Princess Catherine reveals cancer treatment after weeks of PR unrest

We now have a better understanding of why the princess has disappeared from public view.

Princess Catherine is being treated for cancer

Following weeks of speculation and questions, Catherine, Princess of Wales, revealed Friday that cancer was found following her January abdominal surgery and has been undergoing chemotherapy, the BBC reported.

Many communications professional have been watching the Princess Catherine situation closely after an edited photo of Catherine and her three children was retracted by wire services, causing a PR scandal and deepening the mystery around the princess’ absence.

But the reason is now all too clear.

Catherine said in a video message that the unspecified form of cancer was discovered after a previously disclosed abdominal surgery. She needed time to recover from that operation and has only recently begun chemotherapy, she said.


Read more: After the Princess Catherine photo disaster, have this conversation with your clients


In the video message, she said, “William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.”

“I am well and getting stronger every day,” she added.



In addition to Catherine’s diagnosis, her father-in-law, King Charles III, is also undergoing treatment for cancer.

Why it matters: It’s not easy being a royal. Yes, they get fairy tales and fancy lives but lose all semblance of privacy.

We now know that the radio silence and lack of public appearances by the princess were due to serious illness rather than something more nefarious. But while a regular person has the right to conceal their illness if they choose, that same luxury is simply not afforded to a monarch-to-be.

In the absence of information, the frenzied, fevered rumor mill filled in the blanks with the worst, most conspiracy-laden theories possible.

From the outside, it’s impossible to say who drove the PR strategy of silence, though a dignified lack of comment has long been a hallmark of the royal family. But it’s possible that Catherine herself, striving to keep some autonomy over herself and her family, insisted on waiting to reveal the news until it became clear that the scandal would not subside without a clear, direct explanation of what had been going on with one of the most visible women in the world.



It’s a horrible, heartbreaking situation. There’s no real way to win here. The conspiracy theories won’t end, especially not with cancer cropping up twice in the same family at the same time. Catherine will continue to have to fight for any shred of privacy, as even her medical records were breached.

It’s all a sad, weary echo of the life (and death) of Princess Diana, Catherine’s late mother-in-law whom paparazzi hounded until the very moment she was killed by their voracious appetite for another photo of her.

It also calls to mind another recent scandal over the non-disclosure of a medical condition. Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, came under fire for failing to disclose to the White House or his temporary replacement that he had been hospitalized for cancer surgery.

All of this demonstrates how messy and complicated communications can be when it comes to a personal health issue.

There are no easy answers here. No finger-wagging maxims about what you should always do in these situations or what you should never do. Only that if you find yourself in a situation where you are helping a principal, client or even a friend deal with whether or how to disclose a medical issue that is impacting their official duties, lead with empathy. With listening. By releasing what information you can while fighting like hell to preserve as much privacy as the client wants.

There will be times when this balance is difficult — even impossible — to maintain. When stakeholders’ right to know will outweigh an individual’s own personal tragedy.

If that day comes, be as kind, as sensitive and as understanding as you can be.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Princess Catherine and all those battling cancer.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


One Response to “Princess Catherine reveals cancer treatment after weeks of PR unrest”

    Jackson Olmstead says:

    This is something I think every PR professional should be paying attention to. Companies and other individuals should always lead with empathy in situations pertaining to a health diagnosis. An opportunity is available to normalize different medical conditions and show that the client or organization being represented, even though in a position of power, is still human, too. -Jackson Olmstead, Platform Magazine Writer/Editor

PR Daily News Feed

Sign up to receive the latest articles from PR Daily directly in your inbox.