Royal Corner

No, We Didn't Need To Know Prince William Had Covid

With reports confirming that The Duke of Cambridge battled coronavirus in April, the faux outrage is more than bizarre.

NOVEMBER 2nd, 2020

© Getty Images


n December 1966, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother received the distressing diagnosis of colon cancer, whereby the former Queen Consort underwent a deeply invasive operation to remove a tumour. Similarly, in 1984 her cancer returned after a lump was discovered and removed from her breast. For two such grave health battles where the Queen Mother’s life remained in a serious balance, the public never found out about either diagnosis whilst the 101-year-old matriarch was alive.

“I’m a workhorse as well as a show pony. If a horse looks lame, they shoot it – it’ll be a long time before I let anyone attempt to pull the trigger on me,” she wrote in a letter to a friend in 1966. “The public see me as a constant, I refuse to break that illusion.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend this years Pride of Britain awards - © PA/Pride of Britain

Yesterday, her great-grandson, Prince William was revealed to have contracted COVID-19 in April. The news of his diagnosis was purposely kept quiet as not to “panic the country.” Reports claimed that the Duke of Cambridge had been “knocked for six” and left “struggling to breathe” at points of his secret battle, and whilst overall the news was met with some semblance of shock, with most applauding William’s refusal to go public, others weren’t as sympathetic.

Some within the media were outraged that the Duke had kept his COVID-19 diagnosis private, claiming that a future king, someone who will one day sit on a publicly funded throne, should have audaciously refused a public statement was an action deemed “appalling”. Although there is some foundation to these arguments, they do seem somewhat farfetched.

Yes, Prince William is second-in-line to the British Throne – a public figure who is effectively the future of our greatest institution – but to claim that his failure to disclose a personal health battle harkens the question of whether the public should trust anything he says ever again, seems more dramatic than a plotline from The Crown.

It is claimed that William contracted the virus around the same time as his father, Prince Charles and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Unlike Mr Johnson, Charles and William’s battles were much less severe, but no one can deny that there is much hysteria surrounding the word ‘coronavirus’. Of course, this is to be expected, thousands have tragically died across the UK, but for most, COVID-19 is a mild illness. With such hysteria, specifically around April and in the midst of the pandemic’s first wave, what good would it have done for public morale to discover our Prime Minister, our next king and future king were all struck down by a perceived deadly virus? It wouldn’t have, unless you write newspaper headlines.

William and Kate meet with members of the public who took part in Kate's Hold Still Initiative - © Getty Images

It is of no surprise that members of our monarchy fall ill. The Queen missed out on the traditional walk to Sandringham on Christmas Day in 2016, and most recently, her annual tea and cake engagement at the Sandringham branch of the Women’s Institute in January this year. On both these occasions Buckingham Palace explained why, she had a severe cold. Yet, if you were to read many of the frontpages and accompanying reports, the Queen was effectively on her deathbed, struggling to breathe and preparations were underway for the era of King Charles III.

In what has become somewhat of an annual tradition, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh is consistently deemed on death’s door for whatever illness he catches. Every time the Duke’s name trends on social media, the assumptive worst-case scenario is adopted. Therefore, we already know what the trajectory of theme would be if the news that both future kings had contracted coronavirus had broken. “What’s the future for our monarchy if the worst-case scenario should happen?” “Is it fair to ask a seven-year-old Prince George to take over if he becomes Heir to the Throne?” And almost certainly, Harry and Meghan, and their decision to step back as working members of the Royal Family would have been added into the mix. But the question would remain the same, what good would it have done?

Of course, it is always fair to scrutinize the decisions made by our public figures, and Prince William is no different. But considering that the Queen had just addressed the nation with a rallying cry of compassion and unity, and managed to inject some much-needed sanity into public life, surely it was sensible that Kensington Palace decided against fracturing that stability?

Furthermore, after scrutiny, usually follows complaint. “Why did Prince William get a test before the public?” “Did he put anyone else at risk?” “Once again, the elite in the country getting precedent”, are all arguments which would have most certainly been thrown the monarchy’s way, and ultimately distracted from the impressive and important work that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had been doing in supporting our frontline workers.

Prince William opens Birmingham's Nightingale Hospital - © Getty Images

Although some within the media were questioning of the Duke of Cambridge’s decision, the majority of the public felt different. “Just shows the type of guy he is – no hoo-ha or media attention – just got on with it. Thankfully he is now well,” said one comment on Twitter.

“I respect and admire Prince William so much for what he’s been through and what he went on to produce and deliver throughout this year. He will make a fine king,” wrote another.

Other’s simply felt the announcement was a non-story, believing that the impending lockdown was much more newsworthy. “Who cares? I like William, and I’m glad he’s better, but I’d rather hear more about the number of suicides in lockdown, or those from cancer,” commented one disgruntled Instagram user.

Of course, you can understand elements of the frustration by the media. Many royal reporters are pressured with high levels of expectation, and the story of both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge both contracting a deadly disease would have made headlines around the world, but when the disease isn’t life threatening, and hasn’t resulted in hospitalisation, is there really any need for the public to know?

With the news, some have been left wondering around who the prince came into contact with. In the UK the quarantine period is two-weeks, for both you and your household. So naturally, you would expect that the Duchess of Cambridge, alongside the couple’s children, isolated with the Duke at their home in Anmer Hall, Norfolk. This would make sense, due to the lack of public engagement in April, except for the Cambridge’s delivering food parcels to the elderly – an engagement which practiced and maintained strict social distancing.

Prince Charles was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly before his son, according to reports - © Getty Images

Perhaps what is more important though, is that Prince William continued working throughout, albeit it socially distanced. He opened Birmingham’s Nightingale Hospital virtually, launched a mental health campaign and completed a reported fourteen telephone and video call engagements whilst ill. You can only assume therefore, that his illness wasn’t as life-threatening as we most likely would have led to believe, unlike Boris Johnson, who consistently looked frailer and frailer with each public appearance, whether in person on virtually.

However, surely the most important element of this story is that in the midst of a public crisis, and against a personal health battle, he “kept calm and carried on”. Are these not the values we all hope for in a future monarch? Are these not the examples we have consistently praised the Queen for upholding? So, why suddenly are be beating a stick over the Duke of Cambridge and his belief that the health of the public is more newsworthy than his own?

For some, as with many of the royals today, no matter what they do they will forever be scorned with criticism – put simply, there are some who just don’t like the Duke of Cambridge, and whilst that is perfectly fine, if other members of the Royal Family fell ill with the disease and kept their diagnosis quiet, would we see the same level of faux outrage? No, we wouldn’t.

The Duke of Cambridge has obviously learned from his late great-grandmother. Ensure you are seen as a constant, never break that illusion and always put the public first. William was right to keep his COVID-19 diagnosis private. He was right to maintain the public’s and media’s focus on where it mattered – the NHS. We are almost eight months on from his battle and if the Sun’s exclusive hadn’t broken, we most likely would have never found out. So why don’t we all show some compassion, be grateful our future king is well and healthy, and not look at every decision the monarchy makes as a scandal to fill the newspapers.

You never know, to be a little more like the Queen Mother, and keep up the necessary illusion, may just do us all some good.

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