Princess Catherine thanked us all for something none of us did.

If you have been shouting since Saturday about how we should all feel ashamed of ourselves now we know the Princess, a 42-year-old mother of three, has just started a course of chemotherapy, I respectfully ask: Well, what did you think was going to happen?

When we were sharing memes and laughing at American late night show hosts and red-penning inconsistencies in the most pored-over family portrait of all time, what did we actually imagine the truth might be? That Kate really was growing out a fringe, or sun-baking on a Martian beach?

No. The most likely outcome was always this one: That she was ill. 

Too ill to fulfil her side of the bargain we imagine we have with people this famous, this public, this privileged: We gave you the palaces, now you give us everything. Most of all, your insides. Your feelings and thoughts and secrets. The most intrusive of paparazzi lenses couldn’t actually give us what we craved, and what the staff at the London Clinic allegedly tried to steal — a look inside the Princess to decide if she was sick enough to dare to disappear.  

She was. 

And now here we are, in the familiar place of remembering that this two-dimensional figurehead is an actual person, suffering.

It’s familiar because we’ve been here before. Prince Harry wrote an entire book about it, outlining the unbearable, systemised, sanity-threatening intrusions that he, and then his mother and his wife, endured as members of the royal family.