Kate Middleton video does little to curb rampant online conspiracies

Click to play video: 'Kate Middleton sighting out shopping fuels Royal rumour mill further'
Kate Middleton sighting out shopping fuels Royal rumour mill further
WATCH: Video has been posted of what's believed to be Prince William out shopping with Princess Kate, who has not been seen in public since Kensington Palace says she underwent major abdominal surgery in January. And as Crystal Goomansingh explains, this has only Ffurther fuelled the Royal rumour mill – Mar 19, 2024

Hawk-eyed royal watchers are decidedly split over the authenticity of a new video that reportedly shows Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, out shopping with her husband, Prince William.

The clip was filmed by a member of the British public, and shared with TMZ and The Sun, both of which published the video Monday. It came after widespread reports on Sunday that the Prince and Princess of Wales were spotted at a farm shop over the weekend.

In the brief video, taken from a distance, the couple is seen dressed down in casual clothes, carrying bags of groceries they reportedly bought during a visit to an upscale grocery store just minutes from their Windsor home. They walk quickly past a group of picnickers, who don’t seem to notice them.

Click to play video: 'Kate Middleton reportedly spotted shopping in Windsor amid health speculations'
Kate Middleton reportedly spotted shopping in Windsor amid health speculations

Nelson Silva, the amateur videographer who took the footage, explained to TMZ that he was shopping when he “noticed a couple choosing loaves of bread and the woman turned her face and I felt like I had seen the face before. It was familiar. I knew it from somewhere.”

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He continued: “I went to my car and as they came out of the shop I just filmed them. I think they walked out through a gate out of the grounds. They just vanished and I didn’t see a car. I just wanted to share with my family footage and show just how normal they were.”

Another eyewitness told The Sun: “After all the rumours that had been going round I was stunned to see them there.

“The kids weren’t with them but it’s such a good sign she was healthy enough to pop down to the shops.”

All told, there is now supposed video evidence, along with two witnesses claiming Middleton is alive and well. In another time, it likely would have been enough to calm the conspiratorial inclinations of the masses — but after the all-out debacle the royals have stirred in recent weeks, the clip is only raising more questions.

Click to play video: 'Kate Middleton’s absence continues to fuel conspiracy theories about health'
Kate Middleton’s absence continues to fuel conspiracy theories about health

Cries over a lack of sufficient evidence

As soon as reports surfaced of Middleton out on a shopping excursion over the weekend, the social media masses collectively had one question: “Where are the photos or video to prove this happened?”

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Some people defended the initial lack of evidence, saying that those shopping in the high-end store wouldn’t bat an eyelid over royals in their midst, as it’s common to spot them in the Windsor-area on any given day.

But these are anything but normal times. Ever since late last month, when the larger internet was alerted to the fact that Middleton has not been seen in public since December following an announcement from Kensington Palace of a vague abdominal surgery, it’s been an all-out frenzy of speculation and rampant, unbased theories as to her whereabouts.

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Any attempts to quell the rumours drummed up on social media have been mucked up by the couple’s PR and communications team at Kensington Palace, leading to widespread distrust from the public.

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The timing of the video

Fast forward to Monday, when TMZ and The Sun both dropped the video of Middleton out shopping at the same time, in a coordinated effort to reach both sides of the pond (both outlets are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp.).

By then, the seeds of mistrust over this latest sighting had already been sown.

Many were not convinced it was actually the royal couple in the video, which is grainy and taken from far away, their faces not clearly discernible.

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Others questioned why the U.K. press OKed this particular video for publication, when it refused to publish a paparazzi video of Middleton riding in her mother’s car two weeks ago, citing privacy concerns.

(For what it’s worth, The Sun defended its decision to share the video, explaining it as a “bid to bring an end to what the Palace has called ‘the madness of social media.'” TMZ also dug into the video’s metadata to prove that it was recorded over the weekend.)

Still, even more asked why Middleton seemed well enough to walk swiftly while carrying a bag of groceries, but not well enough to, for instance, appear on a Zoom call with a trusted member of the royal rota to prove her recovery is going as planned and put to bed the rampant rumours, once and for all.

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A justified response from the curious public

What began as a well-intentioned public plea for information about the Princess of Wales’ health situation has spiralled out of control, with an abundance of conspiracy theories popping up by the hour on social media.

When it comes to speculation, social media users fall into two camps: those who are clearly having fun and making lighthearted jokes (Middleton is using the respite to grow out a set of botched bangs, for instance), to those who are claiming something much more sinister (the Princess is divorcing her husband, is in a coma, or is even dead.)

It’s clear now that Kensington Palace continues to get in its own way and has repeatedly bungled gaining control of the narrative. From the moment the palace announced Middleton would back away from royal duties and take almost four months of recovery, asking for privacy, it’s made nothing but missteps.

Very few images of the Princess have emerged since December, and those that have caused instant controversy.

The first photo, a grainy paparazzi shot of Middleton riding shotgun in her mother’s car in Windsor on March 4, wasn’t published by most U.K. outlets, who cited wanting to maintain the Princess’ privacy.

A second photo of Middleton with her three children, released March 10 on U.K. Mother’s Day, was picked apart by amateur sleuths who questioned whether it was actually a recent photo. By that evening, multiple major news agencies issued a “kill notice” for the image and instructed clients to stop using it after they found multiple instances of manipulation.

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Despite calls from the press, Kensington Palace refused to release an original, unedited version of the photo.

A mea culpa issued by the Palace the next day was seen by many as an attempt to throw Middleton under the bus: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” a statement allegedly signed by the Princess was posted to X.

And, hours later, an image that appeared to show the shadowed profile of Middleton leaving Windsor Castle in a car with her husband was met with widespread doubt as to whether it was actually her, given that her face could not be seen.

Now, the veracity of royal photos is once again being called into question after a 2023 photo of the late Queen Elizabeth II and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, credited to Middleton, was flagged as “digitally enhanced at source” by international photo agency, Getty Images.

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Even Phil Chetwynd, the global news director of Agence France-Presse (AFP), told the BBC last week that he no longer regarded Kensington Palace as a “trusted source.”

The Palace opens another can of worms

Regardless of whether the world believes it is truly the Prince and Princess of Wales in the footage posted this week, it begs the larger question of why Kensington Palace is now allowing a member of the public to enter a dance usually reserved between the Royal Family and press.

(As of this writing, the Palace has not addressed the video in any way.)

Many are wondering why the Palace and press would OK such an intrusion of the couple’s privacy, or at least not object to it, when they were clearly against it just two weeks ago.

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Now, the calls for unedited and clear photo or video evidence of the Princess’ good health have only heightened and the conspiracy theory machine continues to run in overdrive.

Royals author Tina Brown told CBS Mornings that Kensington Palace could end the feeding frenzy and speculation with the smallest appearance or gesture, taking a page from the Queen’s playbook when she was dealing with health issues.

“All she needs to do is wave from a car window,” Brown said.

But the Palace is staying as tight-lipped as ever, meaning the so-called “Katespiracies” are bound to continue.


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