Prince William’s ‘high risk’ Kate Middleton plan

Let me introduce you to Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, husband, father, future King, man who has jettisoned his ties to usher in the age of the contempo casual royal, and now, massive gambler. (The Prince of Whales?)

Oh no don’t worry, the tables of Macao and Monte Carlo are safe from the next sovereign wagering the Castle of Mey on red 32 or letting the sea rights to Scotland ride on a decent hand of cards.

But, the last week has proven that the prince is more than willing to bet a hell of a lot – and is only doubling down – no matter how “high-risk” his current strategy might be.

On Tuesday, UK time, less than an hour before William was meant to attend his godfather King Constatine of the Hellenes’ memorial service up the road from his Windsor home Adelaide Cottage, the prince pulled out citing a “personal matter”.

Given that Kate the Princess of Wales is currently recuperating from abdominal surgery, global panic stations were reached in sub four seconds, breaking the land speed record for incipient madness. With a dearth of any information or clue about what this “personal matter” might have been, the Internet decided to plunge off the deep end and stage a global, collective freak out.

Out of this episode, has come growing disquiet about Kensington Palace’s handling of his last minute withdrawal and, more broadly, their ongoing vow of absolute silence when it comes to the princess.

The devil here is not in the details but the lack thereof.

The palace, some quarters have argued, should be being much more upfront about Kate’s months-long sick leave rather than refusing to be drawn on anything beyond the fact that she had A Thing, was in hospital and is now home.

The debate has only grown from there about just how open the palace should be. As future Queen, does the public have licence to be kept even marginally apprised about what is going on with her? Or, does Team Wales have every right to continue to be an impenetrable fortress of silence?

Throughout this, William has remained resolute in the face of growing public agitation, implacably ignoring all this noise from an increasingly riled up and jumpy public, press and social media and remained wholly focused on delivering his wife restorative cups of milky tea in the conservatory.

His entire focus and goal would appear to be protecting Kate, in every sense, and to put family first. The plan: Say nothing, do nothing, and post nothing about the princess and let her get better in complete privacy.

Enter Sky News UK’s royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills who said of William’s last minute memorial cancellation: “The prince’s decision and the lack of explanation for it has exposed how high-risk their strategy of keeping quiet is – a vacuum of information is quickly filled by rumour and speculation.”

That’s the thing here, because there is more at stake than just X being overrun with barmy theories about what is supposedly really going on with Kate.

For one thing, the Waleses are in danger of provoking the public. Refusing to acknowledge the mood outside the palace gates is what got the late Queen into so much hot water in the days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Her late Majesty might initially have chosen to stay at Balmoral to care for teenage William and Prince Harry but her intransigence on returning to London and to recognising the febrile public mood was one of the biggest miscalculations of her lengthy reign.

If William continues to come across as imperiously refusing to explain himself or to provide even the slightest insight into what that “personal matter” was, he could end up looking like a future monarch who doesn’t give a fig about angering the masses.

And yet, at the same time, the prince and princess are actual human beings who should not be obliged to make their every X-ray and dodgy mole public.

So, how do you strike a balance here? I have no idea but the Prince and Princess of Wales have a staff of 60 people. Surely one of those bright minds should be able to come up with less of a blunt-force approach.

Meanwhile, the palace’s refusal to offer even a crumb or two more of information about the princess is starting to look obstinate and shirty in the face of King Charles’ peppy on camera performances of late.

Since beginning treatment for an unknown type of cancer in February, His Majesty has gone to unheard of lengths to be seen as being (comparatively) open and direct, in contrast with the example of his late mother or father who would not have commented if they lost a few fingers in a freak bridge accident.

Of late, there has been the King smiling from the State Bentley, chit chatting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the cameras and him appearing in a social media video looking all touched that thousands of people had gone to the trouble of sending him cards.

Next Monday will see Camilla and William lead the royal family at the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. Charles has recorded a video message to be broadcast for the event, thus making sure that he is involved in some way and, perhaps more importantly, is seen.

The world might not know what sort cancer the King has, what sort of treatment he is undergoing or how often Queen Camilla insists of feeding him large spoonfuls of castor oil (if it’s good enough for the horses …) but Buckingham Palace is at least trying to look like we are in a shiny new era of greater forthrightness.

William and Kate have staunchly gone in the other direction, with lips zipped, the press release printer unplugged, and a princess-related omertà imposed.

That’s a decision that comes with the danger of possibly alienating the hoi polloi, something which matters because the institution of the monarchy continues to chug along only thanks to the continued benign acquiescence of Brits.

Team Wales, in failing to demonstrate some, even a minute, degree of responsiveness to public feeling, are taking a real gamble here.

As the Telegraph’s royal editor Hannah Furness has written, “The old palace policy of ‘never complain, never explain’ is being tested to destruction.”

I say all this and yet I also feel that there is something very touching about watching a man so firmly prioritising his wife and family over the monarchy.

With more than a month to go until the first tentative, possible dates that might see Kate return to frontline duties and professional hat-wearing, Kensington Palace is far from out of the woods yet. Prepare for the next round of crackpot theories, and William’s jaw becoming even more rigidly set, in three, two, one …

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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