William criticised for keeping Covid battle secret

The Duke of Cambridge has been criticised by anti-monarchy group for keeping Covid-19 diagnosis secret. Victoria Jones/PA Wire
The Duke of Cambridge has been criticised by anti-monarchy group for keeping Covid-19 diagnosis secret. Victoria Jones/PA Wire (PA Wire)
17:54pm, Mon 02 Nov 2020
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The Duke of Cambridge’s decision to keep his coronavirus diagnosis secret points towards a “condescending view of the public” and lacks leadership, an anti-monarchy group has suggested.

Graham Smith, chief executive officer of Republic, an organisation which campaigns for an elected head of state, said the country should have been told the details so it could come to its own conclusion about the future king’s health.

The news has only just emerged seven months later, with The Sun newspaper revealing the duke did not want to alarm the nation at a time when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seriously ill with Covid-19 and his father was also recovering from the virus.

William isolated at his Norfolk home after catching Covid-19. Jack Hill/The Times (PA Wire)

It is understood that William followed guidance on isolation and other measures when a person tests positive, and that he appears to have made a full recovery.

Mr Smith said: “Every other public official who has caught it has been honest and open about it, not least as a way of showing some kind of leadership and (leading) by example and taking necessary precautions.

“We don’t treat the public like children, we tell them the truth and you let the public decide what they’re going to be concerned about.”

He added: “People were concerned about Boris Johnson, but no one hid it, everyone was told what was going on and people were able to make their own judgments.

“It’s a rather condescending view of the public and a very inflated view of William’s importance to the country.”

Charles also contracted coronavirus, suffering mild symptoms. Eddie Mulholland/The Daily Telegraph (PA Wire)

Mr Johnson was treated in intensive care in a London hospital in April after contracting coronavirus, while William’s father, the Prince of Wales, went into isolation after catching the disease in March.

Downing Street declined to comment on whether Mr Johnson was aware that the duke had tested positive in April.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “These questions are a matter for the royal household.”

The Sun reported William told one observer at an engagement: “There were important things going on and I didn’t want to worry anyone.”

The duke, who carried on with telephone and online engagements, was treated by royal doctors as he isolated in Norfolk but that he was hit “pretty hard” by the virus and at one stage struggled to breathe, reported the tabloid newspaper.

William, pictured with Kate at a bakery, has recovered from coronavirus and returned to public duties. Justin Tallis/PA Wire (PA Wire)

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said William’s decision to keep his positive Covid-19 test a secret in April was “a retrograde step” in terms of transparency.

Mr Little suggested: “I think, with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been sensible once he was fully recovered to say ‘Well, look, I’ve had it, but I’m OK now’.

“We could have found out at the end of April rather than in November.

“It’s inevitable that these things get out in the end.”

He added: “It’s all about transparency these days and this is a retrograde step, I suppose.”

Royal author Penny Junor described the decision not to make William’s diagnosis public as “very odd”, saying it went against royal precedent.

William turned to video and telephone calls to carry out royal duties during lockdown. Jack Hill/The Times (PA Wire)

She also cited being told whenever Charles was injured while playing polo and when William suffered a depressed fracture to the forehead after he was accidentally hit on the head with a golf club at school in 1991.

Ms Junor added: “I would have thought William having coronavirus was also in the spirit of that precedent.

“We perhaps should have known because he’s not a private individual.”

Charles’s coronavirus battle and making this publicly known allowed him to share his experience with others also facing the disease, the author added.

“Prince Charles was able to speak with and be alongside people who had also had it,” she said.

“Instead of being a sort of precious royal who was wrapped up in cotton wool and kept away and immune to the diseases that the rest of the world gets, he had suffered.

“And I think it might have been helpful if we’d known that William had also had the virus.”

In his first public engagement after recovering from mild symptoms, Charles revealed that he lost his sense of taste and smell.

He spoke of his personal experience with Covid-19 when he met frontline NHS staff and key workers in person with the Duchess of Cornwall in June.

Kensington Palace declined to comment.

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