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Voices: I‘ve been revelling in Kate Middleton conspiracy theories. Now, I’m ashamed

I’ve never been much of a royal watcher, but I’ll admit it: for the past three weeks I was scrutinising grainy photographs and plotting out globe-spanning conspiracies with the best of them.

I spent hours scrolling through TikTok, credulously absorbing every fringe theory concocted by amateur Generation Z detectives that I could find – the more ludicrous, the better. Body doubles? Sure, that sounds plausible. Joined the circus? Why not. Replaced with a robot? You’d be amazed by what technology can do these days.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, congratulations on escaping the addiction of social media, or perhaps just having the tiniest shred of decorum. The rest of us, unfortunately, spent the past month openly speculating about Kate Middleton, giving virtually no thought to the fact that she might have a perfectly good reason to not want to share her every waking moment with the world.

And she did have a good reason, it turns out: yesterday it was revealed that Kate has been diagnosed with cancer, and what we had decided was a shady conspiracy to trick the public with Photoshop was, in fact, a way to give her time to come to terms with the fact that she was sick and break the news to her children.

If your first impulse is to make excuses – to point out that, well, technically she is a public figure, and that she should expect this kind of scrutiny – maybe you should take a step back and think about your life. Regardless of your views on the royals, they are real people and have a right to some degree of privacy, the same as the rest of us.

It’s something I think we forget in the UK, not just when it comes to the royal family, but for public figures in general. We’ve always had a toxic tabloid culture in this country, where we view celebrities as fair game, and their lives as things for us to examine under a microscope. It’s even worse now, in the age of social media, where we assume that just because a person shares even more of their life with us, we’re somehow entitled to every part of it.

In hindsight, it was obvious that whatever was going on with Kate was a private and sensitive matter. As I type this, I’m struggling to think of something that would have justified the sheer level of invasiveness that we accepted as standard. Maybe the robot thing, at a push.

It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse with the ever-increasing prevalence of the internet. We don’t think before we speak our half-baked musings out into the world, and we have the technology to collectively put literally millions of them out every single day. Rumours and conspiracy theories catch on like wildfire, there’s absolutely zero quality control, and before you know it we’re out here swapping the most heinous lies about a complete stranger for our entertainment.

If there’s a bright spot in this whole episode, it’s that it might encourage us to think twice before we go running our mouths about the next “big mystery”. Maybe we’ll remember that whichever celebrity hits the spotlight next is just a human being, and that they could be dealing with any manner of thing that deserves our sympathy and, more importantly, our respectful silence.

I hope Kate manages to beat this thing, and that she returns to public life as soon as possible. Maybe when she does, we can all give her a little space.