OPINION - Rachel Johnson: I wish I'd been right that it was PR gone wrong — but dignified Kate has the nation's sympathy

[object Object] ( Mark Harrison )
[object Object] ( Mark Harrison )

The unflinchingly brave and dignified message from the Princess of Wales was hard to watch, and must have been especially sobering for the millions around the world who have speculated so wildly about her absence from public view since Christmas Day.

Everything that has been said or written or posted online about Kate has been wrong. All the US talk show host gags, the jokes about Obama flying over to find her, the Kardashian Instagram posts, are not so funny now. They are, or should be, a matter of deep personal shame, a sentiment I share.

This is, I suggest, a lesson to us all, and one that I will take to heart very closely after I wrote a column for this paper only yesterday, picking apart the Palace’s poor press strategy when it came to the Princess of Wales. What terrible timing.

If only I’d been right in my analysis of the Mother’s Day photo gone wrong, and that odd video from the Windsor Farm Shop, my take on the so-called “Katespiracies” — that it was all simply a case of bad PR.

It wasn’t. Sitting on a bench in the spring sunshine in Windsor Great Park, in a video filmed on Wednesday, the Princess told us calmly and charmingly what she just had to tell her children.

It all makes sense now, the last three months, in the saddest and bravest of ways

She is in the early stages of chemotherapy, following the discovery of cancer in the post-operative stages of her abdominal surgery. She spoke of her joy in her work and the comfort of having William by her side, laying some of the more hurtful rumours gracefully to rest.

I found the most heart-breaking aspect of her note perfect, careful and compassionate message was the concern she felt not for herself, but for others: William, George, Charlotte, Louis, and all of us, too — “everyone whose lives have been affected by cancer.” That is the essence of public spirit. The King, undergoing cancer treatment himself, has spoken of his pride in her courage in speaking as she did. I can imagine his mother, the late Queen, nodding approvingly down at her from on high. She is made of the right stuff. That was extraordinary.

Of course the Wales kept their health news to themselves. Of course they would want to wait until the Easter holidays so they could process it together as a family. It all makes sense now, the last three months, in the saddest and bravest of ways.

First King Charles, now the Princess of Wales. These are difficult days for any family. The pressures on the Royal Family at the moment are without precedent.

I know Standard readers will join with me in wishing Kate a speedy and complete recovery and all the time, space, and privacy she needs.

Rachel Johnson is an Evening Standard contributing editor