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Princess Kate plays a central role in the royal family

Silke Wünsch
March 24, 2024

As a princess, Catherine represents a modern royal family. Now, after weeks out of the public eye, the Princess of Wales has reappeared in public to reveal a shock cancer diagnosis.

Princess of Wales smiles as she speaks with a woman
Princess Catherine's last public engagement was in late DecemberImage: Frank Augstein/AP Photo/picture alliance

The announcement in January that Princess Catherine — or Kate, as she is known to her fans — had to undergo serious abdominal surgery sparked great concern among followers of the royal family.

To recover from the operation, the Princess of Wales retreated to her house in Windsor, and remained silent.

The rumor mill quickly started churning. Various clues and photos were used to feed all sorts of assumptions.

Then, in early March, Kensington Palace, the official London residence of Prince William and Catherine, released a photo of a healthy, smiling Catherine with her three children, to mark Mother's Day in the UK.

But news agencies flagged the photo after they determined it had been digitally manipulated. Shortly after, Catherine admitted to having personally altered the photo using editing software.

Princess of Wales apologizes for altered image

That contributed to more speculative theories — was it an attempt to cover something up?

A week after "Kategate," the princess was seen strolling into a farm shop in Windsor, accompanied by her husband, where they bought bread. Another customer spotted the royal couple and filmed them with his cellphone, before telling the British Sun newspaper that Catherine seemed happy and relaxed.

So was everything fine again? Sadly not: In a video message released on Friday evening, Catherine announced that she had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year, following her surgery.

"My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo preventative chemotherapy and I am now in the early stages of that treatment," Catherine said in the video, which is reported to have been recorded on Wednesday. No further details about the nature of the cancer would be released, the princess' office said.

So far, her life had seemed like a fairy tale to many: marriage to the future king, three healthy children, loved by the public. The cancer diagnosis changed all that. 

Perfect princess carefully controls her image

Catherine is considered a figurehead for the British monarchy. And though she is not of aristocratic heritage, she won even the queen's heart with her elegant and at the same time down-to-earth manner.

Queen Elizabeth II gave Prince William her blessing to marry Kate Middleton, and though she was not a noblewoman, the young Kate had everything to become a worthy member of the royal family. She simply fit in.

When she married William in 2011, she became an official member of the royal family — "The Firm," as it is also known. And their PR team also contributed to her image: She was no longer Kate Middleton, but Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of a future king.

Princess Catherine smiles as she receives flowers from two local girls on her arrival at UNICEF's Supply Division, Copenhagen
Princess Catherine supports various charities, including UNICEF Image: Jan Grarup/UNICEF/dpa/picture alliance

And she learned to deal with media pressure. Followed at every turn by paparazzi, Catherine did exactly what was expected of her — both by the family and the public. She didn't allow herself to be impressed and knew how to showcase herself without stealing the show from her fiance.

This still applies today. The Catherine/William team has been working together for over 20 years. She laughs loudly and heartily, darts across the tennis court and waves happily to everyone. With her winning smile, she fulfills her representative duties at her prince's side. Her focus is on charities committed to helping disadvantaged children and young people.

Catherine leaves nothing to chance when choosing her outfits, which are simple and elegant, planned down to the smallest detail. She is always so well-groomed — whether attending a royal ceremony or planting a tree during a public appearance — that it almost seems a little too staged.

Catherine is now 42 years old and has given birth to three children, who could one day follow in the footsteps of the late Queen Elizabeth and King Charles III. The future of the royals has been secured.

Catherine and William, seen here walking outside with their children George,left, Louis middle and Charlotte in 2022
Catherine and William (seen here with their children George, left, Louis middle and Charlotte in 2022) have placed an importance on family lifeImage: Jonathan Brady/PA Media/dpa/picture alliance

Rejuvenation treatment for the royal family

The importance of Catherine's role for the royal family is more than just ensuring that there are enough heirs to the throne. She is also the one adding a fresh touch to the outdated monarchy, helping the royals come closer to their subjects.

To do this, she uses the power of media and social networks like no other family member before her.

Here too, Catherine is supported by the royal PR team as she attempts to create a positive image of the royal family, with photos of her perfect outfits and well-behaved children.

On Instagram, she has more than 15 million followers.

William's younger brother, Prince Harry, introduced American actress Meghan Markle to Buckingham Palace in 2016. Together with Catherine and William, they were the young royal "dream team;" many called them the "Fab Four" in reference to the Beatles — and they appeared to be finally dusting off Buckingham Palace's image.

But in 2019 the couples went their separate ways, with observers speculating on the causes of their rift. It was finally over after Harry and Meghan withdrew from Buckingham Palace.

From left, Britain's Prince William, Kate the Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle and Britain's Prince Harry arrive for the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey.
The Fab Four served as the poster children of the royal family before Harry and Meghan left Buckingham PalaceImage: Paul Grover/Pool Photo/AP Photo/picture alliance

As confident as ever, Catherine stayed on the ball and became the most important face of the royal family after the queen's death in 2022. Though King Charles holds the throne, his son William and his daughter-in-law are the figureheads of the British monarchy, the bearers of hope for the future.

And that's why the whole world will be watching and waiting for Catherine return to health.

This article was originally written in German.