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It all started with whispers across dinner party tables and at shoot lunches towards the end of last year.
Had you heard about Rose Hanbury?
If you hadn’t, you certainly have by now, as stories about Hanbury, a retired model who is said to be a former girlfriend of Prince William, were all over the British newspapers this weekend.
According to a story in the Sun this weekend, Kate and Rose—correctly known as the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (it’s pronounced Chumley, in case you happen to find yourself locked in conversation on the issue with a British peer)—have had a monster falling out, which has led to Kate telling William that she needed to be “phased out” of their aristocratic social set in Norfolk, known colloquially as the Turnip Toffs due to their vast holdings of arable farmland.
The Cholmondeleys live under four miles from William and Kate’s country abode of Anmer Hall, and have been closely connected to the royals for generations.
Her husband the Marquess, also known as film director David Rocksavage, inherited an estate worth over £100m and the title of Lord Great Chamberlain, in which guise he plays a symbolic role at the opening of Parliament.
They have twin boys, Alexander, Earl of Rocksavage, and Oliver, Lord Cholmondeley (who have previously been playmates of Prince George), and a daughter, Lady Iris.
The trouble is, nobody could quite seem to explain, in print at least, exactly what the origin of this allegedly volcanic disagreement actually was.
Even the writer who first set the cat among the pigeons, Richard Eden, was remarkably coy in a Daily Mail diary item published last week, in which he said that sources were telling him Kate “seems to see Rose as a rival,” for the title of “Queen Bee” of the Turnip Toffs.
The Sun went a little further this Saturday, quoting a source saying that it was “well known that Kate and Rose have had a terrible falling out. They used to be close, but that is not the case any more… things are tense between them. No one understands quite how things have come to this…Over the years, Rose and Kate’s lives have been entwined in many ways.”
The story added that Kate was urging William to “phase her out.”
On Sunday, the Mail wrote that “speculation about a serious rift between Kate and the Marchioness” had intensified, and dispatched reporters to question Hanbury’s parents (they gave no comment) and to buzz, fruitlessly, on the intercom at the Cholmondeley’s home, Houghton Hall, one of the country’s finest Palladian houses.
On Sunday evening, there was a fresh contribution from the Mail, as the writer Richard Kay, pulled off the neat rick of apparently attempting to put the matter to bed as ‘scuttlebut’ while stirring up a whole new hornet’s nest of controversy.
Kay said that “extraordinary rumours” had “engulfed” Kate and William’s family, and that they were “threatening to disrupt their domestic tranquility.”
Kay added, “I am told the rumors of a falling out between these two attractive young women are false. I can also reveal both sides have considered legal action but, because none of the reports have been able to offer any evidence about what the so-called dispute is about, they have chosen to ignore it.”
At this point one could be forgiven for asking how and why Kate and Rose were contemplating suing people who had alleged they had a falling out, when the much more detailed stories about her alleged feud with Meghan have gone legally unchallenged.
Kensington Palace, when asked this very question, declined to comment. Sources, however, said the stories about Kate and Rose were “false.”
At least one society hostess has now banned the topic of Kate and Rose as a subject of conversation.
Whether the British press will be so restrained remains to be seen.