should be transparent about their lives, while many others believe they should be able to live in peace like any other family. Except there is a big difference here: as much as they try and act like it, they aren’t just ‘any family’ – they’re part of the British monarchy, and we are their subjects.

As you can see, this is a generation-long debate that won’t be cleared up any time soon. However, the royal family needs a big refresh, revival, overhaul – or even abolishment. The system is outdated and serves little purpose to our current society other than tourist opportunities. As someone who comes from an underfunded public school in South London, in a city where crime and poverty run rampant, the portrayal of the picture-perfect royal family does nothing but stir up feelings of difference. They don’t represent the British people – not people like me or you who are reading this, for instance. What could we possibly have in common with people who have likely never used an oven, cleaned a toilet, or know the pain of waiting in the rain for a bus that doesn’t turn up?

Arguably, the royal family’s fanbase is made up of people our parents’ ages and above. They grew alongside the Queen, watching her solidify her reign and image. While The Badger team all wish speedy recoveries for the King and the Duchess, it’s evident that the royal family, their reputation and their position in society are in ruins following the mishandling of Kate’s illness. Is their time as a collective up? I certainly think so, as it’s not a good look for their PR company to be outsmarted by teenagers and millennials on X for their Photoshop fails. In my opinion, it’s time to draw a line under this era of our country and close Buckingham Palace’s gates for good. 

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