Buckingham Palace has released news that the King has “a form of cancer” discovered during his recent operation. They claim to have done this “to prevent speculation”. This seems almost unbelievably naïve, since there is a complete absence of detail in the statement.
I know some of the more tabloid-type outlets were beginning to circulate rumours Palace staff were concerned about the King’s health, but most people would surely recognise that as the kind of uninformed gossip in which such outlets trade on a daily basis, as they claim to have intimate knowledge of goings on between members of the Royal Family, as if that’s anyone’s concern or even in any way interesting. Who cares about petty squabbles among people whose lives will have no impact on us and who simply exist to fulfil a constitutional function? Strip away that function and they, as individuals, have no significance, so why should their inter-relations have any relevance for us? It’s just pointless celebrity gossip.
As for preventing speculation, the way to do that is either to keep the whole thing private or to explain the full implications of the diagnosis. Anything in between can only attract curiosity and curiosity leads to speculation as nature abhors a vacuum. No announcement would leave the rumours as just rumours with no corroboration. Releasing full details would make speculation unnecessary. Releasing the information that there is something going on without saying what, however, must be guaranteed to ensure there will be a keen desire to know more. After all, cancer covers everything from some slow-growing skin conditions which almost never lead to serious consequences to aggressive tumours which kill within weeks. Not revealing where the King’s condition falls within that range can only provoke uncertainty and a degree of anxiety, and is surely guaranteed to fuel massive speculation in the absence of firm information.
It would seem Buckingham Palace has just caused itself a massive public-relations disaster, and if fuller information is not forthcoming we really should not have been told at all. This will harm the institution if it is not remedied quickly, for making the Palace look incompetent makes the monarchy it serves look incompetent.