Judith Rowbotham, Visiting Research Fellow
I am currently imagining a somewhat mortified Princess of Wales. 
We know her to be a skilled amateur photographer in her own right, on the basis of the (often delightful) snaps of her family, especially her children, that she has taken and allowed to be published. Clearly Prince William also takes family snaps, and one of these was released as a Mothering Sunday image. The Princess of Wales has now ‘confessed’ that she was the one playing around with the photographic image, presumably to improve it and her efforts have spectacularly misfired, in the eyes of the media. 
While the initial public reaction was delight, minute scrutiny then took over, and it became plain that some editing of the photograph had occurred. The comments escalated, suspicion was voiced over the veracity of the whole photograph and speculation went wild over how far this indicated an attempt by Kensington Palace to fool the public about the ‘real’ state of the health of the Princess of Wales. 
She has indeed been invisible since Christmas, apart from a recent fuzzy glimpse of her in her mother’s car, apparently participating in the school run. 
But does that invisibility really suggest that there is a conspiracy to hide from the public that there is something medically sinister going on in relation to her health, which Kensington Palace and the rest of the Royal Household wish to hide? 
Medical commentary so far indicates that any abdominal surgery takes time to get over, something I endorse from my own experience of such surgery. Aged 19, it took me over three months simply to get over the shock to my system. So her invisibility is in line with general medical advice but it is also a challenge to a media hungry for fresh material. 
Sensationalism in the modern media means that, since the development of the mass media in the mid-nineteenth century onwards, stories that consistently fascinate consumers and sell titles are those which feature celebrities (particularly Royal ones); crime (especially murder (the most inherently sensational crime); and sport. 
And it is even better if you can get more than one of these threads woven through a single story.
It will not sell a title to report, along the lines of the Court Circular, that the Princess of Wales is continuing her convalescence in private and is doing well, according to plan. It will sell if, instead, there is a cover-up of how badly she is doing, or that the planned surgery was actually an emergency. 
18th Century / early 19th C provenance material, photo by Dr Elaine Murphy
The King’s cancer diagnosis has played out slightly better media-wise as, like most patients undergoing treatment, has been advised to avoid infection by restricting his public exposure. 
This has, unsurprisingly, given a wide space for speculation but this has been managed to an extent by the fact that the King is carrying on his constitutional duties – those red boxes have continued to arrive. Also, he has been photographed, looking reasonably fit. 
But with the Princess of Wales, brief glimpses in cars have irritated rather than reassured the media, which has expressed its hostility to what is clearly seen as an unfair reality – the lack of fresh good images of one of the ‘stars’ of the Royal Family, generated by the media itself. 
Personally, I suspect that this is more of a manufactured storm in a teacup than a genuine crisis. 
I suspect that the Princess of Wales has reached a stage in her convalescence where she is still strongly advised to do very little, gets tired easily but is well enough to be thoroughly bored by her inactivity. A sensible and responsible woman, she is listening to the advice and letting herself be looked after but is looking to do things she can do within the limits currently placed on her. 
So, I strongly suspect that she occupied herself by trying to ‘improve’ her husband’s efforts and didn’t succeed. Which, for any human being who prides themselves (as she clearly does) on doing a good job, is bound to be mortifying. But I do not believe that the embarrassment is likely to be fatal, and I hope that in time she will be able to laugh over it, with the Prince and public alike.

Studying society and culture

Our courses are designed differently to ensure you’ll be able to navigate the challenges of the future and make your mark.
We offer a full range of undergraduate, postgraduate and research opportunities
Art History books