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Kate Middleton's latest appearance has only strengthened the 'Katespiracy'

Mikhaila Friel   

Kate Middleton's latest appearance has only strengthened the 'Katespiracy'
  • Kate Middleton and Prince William were filmed shopping amid online speculation about Kate's absence.
  • Kate's recent absence from royal duties due to abdominal surgery has fueled conspiracy theories.

Anybody who thought a recent set of images of Kate Middleton and Prince William together could stop the so-called "Katespiracy" was quickly proven wrong.

TMZ and the British newspaper The Sun published footage of the Prince and Princess of Wales shopping near their home in Windsor on Sunday.

Much of the British media seized on the images, heavily promoting them as proof that all was well with the couple.

An anonymous source said to be close to the couple seemed to believe this could be the end of the breathless, ominous swell of discussion around Kate and her absence from public life.

"Finally," the source told The Telegraph. "Everyone can calm down."

That point of view seemed to underestimate the momentum of the conspiracy movement, which found more questions than answers.

Many reacted by questioning whether the low-quality imagery really showed Kate.

Some suggested it could have been Heidi Agan, who has worked as a professional Kate lookalike for 12 years. It wasn't.

"I can tell you categorically it was not me at Windsor Farm Shop. I've literally had to give people an alibi of where I was," Agan told Business Insider's Anneta Konstantinides.

Trust between the palace and the public is damaged

Kate's latest appearance came during a lengthy absence from royal duties. Kensington Palace said in January that she was undergoing abdominal surgery and likely wouldn't return until April.

Royal watchers pointed out that Kate's absence was jarring to the public because she had always been transparent about her health.

The public knew when she had hyperemesis gravidarum — severe sickness — during her pregnancies.

She also posed for photos outside the hospital after giving birth to all three of her children, a tradition Princess Diana started that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry rejected.

The situation escalated when Kensington Palace released an edited photo of Kate and her children for Mother's Day, likely intended to squash the rumors.

Instead, it only made matters worse. The princess said she edited the photo after major photo and news agencies recalled it over concerns that it had been manipulated.

Kate has been spotted out on a handful of private engagements since the controversy began. She was photographed in a car with her mother, Carol, on March 4, and she was also seen in another car with William shortly after she apologized for the edited photo.

Social-media users have picked apart every image, analyzing apparent changes in Kate's appearance and searching for signs of photo manipulation.

"The only way out now is to either publish the original image or release a video of Kate talking to the camera; otherwise, the palace's reputation as a trustworthy source of information will lie in ruins," Jack Royston, the chief royal correspondent at Newsweek and a podcast host, told BI of the edited-photo controversy.

That solution — fuller access to the princess — hasn't been forthcoming.

The palace hopes Kate's return to work will end the rumors

Royal sources told The Telegraph that Kate will return to public duties gradually.

"Once the Princess is back, palace sources insist, those who have suggested she has been doing anything other than recovering from surgery will have reason to feel ashamed," The Telegraph wrote.

Another royal source told The Times of London that Kate may use royal engagements as an opportunity to share details of her health.

"They will want to be clear and more open, but they'll do it when they feel ready," one friend of the royals told the outlet.

Phil Dampier, a royal videographer, agrees with the palace's stance. He told BI that the royals can wait out conspiracy theories like any royal stories.

"We've had a lot of ups and downs," Dampier told BI, noting the various royal divorces, deaths, and controversies that once dominated the news cycle.

"Camilla was once the most hated person in the country, and now she's queen," he said.

"In six months' time, everyone will focus on something else, and it will die down."

Kensington Palace did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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