Princess Kate cancer diagnosis sparks sympathy after health speculation

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LONDON — On a crisp but sunny morning outside Buckingham Palace, the saga surrounding Kate, the Princess of Wales, had given way Saturday to a wave of warm wishes after she announced that she was undergoing treatment for cancer.

“We were all very shocked,” said Sheema Riaz, a teacher who was visiting London with her sister Shanaz, 18, and her 19-year-old brother Abdullah. “It must be difficult for her family too,” said Riaz, 29, from Leicester, a city around 100 miles north of London.

Riaz noted that it was Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, “so of course as Muslims we shall definitely be praying for all of them.”

Kate, the 42-year-old wife of Prince William, Britain’s future king, shared her diagnosis in a rare video message on Friday after weeks of speculation.

She said she was undergoing chemotherapy, thanked the public for support and asked for privacy. Her announcement has led to outpourings of sympathy from the public, media and world leaders. For many, this support has been matched by a re-evaluation of the past few weeks, putting the frenzied saga surrounding Kate’s health into a very different light.

Shanaz said that she had known about Kate’s surgery, “but the news it was cancer was still shocking.”

Kate regularly polls as the most popular royal in Britain, but the uncertainty and what many experts saw as public relations missteps by the palace had fueled intense and at times negative coverage. On Saturday, the picture was very different, with the front page of the popular U.K. tabloid The Sun asserting “KATE, WE ARE WITH YOU.”

That sentiment was shared by those outside the palace in central London early Saturday.

Vicky Daniels, 49, said she “thought she was really brave to speak out like that, especially as she’s still recovering.”

Vicky Daniels outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
Vicky Daniels outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday.Henry Austin / NBC News

Asked about the online speculation, Daniels, from Gloucestershire in southwest England, said it was “absolutely horrible.”

“I just wish they would leave them alone. I wish they’d leave all the royals to just get on with it. What really gets on my nerves is it’s often people who don’t know what they’re on about anyway,” she said. “It goes without saying that we wish her well, and the kids too.”

On Saturday, a Kensington Palace spokesperson said, “The Prince and Princess are both enormously touched by the kind messages” they had received in response to Kate’s video.

“They are extremely moved by the public’s warmth and support and are grateful for the understanding of their request for privacy at this time,” the spokesperson said.

For the royal family, Kate’s diagnosis adds to a difficult few months. 

King Charles III, who said Friday he was proud of Kate’s “courage in speaking as she did,” was himself diagnosed with cancer last month and has also been undergoing treatment.

“No matter how you look at this news, it is clear that the royal family is in crisis,” said NBC News royal commentator Daisy McAndrew on Friday.

“This not only is a crisis for a family, a family of human beings — a grandfather, a son, parents — but this is a crisis for the royal family as an institution.”

Back outside Buckingham Palace, after watching a group of riders on horseback make their way past, Sandra Martinez, 50, said she too wanted  to wish Kate well “and we hope her whole family are OK.”

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