The Palace Papers devoted a small section to the Rose Hanbury drama

It’s been a minute since we’ve had any kind of news or gossip about Prince William and Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Chomondeley. I tend to believe that the (alleged) affair has been over for a bit, and that’s likely one of the big reasons why William and Kate want to move out of Norfolk. Well, Tina Brown also heard those rumors and she devotes a few pages to the drama in The Palace Papers. In the chapter “Privacy and Prejudice,” there’s a section devoted to how lovely and normal the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are, especially when they’re away from it all in Norfolk. This was obviously written before Will and Kate decided to leave Norfolk (or at the very least, not visit Anmer Hall quite as often) and move to Windsor, which they’ve been desperate to do for the past year. The Norfolk talk effortlessly segues into the rumors of William’s affair with the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. Brown doesn’t think anything of those rumors. Or does she?

Cambridge loyalists will tell you that the couple is so used to being branded as the Duke and Duchess of Dull that they wear it as a proud moniker. But there is an assumption, because Kate is by temperament equable, that she’s also impervious to the cruelties of her public position. In March 2019, rumors were seeping into the press that there was a rift between the Duchess and her Houghton charity friend Lady Cholmondeley. The 34-year-old marchioness, a long-limber former model who looks not unlike Kate, might have been in the running to marry William in his bachelor days, but Rose Hanbury has the kind of who-gives-a-damn aristocratic flair that suggests that she – like Diana before her – would have found life as the consort to the heir to the throne a bourgeois bore.

As the wife of a peer, Rose is herself a pedigreed woman not easy to banish from the Cambridge social circles should Kate, as alleged, have wanted to do so. The Cholmondeleys… are coveted guests at some of the same shooted attended or hosted by the Cambridges…

Social feuds have never been the Duchess of Cambridge’s inclination. So what was behind this one? Speculation circulated at Norfolk dinner parties that William was paying Rose too much attention. Gossips suggested that after giving birth to her third child and suddenly outglammed by Meghan, Kate was not at the top of her glossy game, and looked under strain. Tell me any woman who wouldn’t feel demoralized opening a newspaper – even if it’s the Sun – to read a headline such as “Kate Middleton Has Gone from Fab to Drab in the Royal Style Stakes.” The phone lines from Anmer to Coach Carole at Bucklebury must have been burning up.

As Norfolk gossips persisted in touting the supposed rivalry as a face-off between a queen bee and a queen-to-be, the Cambridges believed it was all being spread by the older generation in Norfolk, whose own years of sub-rose activities made them assume most rumors were true. The two couples were so distressed by the talk of a fallout and marital trouble that Richard Kay of the Daily Mail leapt in to refute it. The well-sourced royal scribe affirmed to me that he strongly believes there was nothing there, a sentiment echoed in a legal warning reportedly sent to the press by William’s lawyers, making clear that the speculation was false.

[From The Palace Papers by Tina Brown]

“The two couples were so distressed by the talk of a fallout and marital trouble that Richard Kay of the Daily Mail leapt in to refute it.” I remember that Kay piece. I covered it here. Kay clearly got a call from William, who tried to blame the whole f–king thing on (you guessed it) Meghan. As in, Meghan started the rumors! Now the new cover story is that the gossip was circulated by older aristocrats who believed it to be true? And for whatever reason, William still has Kay vouching for him. Nevermind the fact that this whole mess was such an open secret that even Foreign Policy’s Deputy Editor James Palmer publicly noted that William has had deals in place with British editors for years, and that William struck bargains with editors, giving them leaks about Meghan in exchange for their silence on… other things.

All that being said, we do know that the affair rumors were widely circulating throughout aristo circles for months before the news broke in the Daily Mail and the Sun in 2019. I still believe that Rose was the one to leak it, as a way to put Kate in her place after Kate tried to cut her out of their social group.

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Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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