Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Lifestyle Speculation Gone Wrong: Social Media and the Royal Family

Speculation Gone Wrong: Social Media and the Royal Family

Florence New discusses what the recent news of the Princess of Wales' cancer diagnosis reveals about the dangers of media speculations
2 mins read
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Image: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

It has not been the best of years for the Royal Family. From King Charles’ shocking cancer diagnosis to court cases with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the British monarchy has consistently been receiving public scrutiny. The worst iteration of this was the recent public speculation about the Princess of Wales, culminating in an emotional statement from Catherine, revealing her battle against cancer. 

The video came as a shock. The Prince and Princess of Wales and their PR team had been trying to tackle the rumour mill, present both on social media and the traditional media. In January, Kensington Palace announced that Catherine had undergone planned abdominal surgery and that she would be taking a break from public duties until after Easter. The following month was relatively quiet, after all, the public had been briefed that the Princess would be away from the public eye. Then the social media storm started.

From King Charles’ shocking cancer diagnosis to court cases with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the British monarchy has consistently been receiving public scrutiny.

Conspiracy theories began to gain traction on TikTok and X, questioning Catherine’s location. Speculation quickly diverged from health-related issues. Some were ironic or cynical, clearly made in jest. But others were making serious accusations about the Royal Family. This discussion was then amplified by the mainstream media, treating the social media discussion as a story in its own right.

Kensington Palace was put in a difficult position; they were damned if they responded and damned if they didn’t. The fire was fuelled further when Catherine posted a picture of her with her children on social media, which was revealed to have been edited. This picture didn’t quell the rumours, and neither did leaked paparazzi photos of the Prince and Princess visiting a garden centre. Public conversations were taken offline and into the real world, with Catherine’s story making headlines internationally.

Kensington Palace was put in a difficult position; they were damned if they responded and damned if they didn’t.

On Friday 22nd March, Kensington Palace released a video from Catherine, disclosing her recent cancer diagnosis. Finally, sense returned to the discussion about the Princess of Wales. The video was met with sympathetic responses, with many who contributed to the speculation apologising for their actions. 

There are many lessons to be learnt. For those using social media, it is a clear example of how fast conspiracy theories and misinformation can spread. For the traditional media, it is a warning to be careful when covering social media conversations. For the Royal Family, this hammers home the importance of a strong and well-considered public relations campaign. The British monarchy is currently in a precarious position. If it wants to survive 21st-century social media speculation, it needs to work on its response.

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