Watch CBS News

U.K. authorities probe possible Princess Kate medical record breach as royals slog through photo scandal

Princess Kate and conspiracy theories
Video of Princess Kate emerges, but it's not quelling conspiracy theories 05:08

London — A video clip of Catherine, the Princess of Wales, shopping with her husband Prince William, emerged this week but has failed to quash speculation about Kate's health. Interest is so high, it would seem, that it may have led a London clinic worker to break the law in an effort to obtain Kate's personal medical information.

A British newspaper reported Wednesday that at least one person had tried to access Kate's medical records at the private, upmarket London Clinic, where she underwent unspecified abdominal surgery in January. 

A government watchdog agency, the Information Commissioner's Office, confirmed that it had "received a breach report" and was in the process of "assessing the information provided."

In a statement sent to CBS News, the London Clinic's CEO Al Russell said all of the facility's staff were "acutely aware of our individual, professional, ethical and legal duties with regards to patient confidentiality. We take enormous pride in the outstanding care and discretion we aim to deliver for all our patients that put their trust in us every day."

Russell said the London Clinic had "systems in place to monitor management of patient information and, in the case of any breach, all appropriate investigatory, regulatory and disciplinary steps will be taken," adding: "There is no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues."

British health minister Maria Caulfield told the Sky News television network that London police had "been asked to look at" whether any clinic staff members had, in fact, attempted to access Kate's private medical records.

Caulfield said in a separate interview with the LBC radio network that the information commissioner's office could also lead prosecutions, and added that there were "particularly hefty implications if you are looking at notes for medical records that you should not be looking at."

Kensington Palace said from the beginning that it would not be providing updates on Kate's recovery from her surgery, offering only that she's expected to return to her royal duties after Easter.

But after the palace said it would provide no updates, interest soared when the princess was shown in a British Mother's Day image with her three children. Several leading global photo agencies recalled the picture after noticing some inconsistencies.

That prompted the palace to release an apology, credited to Kate, who said that "like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing."

Manipulated royal photo draws global scrutiny 05:16

The acknowledgement led to scrutiny of other images presented to the public by Kate and William and, this week, a second one, initially shared by the royals in 2023, fell under suspicion. The image depicting a warm family moment with the late Queen Elizabeth II, surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, was said to have been snapped at the royals' Balmoral Castle retreat in Scotland, in August 2022.

But CBS News and many other outlets found discrepancies in that image, too, including misalignments on patterns in the late queen's tartan skirt and the sofa they were all sat on, and some black or blurry patches around some of the children's heads.

Getty Images added a note on the photo in its server, labelling it as "digitally enhance at source."

The Princess of Wales' father-in-law King Charles III is still largely out of the public eye as he undergoes cancer treatment, but the rest of the senior royals have tried to maintain business as usual. That includes Prince William, who visited a homeless project in the north of England on Tuesday.

On London's streets, meanwhile, most people who spoke to CBS News seemed to sympathize with Kate and her family's appeal for privacy.

"I think they need to leave her alone – I think her health is her own business," said Londoner Paul Hunt.

"I think she gets a lot of stick, and everyone should just leave her alone. If she's been poorly, then she's been poorly," said Sally Cannon as she made her way to work.

"We need to respect that she's a human being as well as part of the monarchy," said another resident, Michelle Hanafi. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.