Kate Middleton hospital stay mystery deepens

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If you search for photos of Natasha Archer, you will pretty much only find photos of her leaving. Discreetly exiting from a back door of St Mary’s Hospital’s Lindo Wing. Deplaning a private jet in Norway. Making her way down the stairs of an RAF flight in Canada.

Archer is the woman behind The Woman aka Kate the Princess of Wales, variously described as the royal’s personal assistant or her dresser or her stylist. Whatever title you might prefer, the fact is, it is Archer’s responsibility to ensure that the future Queen doesn’t go about the place in a pair of saggy Levi’s or her much-loved tennis whites.

On Monday, Archer was seen leaving the London Clinic, the same day that Kate was released, two weeks after the HRH underwent abdominal surgery.

And this massive Archer news – ‘Woman drives car shock’ – is pretty much the only development or new detail we have about Kate’s situation.

Oh yes, Kensington Palace put out a statement thanking hospital staff and with such stunning details as the fact that the princess is “making good progress”. But c’est tout. That’s it. Finito. What is crucially missing in all of this is the brief, carefully stage-managed bit of camera posing we have come to expect from Kate in moments such as this.

On four occasions since getting Diana, the late Princess of Wales’ Mintie-sized sapphire on her left, Kate has found herself wearing a hospital wristband. In 2012, she ended up in London’s King Edward VII hospital suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, an acute form of morning sickness which sounds like a nine-month long hangover that even a deep, deep bucket of hot chips cannot fix. Then, in 2013, 2015 and 2018 the princess gamely did the obligatory Lindo Wing snaps after the births of each of her children.

On each occasion, you would have to imagine that the gal was really not exactly feeling tickety-boo, by turns, nauseous, a bit banged up, and experiencing the hormonal deluge that follows labour. Yet each time Kate channelled the spirit of stout, dutiful Queens past, put on a nice frock and very, very briefly smiled for the press before the blessed relief of going home.

Royalty and the theatre have a lot in common – the show must go on.

Except this time.

This week, the royal show in London has come to a grinding halt with Kensington Palace having winkled the princess out of the Clinic and back to the Waleses’ Adelaide Cottage without a single snapper getting even one blurry frame of blob-shaped Kate in a back seat.

It’s a logistical feat that is MI5-worthy, but what concerns you and I here is what this subterfuge actually means. (Side note: Should someone think about putting Palace staff in charge of national security? They can get stealthy sh*t done, clearly.)

The question you have to ask yourself is, why no piccie? Why didn’t we see Kate briefly waving at a hand-picked photographer? With such a shot, public anxieties would be allayed and some cheery front pages praising her pluckiness would spring forth. Bish, bosh, bash.

Instead the Princess of Wales would seem to have been spirited out some back door like a Russian defector being extracted from a safe house.

Contrast this situation with King Charles who has also now left the London Clinic today after undergoing a procedure for an enlarged prostate.

Throughout the three days His Majesty spent there, on five occasions his wife Queen Camila turned up to see him bearing a new Sudoku and fresh stocks of his favourite marmalade, I’m assuming, each time being shot by the press.

Then on Monday, UK time, the King checked out, with the Queen by his side, the couple happily waving and smiling for the cameras. Watching two 70-somethings cover the short distance from a front door to a waiting electric Audi is hardly the most engrossing photo but, to paraphrase the Clinton doctrine, it’s the symbolism stupid.

The obvious message: The King is just fine and dandy and going home to put on his Goonies PJs, to catch up on recent episodes of Country File that Camilla has recorded for him on VHS while he recuperates. Might he be enjoying a tray in bed for dinner, even as we speak? A coddled egg? Some toast soldiers cut using a military ruler? I’d like to think so.

However, the absence of a similar Kate shot leaves something of a void. A noticeable one that departs from the princess’ previous handling of medical moments.

One interpretation of events was put forward by Sky News UK’s longtime royal reporter Rhiannon Mills: “She is one of the most photographed women in the world and would not, like the rest of us, want to be seen to be looking particularly under the weather.”

No one wants the world to see them looking baggy-eyed, peaky or downright poorly but let’s imagine that such a photo did come out. I personally don’t think it would be all that bad, a nice bit of humanising of a woman who generally exudes a certain disconcerting degree of perfection.

However, it would seem that Team Wales is sensitive to anything that might alter or affect the prevailing image of her as beaming, poised and generally looking like a figure created by Disney in a quiet moment.

So much – if not, pretty much everything for the Crown Inc. – now rests on Kate and nothing, not even a shot of her in her trackies looking a bit peaky can be allowed out if it might impact that.

What a way to live.

Ultimately, the prince and princess and their people have pulled off the near-impossible, given that “cameras [were] literally covering every single entrance and exit,” per Mills.

The couple will, according to her, “delighted that they have managed to get the Princess of Wales home to rest without being captured by all of the cameras.”

So now, Kate’s now back with her family, hopefully lolling on a sofa, Charles has checked in to make sure she too has Goonies jammies for her convalescence and William, doing Dad duty, is busy in the kitchen making spag bol while a footman looks on in quiet horror. What a time to be alive.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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