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  • Writer's pictureJ. Basil Dannebohm

Neither Princess, nor Pauper is immune to the cancerous toxicity of gossip.

J. Basil Dannebohm

Niccolò Machiavelli once said, "Everyone sees what you appear to be, but very few experience the real you." It’s basic human nature to protect our hearts, our minds, our wellbeing, and our spirits. Most of us do this by keeping a relatively small circle of trusted people. The downside of safeguarding our boundaries is that at some point it will inevitably cause people outside of our trusted circles to gossip about us. I used to feel like my side of the story needed to be told in order to ensure accuracy. These days, however, I don't care what people outside my circle choose to believe. Others don’t have it so easy, though. Take Catherine, the Princess of Wales, for example.

You’ll probably recall that on January 16th, 2024, Her Royal Highness underwent abdominal surgery. On January 29th, the 42-year-old princess was discharged from the hospital. She then took time away from public duties to recover and spend time with her trusted circle. Shortly thereafter, she became the victim of a vicious rumor mill.

On February 7th, the Prince of Wales returned to his public duties for the first time following Kate's surgery. It was at that point when the gossip mill started turning. It began with allegations that William had a mistress. On February 27th, His Royal Highness had to bow out of a royal engagement due to what was described as a "personal matter." By that point, speculation was that the princess had passed away and the palace was most certainly hiding the information. This prompted a palace spokesperson to announce on February 29th that Kate was "doing well" as she continued to recover. Those outside of her circle, however, were still not convinced. Hence, they gossiped.

The saga continued on March 10th when Kate marked Mother's Day in the U.K. by sharing a photo and a message on X.

The public still was not satisfied. Adding fuel to the fire, the photograph that accompanied her message turned out to be slightly altered. It was at this point that the rumors took a hypocritical turn. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Blake Lively, who literally employ an entourage of staff to ensure that the images they share on social media appear absolutely flawless, heckled Kate for the image. Celebrities weren’t the only ones who ridiculed at the expense of the princess. In this age of unlimited social media filters and artificial intelligence, people cried foul that the royal family would have the audacity edit a photograph. Though goodness knows that an unedited photograph would draw equal criticism. It was becoming obvious that nothing would satisfy the gossiping masses. Their fixation on Kate was only growing … like … a cancer.

On March 16th, online tabloid TMZ published a video of the Prince and Princess of Wales out shopping. Rumors began circulating that the woman by William’s side was an impersonator who was “much thinner and more hunched over than the actual princess.” Honing their inner John Madden, self-anointed experts took out yellow pens and highlighted what they perceived as irreconcilable variations in the image of Kate in comparison to previous images of the princess. This, they would attest, was irrefutable proof that the woman in the video was an imposter.

The next day it was revealed that an investigation had been launched alleging that staff members at the London Clinic, where Kate underwent surgery, were caught trying to access her sealed private medical records in order to sell them to the highest bidder.

On March 22nd, the Princess of Wales, having succumbed to the exhaustion of the constant barrage of rumors, chose to post a video message explaining her withdrawal from public life. Her Royal Highness shared that after undergoing abdominal surgery, tests showed "cancer had been present” and that she was undergoing chemotherapy.

Shortly after the video was released, those who perpetrated rumor upon deceptive rumor were divided into two camps: those with regret for spreading rumors, and those who criticized the palace for not making the announcement sooner. Lively issued a statement expressing her remorse. Kardashian, a victim of unabashed public ridicule and gossip for years, issued no statement of apology.

For William and Kate, though, the court of public opinion didn’t matter. Paramount to them was their children: 10-year-old George, 8-year-old Charlotte, and 5-year-old Louis. The children had only too recently suffered the loss of their great-grandmother, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The family was also coping with the news that their grandfather, King Charles III was diagnosed with cancer in early February. They had one simple request for the public: privacy.

The fact remains, however, that nobody, not even a public figure, should be forced to validate or dismiss rumors spread about them. Moreover, nobody should ever have to implore the public to respect their privacy while they cope with deeply personal issues.

Whether you’re a public figure or an everyman, you are not responsible for anyone's distorted perception of you. Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to question every good thing they hear about somebody, but will believe all of the bad things without a second thought. I speak from experience, however, when I say that anybody who believes lies about you before hearing your side of the story was already looking for a reason to stand against you. In her book, “Rise Up and Salute the Sun,” Suzy Kassem writes, “One who gossips usually carries boredom in one hand and bitterness in the other.”

Most of us can be thankful we’re not public figures. It means that should we ever find ourselves the victim of gossip or ridicule, we are not obliged to waste our time trying to explain ourselves to people who are committed to misunderstanding us. In most cases, doing so would only add fuel to their fire anyway. Remorse on the part of those who gossip is rare. Hence, we have to learn to accept that we will never be understood by those who are not meant to have a place in our life’s journey.

The moral of the story for those who engage in gossip against the royal family or the family next door: Before you assume, learn the facts. Before you judge, understand why. Before you hurt someone, feel. Before you speak, think. Paulo Coelho once wrote, “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about their own."


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