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Did William Cheat on Kate With Rose Hanbury?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, June 22, 2016

Many of you have asked me to write about the rumor that Prince William cheated on Kate with the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (obligatory pronunciation guide: Chumley), aka Rose Hanbury. I have hesitated for a long time, because I subtly polled my Instagram followers several weeks ago and only a little over 50% knew about the rumor. I didn’t want to perpetuate the story if it was contained.

Sadly, last weekend, I was in line at a grocery store and saw that InTouch had featured this rumor on its front cover. InTouch is famous for its ludicrous headlines, including multiple front covers breaking news that is patently false, for example the magazine often runs false pregnancy reports about Kate and it has photo-shopped pictures to make her look anorexic. There is no credibility to the InTouch story, but it did serve to spread the rumor stateside. Last Wednesday morning, I poked around and I saw the story had spread to a bunch of online outlets, including Vanity Fair, Town & Country, The Daily Beast, Slate, and more. With the explosion of online outlets spreading the rumor, the requests I was getting via PM shot up, too. Now that the rumor has jumped across the pond and is spreading throughout the web, it is time to jump in and set out some facts.

This all began with a report in the Sun in which the paper claimed that Kate and Rose had a falling out that is the talk of Norfolk, and that Kate told William to “phase her [Rose] out” of their social circle. Then, Giles Coren claimed on Twitter that an affair between William and Rose was an open secret in Norfolk, which lit the tinder. I have a few comments about these two sources, but let’s just start with what we have here, for the moment. 

The first two questions to ask are, (1) do the rumors match what we can observe ourselves and what seems to makes sense generally, and (2) what is the nature of the rumor—does it have indicators that suggest it started with a solid source?

First, what can we see? Sometimes what we can observe ourselves matches the story, for example, when there were rumors that there was tension between William and Harry, everyone could observe there was a coolness between them when they interacted publicly, and it made sense that there might be tension because of their diverging roles within the hierarchy of their family, and/or the tensions that were arising between their wives. Logically, it clicked. Plus, the Palace was leaking like a sieve with multiple stories about the burgeoning split, which is always an indicator that something is up (the real media doesn’t fabricate those leaks). So, those rumors seemed to match what we were observing as well as what we could just generally intuit about what the situation might be on the inside. The rumors had a ring of truth to them, and were ultimately proved to be true by multiple sources. 

With this allegation of an affair, there is dissonance between the rumor and what we can see through observation or what makes sense logically. William and Kate look more smitten with one another than ever and their chemistry is warm, natural, and intimate. Although they have never been a couple that has indulged in many public displays of affection, they are clearly in tune with one another on public engagements and their body language doesn’t even hint at the trauma of betrayal that infidelity would inflict on their relationship. Furthermore, the rumor doesn’t click with where they are in the course of their marriage. This is a strange time for William to stray. They are a happy young couple with few of life’s worries that usually put strains on the average marriage (e.g. money, health issues, thwarted professional ambition, etc), and they are in the midst of raising an absolutely beautiful family. An affair at this stage is strange. Although lust is not always logical, this timing is odd. 

William and Kate quietly holding hands at Princess Eugenie of York's October Wedding

What of the rumor itself? Not all rumors are created equal. Some rumors can suggest that there is a real, substantive story behind the rumor (the whole concept that ‘where there is smoke there is fire’), while others are of such a nature they actually argue against their own veracity. I would say that this rumor is the latter. No one who claims that William definitely cheated on Kate is willing to go on the record, and when pushed to provide even basic details, such as when and where this affair happened, can provide none. When a rumor has its origin in reality, usually (not always, but usually) there are some facts that go with the story. It is one thing to not want to go on the record, it is another to not really have any details about the story at all. I would be quite worried if this rumor was wide spread and sources could independently sketch out reasonably similar facts. But, if all the people who are certain there was an affair cannot provide even basic stats about it, that makes it less likely that wherever it started, it started with truth. This makes the rumor a completely untethered allegation. While this is not a surefire method of ferreting out the truth, it can be very helpful in getting your feet when trying to think through a rumor.

If you read the media reports about the rumor with a critical eye, you will see that they are all really spin on nothing. Every story (from T&C, Slate, etc) is based on the other stories. Every story is a regurgitation of the original Sun story about a falling out, paired with InTouch’s baseless speculation, and whisked up with a compilation of all the other outlets who have also reported on the Sun story. So, to beat a dead horse, it is a completely dead circuit. There is no new reporting, no new reliable sources, nothing other than media outlets reporting what other media outlets have said and adding their preferred spin (e.g., Kate is neat and quiet and Rose is more exotic and exciting, what?). The number of outlets running headlines on this rumor might create the illusion of credibility, but it is a mirage. There is one story from the Sun which was just country gossip about two women falling out and InTouch fabricated sources out of thin air—sorry, InTouch, but let’s be real here. 

No reputable royal reporter has breathed a word of this story, either in their columns in their respective papers, or on their social accounts. This silence speaks. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation—that is, you can report truth if you can prove it, but you must be silent if you cannot (or be sued seven ways to Sunday). The fact that no real royal reporter has engaged with this rumor (it isn’t like they haven’t heard it) tells me they have no proof—or they’d be running the story. 

The Palace lawyers are on high alert, and well they should be. Stories like this cause irreparable harm. You can never make the subject of the slander whole again. Some of the more rabid Sussex supporters have latched onto these rumors and have been citing them as fact on social media and elsewhere. It is unlikely they will ever let it go. For the moment, this story cannot be proven to be true, but it cannot be proven to be false, either. Many of you will always wonder if there was an affair and William was just lucky enough to hush it up. Reputations are incredibly fragile things, and particularly in this day and age of lightning news, it is next to impossible to undo the damage of an ugly and serious insinuation. The party that is particularly harmed here is, of course, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. William is the future king, and if the rumor is false, as the years tick by, it will become a blip that fades from our memories. But, for many royal watchers, Rose will always be that country aristocrat with whom William cheated on Kate! So, it is terribly damaging to her. 

The obvious reality is that the rumor could be true. There are elements that are very perplexing to me, and not everything adds up. William may have cheated on Kate. But, I think we owe William, Kate, and Rose the benefit of the doubt. The idea that people should be assumed innocent until proven guilty is an admirable one, and has deep roots in our law and culture for a very good reason. The idea that people are innocent until proven guilty is a critical cornerstone of a just and free society. No one has the right to claim this story is true or to perpetuate it as fact, without proof.

Happy exteriors can certainly hide dark secrets, and people can put on an act. Time will tell the true tale, but what we have as it stands right now is a story no one is willing or able to corroborate, that has no meat on its bones, so to speak (no details that give it an indicia of reliability), and the facts that we can observe ourselves seem to be absolutely contrary to the rumor. Kate and William are in the midst of some of their most exciting and happy years—with sweet little children, a new baby, and their royal stars on the rise as they enjoy success from Kate’s brainchild Heads Together and as they step more firmly into their roles in the line of succession. William is a very smart man and appears dedicated to his family. Although they could be faking it, they have consistently displayed their delight with one another since their engagement. Their smiling exteriors are not a new development, in fact they seem more content and peacefully in love with each and their life than ever. For the moment, we are honor bound to accept that at value (and indeed I pray that it is the truth).