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Princess Kate’s cancer diagnosis spurs outpouring of support, privacy calls

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LONDON — Catherine, Princess of Wales, has been greeted with an outpouring of support and sympathy after she revealed Friday she had been diagnosed with cancer and was in the early stages of chemotherapy treatment.

King Charles III said in a statement he was “so proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did,” and that he had “remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks.”

Last month, Charles postponed public duties as Buckingham Palace revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. Neither Charles nor Catherine have disclosed the type of cancer they have.

However, Catherine in particular faced weeks of intense speculation about her health and whereabouts, after she took time away from the public eye following major abdominal surgery in late January.

On Saturday, Britain’s newspaper front-pages were inked with support and well-wishes for the future queen, while leaders across the globe also made strong statements of support.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commended Catherine’s “tremendous bravery,” and assured her she had “the love and support of the whole country as she continues her recovery.”

President Biden said “Jill and I join millions around the world in praying for your full recovery,” while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “on behalf of Canadians, I’m sending my support as she undergoes treatment. We’re all wishing her a swift recovery.”

Catherine’s younger brother, James Middleton, posted a childhood photo online of the siblings hiking, with a message: “Over the years, we have climbed many mountains together. As a family, we will climb this one with you too. “️

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, released a statement wishing “health and healing for Kate and the family,” adding that they hoped she could heal “privately and in peace.”

In her prerecorded video released Friday, Catherine, 42, said “it has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family,” as she said tests after her abdominal surgery had revealed cancer, and that she was in the early stages of preventative chemotherapy.

While she was “well and getting stronger every day,” the news had been a “huge shock,” she said, adding that she and William had been “doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.”

Following Catherine’s announcement, there has been growing criticism about the swirl of media scrutiny and online conspiracy theories she has faced. British and international outlets had covered the speculation extensively, while the subject was even joked about on air by late night host Stephen Colbert.

On Saturday, The Sun tabloid wrote on its front page: “Kate, you are not alone,” while a Daily Mail front page op-ed wondered “How do all those vile online trolls feel now?” Both newspapers, along with most other news outlets, had covered her whereabouts — and lack thereof — extensively in recent weeks.

Many online commentators have also expressed regret at the jokes they had made at Catherine’s expense — while noting that Buckingham Palace was widely seen to have bungled its communications of the whole affair, including by releasing a photo of Catherine that had been edited.

British publicist Mark Borkowski said in an interview Saturday it had been a “roller coaster” for royal PR, but the video was proof the royal family remains “a very powerful institution, it has an ability to regain control.”

Borkowski said the carefully made video released by Catherine was “extraordinary” and a “tidal wave” sweeping away all of the conspiracy theorists and doubters. “One has to praise the poor woman for showing so much dignity and grace.”

He noted that Catherine and other female members of the royal family including “Margaret, Fergie, Diana” traditionally contended with more “misogynistic treatment by the media” than their male counterparts.

“You have to be part-fashion model, part-soft politician to be a woman in the royal family,” Borkowski said. “They have to work harder … and Kate is Box Office royal family on the front-page of every tabloid in the world.”

While Charles, 75, had told the nation about his cancer diagnosis in February via a statement from Buckingham Palace, Borkowski noted that Catherine had to be seen.

“If it had been a statement, no one would have believed it and maybe all the crazy rumors would have carried on percolating. Now, there’s a massive full stop … and a clear call for privacy.”

Despite some online debate over whether Harry and Meghan, who stepped back from royal duties in 2020 and moved to the United States, should return or take up more responsibilities amid a currently slimmed down senior royal family, Borkowski said he thought it was “very, very unlikely” the couple would return from California. “The wedge is too deep,” he said. “That would just generate so much negative publicity.”

Britons on Saturday expressed sympathy for Catherine and her family, and stressed her right to privacy.

“I feel sad for her and sorry for her, as I would anybody who’s been diagnosed with cancer — especially when they’re so young and have children,” Veronica Wasilwa, 68, said.

Wasilwa added that Catherine was “entitled to privacy,” although she noted the run of bad health news for the royal family had also humanized them, as she saw “they’re going through what normal families go through.”

Ange Anderson, 65, said: “I felt that she must have felt pressurized to share it with the public, which is a shame.”

London-based breaking news reporter Jennifer Hassan spoke with people in Britain for reactions to Princess Catherine announcing she has cancer. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Post)

Anderson, whose sister-in-law recovered from breast cancer a few years ago, admitted “a small part of me wants to know what type of cancer she has, but I don’t think it’s my entitlement know.”

Michelle Mitchell, head of leading British charity, Cancer Research UK, said in a statement that nearly one in two Britons will develop cancer in their lifetime and “many more are affected when someone they love is diagnosed with cancer.”

She added that “high profile cancer cases often act as a prompt to encourage people to find out more or think about their own health,” she said of Catherine’ revelation, wishing her “a full, swift recovery and return to good health.”

Amid the spate of difficult health news from the palace in recent weeks, Catherine’s video would also serve to remind the public that behind the pomp and pageantry of the monarchy, there was a family with real people, Borkowski said.

“At the heart of it, it’s very, very human what they’re going through,” he said. Now, “I think the royals will be looking for sunnier days.”

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