Women Aren’t Conspiracy Theorist ‘Wine Moms’ for Wondering Where Kate Middleton Is

I'm offended by the idea that we're making something up; I know that the monarchy is bad for women.

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Women Aren’t Conspiracy Theorist ‘Wine Moms’ for Wondering Where Kate Middleton Is

I would say there’s something rotten in the state of England, but that’s been true for a long, long time. The stink currently emanating from across the ocean has some familiar notes, but still, it’s fresh. It’s different. For once, a princess isn’t in obvious distress. She is simply…missing.

For those of you who haven’t been obsessively following every headline and social media rumor, the Princess of Wales (AKA Kate Middleton) hasn’t been seen in public since Christmas. In mid-January, Kensington Palace issued a vague statement about abdominal surgery and a lengthy recovery period that would end after Easter. After a period of everyone moving on with their lives, people began to clock how unusual this was (especially as King Charles is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, which he’s at least been a bit more forthright about). Fast forward a few weeks, and the internet did what the internet does: As some people posit speculation anywhere from sober to unhinged, other people have taken it upon themselves to publish scolding pieces, positing that anyone who dares to call BS on the palace is either super rude, a weirdo, or a wacko conspiracy theorist akin to acolytes of Q. In particular, a piece by Helen Lewis in The Atlantic levels the charge that Kate Middleton “truthers” are nothing more than delusional, bored “wine moms.”

First, let me slow clap for the fresh and fun use of “mom” as a pejorative. I’m a mom who drinks wine and is deeply invested in this fiasco, so this does feel like a shot across my specific bow. But attributing all of the conversation to the nattering nabobs of Nebbiolo is disingenuous. From late night hosts to real news orgs, folks—with and without kids!— are curious. Some of them are even dads!

That curiosity is something that Lewis acknowledges in the piece. And it’s no mistake that much of the real inquiry is coming from America. As Lewis outlines, journalists in the U.K. tend to lay off the royals when the royals request it in order to preserve their place in the “royal rota.” That basically means that, if they play ball with the royals, media outlets maintain what Lewis calls “close” access to the fam. “Close,” like friends! I would say it’s more like “controlled” access but sure. Whatever the description, there’s massive incentive to obey the crown. 

So that’s why, when the princess (via the palace) asked for privacy, it was largely granted. Then, on U.K. Mother’s Day, Kensington Palace broke their self-imposed silence, putting out an image of Kate and her kids. As you’ve likely heard, that image turned out to be so doctored that news organizations around the world pulled it after publication. And that’s when the questions really began. 

Which is Lewis’s other problem: She says that the wine moms are using “the favored format of conspiracists everywhere: just asking questions.”

Well…yes. People are asking questions. When did curiosity—and even justified suspicion—become the realm solely of conspiracy theorists? The world has been presented with an incongruous account of a public figure’s almost total disappearance, a doctored photo as proof of life, all set against the backdrop of a monarchy whose most recent scandal involved a duchess being driven across the ocean by racism and an ignored mental health crisis. So yeah, we have questions.

I admit, there’s a thin line between conspiracy theorizing and demanding accountability (as thin as the line between public and private life for royals). And sure, those lines get blurry when the theories and questions are being posited by the internet at large. But whatever you might think about moms (ew!) who like wine (yum), I personally have a firm grasp on the difference between fact and fiction. Theorizing about Kate Middleton and Q is not the same, as Lewis claims, for one key reason: Kate Middleton is a real person and Q is not. (A more apt comparison might be if people were wondering whether or not Moana is dead.)

The entire debacle has prompted scores of frequently funny replies to the royal confusion. We’re all depressed and these jokes (which are by and large poking at a visibly failing, archaic patriarchal institution, not a woman’s health) are funny. This is my invitation to the joyless scolds out there to take a goddamn chill pill.

Most critically, once you move past the disingenuous classification of honest inquiry and jokes-interpreted-as-meaningful-discourse, at the core of the Kate Middleton conspiracy theories is a truth: The royal family is hiding something. Whether it’s a massive scandal or a family that can’t sit still for a picture, something is off.

As an American, I don’t really give a shit about the principles of it. It’s not my tax money paying for this absolutely bananas bunch to live in luxury in exchange for family photos. But the British public is bankrolling these people to maintain the world’s longest-standing parasocial relationship—and the writers who are positively horny to tell lowly internet users to back off are just playing their part in the pageant that is a constitutional monarchy.

But I am offended by these articles. I mean, first I’m offended at being called a wine mom—I drink it all, babe! But I’m also offended by the idea that we’re making something up. I know that the monarchy is bad for women. It was bad for Princess Diana, bad for Meghan Markle, and now there is at least room to speculate that it’s not going well for Kate Middleton. That’s what most of these Kate “truthers” are keying in on: This woman is controlled by a deeply weird, powerful body that is currently lying about (or at least obfuscating) the reality of her physical health and whereabouts. 

There are human beings underneath the titles, who should be afforded dignity and privacy when faced with health challenges. Of course. But they are also being used by the institution they’re a part of to deliver half-truths and fake images. How can we ask any other question than “why?”

In her piece, Helen Lewis invokes Occam’s razor so I will too. The simplest response to “why?” is: because the monarchy has been hiding the whole truth from the beginning. Maybe their motivations are good; maybe they are trying to protect the well-being of a mother and her kids. But more likely, the monarchy is doing what it does best, what it has always, always done: It is using individuals in whatever way it must in order to survive. The idea that this family is merely protecting its own—a woman, at that!—is so absurd that belongs in the bowels of Reddit along with other myths like Q returning as JFK Jr. to avenge his father.

I don’t have definitive answers, though of course I have my theories. I am, after all, a wine mom—one who has watched The Crown, read the books, taken European history, and seen the dynamics of countless marriages play out in my own life. Oh, I have my theories. And I do sincerely hope that whatever is happening, Kate Middleton the human and her children are OK. But I am going to drink up all the content and the wine, all of it. Just not the royal Kool-Aid. 

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