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Kate’s been the reliable face of a modern monarchy. Now she’s at the center of a media backlash

LONDON — She’s one of the most photographed women in the world. But attention on Kate, the Princess of Wales, hasn’t reached this level since she married Prince William in a fairy-tale wedding in 2011.

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An announcement from palace officials that Kate, 42, had unspecified abdominal surgery and would be out of sight for weeks triggered huge speculation and gossip about her health. But an admission from Kate that she altered an official family photo — one that’s supposed to reassure the public that she is doing well — made things even worse.

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It’s a rare misstep for the princess, who has hardly put a foot wrong in her journey from William’s shy “commoner” girlfriend to the glamorous young mother who, more than any royal since Princess Diana, boosted the popularity and appeal of the British monarchy worldwide.

Kate has enjoyed overwhelmingly positive coverage from the press in recent years, but her relationship with journalists hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

The princess is the oldest of three children brought up in a well-to-do neighborhood in Berkshire, west of London. The Middletons have no aristocratic background, and the British press often referred to Kate as a “commoner” marrying into royalty.

Kate attended the private girls’ school Marlborough College and then University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she met William around 2001. Friends and housemates at first, their relationship came to be in the public eye when they were pictured together on a skiing holiday in Switzerland in 2004.

Kate graduated in 2005 with a degree in art history and a budding relationship with the prince.

The pair’s relationship came under intense public scrutiny from the start.

In 2005, Kate’s lawyers asked newspaper editors to leave her alone, saying photographers were invading her private life. That didn’t stop media interest in her relationship with William, or unkind headlines calling her “Waity Katie” when the couple briefly split in 2007.

After wall-to-wall coverage of Kate and William’s April 2011 wedding, the couple retreated to a relatively quiet life away from the limelight in rural Wales for two years while William completed his military service.

But the royals’ tussle with the press again came to the fore in 2012, when William and Kate sued a French magazine for publishing photos of a topless Kate, snapped while the couple was holidaying at a private villa in southern France.

Media pressure on Kate largely eased when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018, and the tabloids’ critical eye turned to scrutinize the biracial American actress. The papers often depicted Meghan as the upstart newcomer to the royal institution, a contrast to reliable, staid Kate, now a mother to the future king and a darling of the front pages with her elegant outfits and photogenic smile.

Kate rarely revealed her thoughts in public, though in recent years she has grown in confidence as a public speaker and a champion of early education for young children. In 2021, she showed she had some talent as a performer, surprising the audience at a Christmas carol service with her piano playing.

Motherhood brought about a determination to forge a new, more controlled relationship with the media. In 2015, when Kate and William’s firstborn, Prince George, was just 2, the couple appealed to journalists to stop taking unofficial photos of him. They said they wanted their children to lead as “normal” a life as possible.

Since then, Kate and William have periodically released their own photos of their three children –- George, 10; Princess Charlotte, 8; and Prince Louis, 5 –- to mark important dates and milestones such as birthdays and Christmases.

In 2022, the family moved from Kensington Palace in central London to a cottage near Windsor Castle, further underlining their desire to raise their children in relative privacy.

That went well until January, when palace officials announced that Kate was hospitalized for abdominal surgery. They said she would not appear for public engagements until Easter.

Her decision to keep details private fueled a social media frenzy. The release of a photo to mark Mother’s Day in Britain, which was withdrawn Sunday by The Associated Press and other news agencies over concerns about digital alteration, only fanned more questions.

The fallout over the photo has, again, left Britain divided over their views of just how much privacy the royals are entitled to. Some see it as a blow to trust in the monarchy.

“Palace in a spin over extraordinary backlash,” the Daily Mirror proclaimed Tuesday. But The Sun chided: “Lay off Kate: Stop bullying over edited pic.”

Either way, the appetite for news about Kate remains ferocious.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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