The Princess of Wales controversy has only gotten worse

The public absence of Catherine, Princess of Wales, has grown from a niche royal watcher concern to an international punchline in a matter of weeks. While Kensington Palace said her January abdominal surgery was planned and indicated she would be out of the public eye through March, several unusual details — grainy photos, an altered image, vague medical information, irregular updates from the British royal family — have kept the public guessing.

That’s never a good thing.

Catherine’s so-called disappearance has led TikTok and X users to swan dive into bizarre conspiracy theories and jokes so thickly intertextual that it makes one wonder if social media really does give us brain worms.

Droves of amateur detectives have crafted timelines and deep dives into the princess’ movements over the last few months, combining real concern with outlandish conspiracy. Regular people moonlighting as photo forensics specialists have suggested recent images of Kate are fabricated, spinning theories on where she actually is and who they think is trying to cover up the “truth.”

And yes, there are a lot of jokes. At first, it was just the typical guffaws that arise whenever something socially noteworthy gets passed around the online comedy circuit: Maybe Kate got a Brazilian butt lift! Maybe she got terrible bangs and is hiding away until they grow out! Maybe she’s getting in shape after a long MLB offseason!

Then, after a Mother’s Day photo of the princess and her three children was believed to have been altered — and subsequently pulled by news agencies — things started to get more serious and more unhinged. Typically, complimentary British media outlets began to ask more pointed questions. American TV shows openly made fun of what was quickly becoming a royal mess, even trotting out theories that had previously been the exclusive fodder of gossip enthusiasts — more on that in a bit.

Oh, and Kate still hasn’t been seen in public since December.

The uproar, the theories, the analyses, the jokes, and, yes, the serious concern — they all show the multitude of ways people interact with and view the royal family.


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