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Voices: Kate told us what she’s going through in an emotional and vulnerable address – now she deserves to be left alone

Voices: Kate told us what she’s going through in an emotional and vulnerable address – now she deserves to be left alone

There were moments in her video message when the Princess of Wales seemed especially vulnerable, her words almost catching in her throat. It was informal, it was personal – and brave.

“I am well” was the message – and she is recovering, “getting stronger”, from a cancer she didn’t realise she had when she was admitted for serious abdominal surgery in January. She won’t be back for some time, and she’s concentrating on getting better.

We don’t know what type of cancer she’s had, or how long the recovery will take. We don’t need to – she has as much a right to privacy as anyone – it is a universal human right, after all. For now, there is no longer any date placed on her return, and that should restrain the kind of fevered speculation that has raged in recent weeks.

It was as uncomplicated and revealing a message as the Mother’s Day photograph was distracting and controversial. This time she and those around her found the right balance between candour and seclusion that reflects her public role and her immediate status as someone undergoing chemotherapy.

It all leaves “The Firm”, as the late Prince Philip half-jokingly characterised the operation, rather unstable, understaffed and overstretched. There is, and can only really be, one “working royal” in terms of constitutional significance, which is the sovereign, who has the role of symbolic head of the nation and the Commonwealth.

The rest have nothing formally to do with the political or diplomatic life of the nation. Nonetheless, the King’s family do have to undertake ceremonial duties on his behalf, and work across a vast range of patronages, honorary military positions, visits and charitable activities. It keeps them busy, at any rate, and the rise in celebrity culture in recent times has added an even more significant dimension, which is 24/7 media attention and, most recently, periodic outbreaks of some bizarre conspiracy theories. With the release of the video, and the consequent national “huge shock”, those nasty rumours should subside.

But The Firm has lost a significant proportion of its “executives” in recent years. Even before the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth, Harry and Meghan had gone into exile, Prince Andrew had been disgraced, with his daughters kept away from most working duties.

After the accession of King Charles came the disclosure about his cancer, and now the Princess of Wales’s illness. It is a simple matter of fact that Queen Camilla is 76 and the King turned 75 last November. The heads of the other branches of the family – the Kents and the Gloucesters – are also getting on in years, and are much less closely related to the monarch and too obscure to the public to take up the slack.

Princess Anne (73) and Prince Edward (60) and his wife, Sophie, have had to take more on. It seems a long time since all the talk was of a smaller group of working royals.

Such challenges aside, the future of the monarchy should not be in doubt. The princess showed that she understands the need to carry the public with her, even as she has been unfairly treated in some quarters.

From the troubled times experienced after the death of Diana, to the disastrous Newsnight interview given by the Duke of York, to the deeply damaging revelations emanating from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – this ancient institution has managed to survive.

As with the abdication crisis in 1936, it has held its nerve, adapted, reformed, rebuilt and regained the confidence of a divided public. Without that support, hereditary traditions such as the British monarchy cannot continue in the modern age.

As Elizabeth II pointed out with admirable humility at a dinner for her golden wedding in 1997, when Tony Blair was prime minister, and shortly after a national revolt following the death of Diana: “I know that, despite the huge constitutional difference between a hereditary monarchy and an elected government, in reality the gulf is not so wide. They are complementary institutions, each with its own role to play. And each, in its different way, exists only with the support and consent of the people. That consent, or the lack of it, is expressed for you, prime minister, through the ballot box. It is a tough, even brutal, system, but at least the message is a clear one for all to read.”

For now, that consent is secure and palpable. The future task of nurturing that public consent and maintaining that link with the public is obviously increasingly in the hands of the younger generation, and Kate has shown just how safe those hands are. Now, she deserves to be left alone.