In 2019, Prince William found himself embroiled in a scandal that threatened to tarnish his reputation significantly. Accusations emerged suggesting an affair between William and Rose Hanbury, a close friend and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. Although these allegations lacked concrete evidence, their impact on William, his wife Kate Middleton, and their public image was profound, as outlined in Omid Scobie's book, "Endgame".
Scobie highlighted the persistent nature of rumors, noting, "Unfortunately, if a rumor's left to kind of do its own thing, it can run 20 laps around the world before you even think about how you want to address it." The failure of Kensington Palace to directly address these rumors meant they continued to circulate, potentially causing irreparable harm to William's image.
Kensington Palace reportedly went to great lengths to suppress these rumors, with Scobie revealing that press secretary Christian Jones was "desperate to stop [the rumor]" and made it his mission to do so. According to Scobie, the Palace was concerned that the headlines could "impact negatively on William's reputation."
The book details how the affair allegations became increasingly popular on social media platforms, frequently trending on Twitter. Scobie pointed out, "That's something that's incredibly damaging, I think, for William."
Scobie also suggested that William's camp may have tried to divert attention from these rumors by leaking stories about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. "It probably looks even worse, actually, that there was a kind of willingness to throw Harry under the bus simply to make these things disappear," he said.
The Palace's attempts to quell these rumors included swapping focus to stories about Harry and Meghan, with Scobie stating, "There was a nice stream of Harry and Meghan stuff coming in so [the editors] were happy." This shift suggests a calculated move to protect William's reputation by shifting media attention elsewhere.
Christian Jones reportedly attempted to get the Sun, the first outlet to inquire about the affair allegations, to stop investigating the story. This action is indicative of the lengths to which the Palace went to protect William's public image.
In his book, Scobie reflects on the widespread impact of these rumors, stating, "Anatomizing the rollout of what went on behind the scenes gives us a better understanding of how the fractures between William and Harry were hammered on and why we've reached this moment of no return."
William's legal team did take action in April 2019, with lawyers from Harbottle & Lewis telling British publications, "In addition to being false and highly damaging, the publication of false speculation in respect of our clients' private life also constitutes a breach of his privacy pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention to Human Rights."
The ongoing rumors, despite a lack of substantiation, highlight the fragility of public figures' reputations and the far-reaching implications of unaddressed speculation. This incident serves as a case study in the complex dynamics of public perception, privacy, and the media's role in shaping narratives about high-profile individuals.