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How Kensington Palace tackled the ‘Katespiracy’, step by step

If Kensington Palace thought reports of a public sighting of the Princess of Wales in her favourite Windsor farm shop at the weekend would calm the conspiracy theories swirling around the Royal Family, they were sorely mistaken.

The Palace hoped it would take back control of the media narrative around Kate following the backlash over her editing of a Mother’s Day photo with her children and her wellbeing as she recovers from abdominal surgery.

But the sighting did little to gain control of speculation on social media about an “imminent” Palace announcement and the kind of outlandish claims over senior royal figures – a false statement announcing the death of the King was even circulated in Russia – that have sent courtiers into despair.

As pressure grows on the institution of the monarchy, the Palace PR operation has been forced into a rethink following the photo backlash and the insatiable demands for more information about Kate’s wellbeing.

How the furore has affected Kate

A relaunched strategy, designed to mitigate any damage to Kate’s reputation from the photo debacle and halt the malicious social media rumours, required more transparency about her health than William and Kate originally intended.

The photo row left the impression that the Princess was overly concerned with manicured appearances. While William and Kate are not scrolling social media, the Palace let it be known that she was “devastated” by the furore over the incident.

Briefings from friends

With the Princess staying silent, beyond her apology for her photo-editing, a friend briefed the Sunday Times that Kate may address her illness in casual conversation at an unspecified public event.

The friend said: “They [William and Kate] will want to be clear and more open, but they’ll do it when they feel ready. I would expect that to be her instinct and it will be her call. They’re not going to be rushed.”

A separate source told the paper: “They are at their most open when out interacting with members of the public and I can see a world in which the princess might discuss her recovery out on engagements. If she was going to do it, that’s how she would do it.”

Friends (the Waleses have many) were also quoted as saying the couple hoped and expected that their request for privacy be respected for the duration of her recovery.

The Mothers’ Day episode, a result of the couple acceding to media demands for a fresh photo to mark the day, had blown that wish out of the water.

A sign that all is well behind the scenes would be the release of a new, wholly authentic, photograph marking Prince Louis’s sixth birthday on 23 April, as predicted by those friends.

Easter walkabout

The Palace strategy is to appeal for patience amid the feeding frenzy by pointing to future events where the desire to see the senior Royals will be fulfilled.

The Princess of Wales has not ruled out making a return to the public eye on Easter Sunday on 31 March, when she could join her family for the traditional walk to church, the Telegraph reported.

She had not been expected to return to public engagements until the week beginning 15 April at the earliest.

The family takes a three-week break for the Easter holidays from 22 March with the children returning to school on 17 April.

Windsor shop sighting

With only two snatched paparazzi shots of the Princess of Wales, and the disastrous Mothers’ Day photo, since her operation, the Palace understands that the Royals need to be seen to be believed.

Kate was reportedly spotted looking “healthy” on a visit to the local Windsor Farm Shop over the weekend, marking the first time she has been seen out and about since the surgery.

Kate and William also reportedly watched their three children – George, 10, Charlotte, eight, and Louis, five – take part in sports during the day.

A witness who saw the couple told The Sun: “After all the rumours that had been going round I was stunned to see them there. Kate was out shopping with William and she looked happy and she looked well.”

Since no pictures accompanied the sighting, the news didn’t entirely satisfy the conspiracy theorists.

Was it a coincidence that the lucky onlooker contacted The Sun, just days after the paper ran a front-page opinion blast headlined “Lay Off Kate”, condemning the media “sniping” and “bullying campaign” being run against the Princess during her recovery?

Diplomatic assistance for William

Kate’s absence has shone a harsh spotlight on her husband as he bears the strain of supporting his wife’s recovery – his priority he has told aides – whilst his father is also absent from the frontline as he undergoes treatment.

Ian Patrick, an ex-Foreign Office diplomat who worked for the former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, has taken up the role of William’s private secretary.

Patrick is already said to be proving a popular figure with Palace staff as William seeks to balance an increased obligation to represent the Royals at public events while preserving the “bubble” of family life at their Adelaide Cottage homestead in Windsor.

William’s late absence for personal reasons from the memorial service for his godfather King Constantine of Greece remains unexplained.

The Prince has resumed regular duties, last week hosting an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, attending a London air ambulance charity gala dinner and handing out Diana Legacy awards at an event in honour of his mother – although leaving before his estranged brother spoke on videolink.

If there is a Palace announcement this week, it could be to confirm that William is to take a month-long absence from Royal duties from Easter, igniting further speculation over how the Palace will manage events with a lengthy absentee list.

Kensington Palace was approached for comment.

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