The Observer take on The Princess of Wales: calm and courage amid a family already beset by crises | Observer editorial

The video recording in which Catherine, Princess of Wales, revealed she is undergoing treatment for cancer will go down in history as a moving personal testament and a public profile of courage at a time of great challenge for the monarchy. Catherine’s demeanor was calm, her dress and appearance ordinary, her voice steady, although the tension behind her eyes was visible. But above all, it was Catherine’s courage that shone through as she described the “incredibly tough” two months she, her husband and children have endured since her illness, so shocking and unexpected, was first diagnosed.

All those people in Britain affected by cancer – the total is about 3 million, with approximately 1,000 new diagnoses every day – and family members and friends whose lives are turned upside down by the disease will identify closely with the sentiments Catherine expressed or hinted at. Fears about the future, current pain, the often distressing side effects of modern treatments, concerns about the impact on children: such thoughts assail and oppress the mind even as the body struggles. Catherine spoke vicariously for all who suffer.

This ability – to speak for and speak to all the less exalted, less heard and less fortunate β€œordinary” people of this country – is a quality that the monarchy, in its precarious, somewhat anachronistic national leadership role, desperately needs and often has missing. . It is essential for its continued relevance and popular support. Kate Middleton, the middle-class girl from the homelands whose surname smacked of the mundane, has occupied that treacherous common ground from the moment she and William married at Westminster Abbey in 2011.

Catherine’s positive, smiling personality, clear dedication to her role as a mother and lack of charisma and grace have helped make her the most popular younger royal since Princess Diana. Her normalizing presence has proven especially important as the royal family has faced a series of difficulties. In retrospect, the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 and the end of the Second Elizabethan Era led to a period of unrest. It has led to a cancer diagnosis for the late queen’s son and successor, King Charles III, to further shame for Prince Andrew and to damaging controversy over Prince Harry’s wayward behavior.

Catherine’s key role in keeping ‘the Firm’ running means that her future absence from public duties will be felt all the more deeply at Buckingham Palace for the foreseeable future. With the king also out of action – like Catherine, the type of cancer he is suffering from has not yet been revealed – and with two princes in self-imposed or forced exile, an already supposedly ‘downsized’ monarchy is beginning to look exhausted and overstretched. and vulnerable. Still, this is not the time for Republicans to reopen the debate over the country’s future. That must come in time. But not now.

At this time, Catherine and her family deserve and should receive the privacy, time, and personal space she has requested so that she can make a full recovery. Cancer charities have rightly praised her openness about her condition. Catherine has been commendably candid after weeks of unfair, sometimes malicious speculation on social media and the international press. We wish her the best of luck in the difficult weeks and months ahead.

Catherine became a fairytale princess – the girl with everything. And yet, as it turns out, she wasn’t living a charmed life after all. Her challenge is that of every woman and every man.

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