Chairman's Desk

After weeks of mean-spirited speculation, Kate Middleton shows she has her priorities straight — and the humility of the late Queen

It’s said that revision sits at the very heart of great writing.

And right now, I feel every beat of that truism.

Let me be perfectly honest: I am madly rewriting this week’s column. I had written about the disappearance of Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, from the public eye, the firestorm of controversy that it created, and the public affairs lessons that could be drawn from the episode.

Now, I — along with the rest of the world — sit at my desk shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the Princess’ recent cancer diagnosis.

And all of a sudden, while those lessons still, for the most part, hold, each has been so clearly and powerfully superseded by others — by higher lessons about what truly matters in this life.

And that mother, wife and daughter — and yes, princess — explained to the public that she has “taken time.” Time to process the difficult news. Time to start her treatment. Time to tell her young children that their mother was going to be OK.

Time a raging conspiratorial news cycle could not and did not afford her.

There is still some confusion around her diagnosis and bewilderment around Kensington Palace’s initial response. There is still plenty of speculation; speculation that isn’t going to end anytime soon.

But here is what’s perfectly clear: Kate Middleton has authentically demonstrated that she is a wife, a mother and a daughter first, and a princess second.

And needless to say, she has got the order right.

The final words of Kate’s video message were to those who, like her, are battling cancer. Those powerful words reminded them that they are “not alone.”

I can tell you from the experience of battling a life-threatening illness of my own, how much those simple words can mean, how much hope they can inspire, the comfort they can provide.

Last year, in tribute to my friend Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s longest serving lieutenant-governor, I wrote that if the monarchy was going to survive in this modern era, it would not be because of its pageantry or history, but rather because it would be embodied by extraordinary people.

Those who served with as much humility as did our late Queen. Those who encourage us to never give up on our ideals. Who bring out our common humanity.

And so, while this diagnosis will take Kate away from her official duties, her message on Friday, her strength and perseverance, her humanity, is a service unto itself. The kind that transcends conspiracy or news cycle.

That kind that endures.

This article first appeared in Toronto Star on March 22, 2024.

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