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In Touch magazine has become the first mainstream outlet to publish a sensational rumor that has electrified British high society for almost a year: that Prince William may have had an affair with his aristocratic neighbor Rose Hanbury, also known as the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), while Kate Middleton was pregnant with their third child.
In Touch quotes a source saying that after hearing the rumors herself, Kate “immediately confronted” William, who “just laughed it off saying there was nothing to it.”
In Touch claims that despite William’s denials, Kate ordered William to stop socializing with the Cholmondeleys.
“Kate sees their friendship in an entirely different light now,” In Touch’s source says, adding that her trust in William has wavered.
“They come across as a perfect couple who can do no wrong,” an "insider’" tells In Touch. “But the reality is, most couples have their issues and William and Kate are no different.”
In Touch says there is no question of the couple splitting but says the scandal “has rocked the palace and their marriage.”
Kensington Palace would not comment on the record to The Daily Beast about the In Touch story, but courtiers said the story “was totally wrong and false,” and sought to pour cold water on In Touch’s credibility, saying it had previously published stories that “Obama was having an affair and Britney was having triplets.” (The Daily Beast was unable to find these specific stories online.)
The publication of the rumors by In Touch will doubtless be a matter of grave concern behind palace walls, as it represents the first serious breaching of a self-imposed wall of silence on the alleged affair by the mainstream media.
Some smaller online publications have published the allegations, and a prominent staff writer for U.K. paper of record The Times of London, Giles Coren, sent a tweet alleging the affair, which he swiftly deleted.
Coren declined to comment on his tweet or any response to it from the palace, although The Daily Beast understands that pressure was applied by the palace.
The Daily Beast further understands that at least one British publication has been served with legal warnings after publishing details of the rumors by the royals’ lawyers of choice, white shoe law firm Harbottle and Lewis.
One of the letters from Harbottle and Lewis states that “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 use of a legal letter by William as a future king is very much a move of last resort,” Duncan Larcombe, former royal editor of The Sun, told The Daily Beast, adding, “If the stories of Kate freezing Rose out are true, then whatever caused the falling out must have been very serious.
“While traditionally, the British royal family would not take specific legal action—the old saying was ‘never complain and never explain’—William and Harry are willing to do it in their own way.”
The Sun, Daily Mail, and Express have all alleged that there has been a terrible argument between the former friends but have been coy about stating the root cause of the disagreement.
The Sun reported on March 22 that Kate viewed Rose as a “rural rival” and had told William she must be “phased out” of their social set.
The Daily Mail had earlier posed the question, “Does Kate have a rural rival?”
Many British newspapers made it clear to insiders they had the alleged affair in mind with these stories alleging that Rose and Kate had “fallen out.”
A showbiz industry newsletter, Popbitch, tried to give more insight into the matter in an item dated March 28 that advised the stories were Fleet Street’s “way of hinting” that William and Rose were having an affair.
“It can sometimes feel as if you need a PhD in cryptography to make sense of tabloid reports about the Royals,” Popbitch said. “If you’ve been following the latest Kate Middleton hoo-hah but have been at a loss to understand what a ‘rural rivalry’ is, it’s Fleet Street’s way of hinting at the long-standing society rumor that Prince William has been caught” having an affair.
Popbitch did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by The Daily Beast. The palace said it would not comment on what action might be taken against any individual outlets.
Coren’s intervention into the story came when, in response to one of the Rose/Kate “feud” pieces, he tweeted, “Yes, it is an affair. I haven’t read the piece but I know about the affair. Everyone knows about the affair, darling.”
It was an extraordinary allegation for a prominent newspaper staff writer to make on Twitter and it was swiftly deleted.
The suggestion, hotly denied by the palace, that William was in some kind of relationship with another woman, has, however, become a widely traded piece of dinner party gossip at British society gatherings in recent months.
Unsubstantiated it may have been, but the gossip spread like wildfire in part because the Cholmondeleys are one of the grandest families in Britain.
Rose’s husband, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, is otherwise known as the film director and actor David Rocksavage. He is two decades older than his wife, a former model, and both delight in eschewing conventionality; they announced their engagement on June 23, 2009, married the next day, and their twin boys were born on October 12. They have since had another child, a girl.
David is said to have inherited lands and artworks worth more than $100 million, putting him among the richest handful of old money aristocrats in Britain.
On his father’s death, in 1990, when he was just 30, he also inherited the title Lord Great Chamberlain. The Lord Great Chamberlain is one of the six great officers of state and is required to be present in the House of Lords for the opening of Parliament.
A Marquess (and his wife, a Marchioness) is the fourth most senior rank in the British nobility (behind King/Queen, Prince/Princess, and Duke/Duchess).
Students of Eton and Harrow schools often curse the Cholmondeley name because David’s great-great-grandfather, in 1950, sponsored a handwriting competition between the two schools that continues to this day, and which all boys are forcefully encouraged to enter.
David and Rose live in Norfolk, at the Palladian fantasy that is Houghton Hall, just a few miles across the fields from William and Kate at Sandringham. The house was built for Britain’s first prime minister, Robert Walpole, one of David’s ancestors, and today has Henry Moore and James Turrell sculptures in the garden.
David’s mother, Lavinia, continued to live at the ancestral home of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire for 20 years after her husband’s death, where she was attended by a retinue of uniformed servants, clad in immaculate black and white outfits branded with the family crest. Lavinia died in 2015 at the age of 94.
It is not entirely surprising that the palace should be alarmed at a story that invites comparisons to Prince Charles’ adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles while he was married to Diana.
In former years, official policy was as far as possible to ignore all stories it regarded as untrue, but in recent years the young royals have been much more proactive and have pushed back harder against alleged invasion of privacy and fabulism.
Prince Harry took British newspaper the Star to the industry complaints body after it alleged he was having a relationship with Pippa Middleton and forced an apology from it, and Kate and William made good on legal threats after topless photos of Kate were published by a French magazine. The couple sued the publication, resulting in the pair being awarded $115,000 in damages.