In the 90’s, kids had fun trying to find Waldo in his ski cap and red and white striped shirt.” In 2024, the world has a new global phenomenon called “Where’s Kate Middleton?

Memes, late-night jokes, TikTok conspiracy theories, rumors of secret murders, clandestine affairs, and hundreds of hours have been spent determining the whereabouts of Catherine, the Princess of Wales. The sad reality is that a mom of three recovering from major surgery would have never become the subject of global scrutiny and ridicule if her team at Kensington Palace had bothered to do their due diligence.

It was never one misstep that led to the worldwide intrigue into Kate Middleton’s whereabouts, but a series of missteps that combined created a raging nightmare not seen since the demise of Prince William’s parents, King Charles and Princess Diana. So, what were those missteps?

Privacy is Understandable in Certain Circumstances: As Americans, we understand the need for privacy as it relates to our health and well-being – and it’s not surprising that Kate Middleton would want the same. However, her situation is different from yours or mine. She is the Princess of Wales and the future Queen of England. As a government figurehead who is funded by taxpayers, her expectation of privacy is, unfortunately, somewhat diminished.

We saw Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who sought to hide details about their children’s birth and godparents – and ultimately step back from royal duties as a result, undergo serious scrutiny about their expectation of privacy while living as a taxpayer-funded royal.

Here in America, there is a serious conversation about the health – both mental and physical – of Joe Biden and Donald Trump and their fitness to be president for four more years. We even expect our presidential candidates to release statements from doctors about their health and financial statements – including tax documents going back years. So why is understanding the health of the future Queen any different? To those in England, it’s not.

However, Kate Middleton lost the privacy war once King Charles became transparent with his health struggles. While I’m sure the announcement of his prostate treatment an hour after the Princess of Wales’s health announcement purposefully coincided to provide cover from prying questions, it ultimately was a mistake. The King, in his level of transparency – both with his prostate treatment and cancer diagnoses – negated any arguments those in the immediate line to the throne could make about medical privacy. As the King sets a precedent, there’s an expectation that those below him will follow.

The Picture That Launched A Thousand Inquiries: The second mistake made by Kensington Palace was the decision to release the Mother’s Day photo of Kate Middleton. By then, the questions about her whereabouts had already increased significantly, and as expected, any image released by the palace would be heavily scrutinized. While I don’t think anyone expects the Princess of Wales to fully understand the requirements of image distributors like Getty, AP, or AFP, someone on their team should have been aware. Furthermore, any image released by the office should have been heavily scrutinized and vetted internally before being released to the public. There’s nothing wrong with wanting photos to look nice or for the Royal Family to take those photos. It adds to the charm. However, failing to do your due diligence on images released to the world is wrong. This one misstep has further created a cloud of mistrust around Kensington Palace, forever revoking its status as a trusted source of information and creating a days-long cycle of bad press as news outlets comb through the last 12 years of photos released by the Royal Family.

Paparazzi Video Wasn’t Helpful: A newly released video of Kate Middleton shopping with her husband over the weekend may be a paparazzi video, but its release to the public was sanctioned by Kensington Palace. In their attempts to quiet the noise around the princess, the grainy footage does little to quell the rumors that Kate Middleton is not alright – with even a BBC reporter claiming that the woman in the video is NOT the Princess of Wales.

What has transpired over the last two months is indicative of a communications team that has become comfortable as the gatekeeper of its principles. That comfort came at a cost. More importantly, they haven’t adjusted to their elevated role as the gatekeeper of the future King and Queen of England. No longer are they part of a family led by a beloved Monarch who reigned with unabashed support for 70 years and a larger working family that took the pressure off their station; they are the family and its future.

If the folks at Kensington Palace come across this and come away with one piece of advice, it’s this: Playing Politics is Key, Even if You’re not “Political.”

Part of Prince William and Princess Catherine’s role as the next King and Queen of England is to justify their existence and the roles they play for the country at large. Part of that means playing the game to satisfy the public’s needs, keep them engaged, and more importantly, keep them supportive of the roles the Royal Family plays in their lives and economy – especially in its slimmed-down function. Despite their role being largely ceremonial, to maintain the presence of the monarchy, the only way they succeed is to play the political game. I can promise you the last two months would not have occurred in the manner that they did if they kept the larger political landscape in mind.

So how does Kensington Palace right their wrongs and end the trend of bad headlines? They do what they should have done all along: sit Catherine down on a couch or chair with a simple but beautiful background and be transparent. No grainy images, no Photoshop, and no more vague statements.

-Preya Samsundar