Will Princess Kate video put an end to royal communications mess?

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LONDON — Catherine, Princess of Wales, can be seen in a fresh video smiling and walking next to Prince William during a visit to a farm shop in Windsor, according to footage published on the Sun newspaper’s website.

The Washington Post could not confirm the exact date of the video, but an image taken March 18 of the Windsor Farm Shop shows the same temporary shed-like structures in the outdoor seating area of the video she appears in. Kensington Palace did not deny that the video was authentic.

Nelson Silva, 40, who said he took the video footage over the weekend, told the Sun that “Kate looked happy and relaxed” when he spotted the couple in the bread aisle at a farm shop in Windsor.

Could the footage quell some of the conspiracy theories that have dogged the royal family in recent weeks?

“It’s definitely helpful,” said Craig Prescott, a royal expert at Royal Holloway, within the University of London. “As the late queen used to say, the royals need to be ‘seen to be believed.’”

In January, Kensington Palace said that the princess had a planned abdominal surgery and wouldn’t resume official duties before Easter. The online speculation about Catherine’s well-being and whereabouts grew after William pulled out of a memorial service on Feb. 27 at the last minute. It increased further after Catherine admitted that she edited a photo of herself on Britain’s Mother’s Day that was retracted by global news agencies over concerns it had been doctored.

Kensington Palace has been less forthcoming about Catherine’s illness than Buckingham Palace has been about King Charles’s illness. This is not terribly surprising. William has a long and complicated relationship with the media. Like his brother Prince Harry, William blames the U.K. media for dangerously hounding his mother Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris.

But while saying little about Catherine’s illness didn’t surprise royal watchers — “never complain, never explain,” is said to be the royal family’s unofficial motto — it also raised questions. Prescott said that Kensington Palace was “trying to walk a tightrope, letting people know why Catherine is not around while also respecting privacy of her and her family — something William is very protective about.”

Royal experts said that the palace started to lose control over the narrative when William pulled out of the February memorial service for the late former King Constantine of Greece. The service was in Windsor, where William and Catherine live. The palace said, simply, it was due to a “personal matter.”

Valentine Low, a royal biographer and former Times of London royal correspondent, said that the palace misjudged the levels of information they needed to keep the wildest conspiracy theories at bay.

“I completely understand the desire to not divulge personal private medical information,” said Low. “And they were almost getting away with it. But then William didn’t go to the memorial service at such short notice. It’s a mistake to think in the current day and age that you’ll get away with that.”

He said that the late Queen Elizabeth II would have never pulled out of an event like that at the last minute with just a vague explanation.

“I don’t condone the frenzy, there is a lot of stupid speculation going on. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we have a right to know everything,” he said. “But I think they misjudged what’s realistic, and the result is that their reputation has been damaged. The question is how permanently.”

William and Catherine have run a slick media operation in recent years, but it hasn’t been blunder free. Their 2022 trip to the Caribbean was widely seen as a PR disaster. The couple were photographed shaking hands with children through a fence and standing in an open-top Land Rover, which some commentators said harked back to Britain’s colonial past. They recovered from that incident and remain two of the most popular members of the royal family.

Prescott agreed that William mysteriously pulling out of a memorial service in Windsor is when the conspiracy theories started to ratchet up.

“It was another layer of oddness onto the whole thing, at that point, it just ran away from itself,” he said.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations and crisis consultant, told The Post that the palace communications team was “struggling with the age of social media where any news vacuum is filled with the most ridiculous theories … like ‘Kate is dead’ or ‘it’s being covered up’ or that she was ‘abducted by aliens.’ That one got a lot of traction.”

“They are trying to be semi-transparent … offering a little bit of vulnerability, a little bit of information,” he said. But by being “only slightly more open, they allowed the vacuum to be filled.”

He predicted that after Catherine is seen at an official engagement, the royal communications teams will be “having the last laugh when all these ridiculous theories are thrown into the dustbin.” Still, he said: “Just like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster as well as flat earth brigade, there will be folk who will believe the future Queen is a double. It’s a sorry mess.”

Jonathan Baran in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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