The photos only fueled the fire. After months of hiding following her surprise surgery, Princess Kate Middleton was pictured three times in one week in early March.

But rather than reassure her supporters, the two blurry shots of her riding in cars and one posed portrait with her kids — which she was quickly forced to admit she Photoshopped — coupled with Prince William’s abrupt withdrawal from a royal family memorial service in February and the palace’s cagey statements, “have sparked wild speculation,” says a source. “Everything from botched plastic surgery to the deployment of secret body doubles has been mentioned as the mystery surrounding her disappearance escalates.”

One theory, in particular, has taken hold. “There’s fear that William and Kate’s marriage is in crisis,” says the source. While the embattled Princess of Wales suffers through an extremely difficult recovery, new whispers of her husband’s cheating are circulating — all on the eve of the 13th anniversary of their fairy-tale wedding on April 29.

“Kate has gone so far as to take her ring off,” says the source. “It’s all anyone can talk about, and it has palace insiders openly pondering the unthinkable — that the marriage may be over.”

Reignited Scandal

At first, William was hailed for standing by his wife during her convalescence. “But suddenly everyone was wondering if Kate’s prolonged absence from the public eye was somehow related to Rose Hanbury,” the source says of the married Marchioness of Cholmondeley, who was first linked to William, 41, in 2019 in what was described as an “open secret” in British aristocratic circles. (William’s attorney denied the rumors, calling them “false and highly damaging.”)

“Of course they’ve been through all of this before, but Kate is at her most vulnerable right now, so it’s especially humiliating for her to have the talk of infidelity come back to haunt her.”

whats at stake if william kate divorce amid affair rumors

For years, the pair have mostly ignored the speculation. Because of her husband’s connection to the royals, Rose has continued to attend official events, including Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and King Charles’ coronation. And Kate, 42, even showed up at a music festival at Houghton Hall — the Cholmondeleys’ ancestral estate in Norfolk, England — last year.

“It seems like Kate has made an effort to signify that there was no truth to the rumors, but it obviously hasn’t helped,” says the source. “And at some point, enough is enough.”

Separation Anxiety

William’s mother certainly felt that way. Princess Diana, who famously pointed out, “There were three of us in this marriage,” looked the other way as Charles carried on with Camilla for more than 10 years until he and Di finally separated in 1992. William and Kate’s marriage has never been nearly as publicly fraught, but the sharpened scrutiny couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“Between Prince Andrew’s fall from grace and Charles’ battle with cancer,” says the source, “the royal family seems to be falling apart.” And while three of the queen’s four children have been through divorce, legal splits are relatively uncommon among heirs to the throne.

“Taking such a drastic step would be a historic action. They would probably need to discuss it with the king first, just out of protocol,” says the source. “And the royal family would take a major hit. Like Diana, Kate is their shining star, and the public most likely would be on her side.”

Kate has given her whole adult life to the Firm. “She and William have been together for nearly 25 years,” the source says of the onetime commoner, who was famously mocked as “Waity Katie” in the press because she dated William for 10 years on-and-off before he finally proposed. “Since then, she’s been a model princess and unfailingly loyal to the monarchy. But it’s possible they’ve fallen out of love, which can certainly happen to couples who get together when they’re young. People change.”

What’s at Stake

Whatever happens, Kate’s priority will always be her children. “If the worst happened, she’d make sure to protect them — and her title,” says the source, adding that by U.K. law, she would likely be entitled to half of William’s $100 million fortune. (He also profits from the $1.2 billion Duchy of Cornwall, though it technically belongs to the crown.)

Custody of George, 10, Charlotte, 8, and Louis, 5, would be tricky. “It would absolutely have to be shared because the children are heirs to the throne of England,” says the source. And judging by Diana’s experience, “Kate would be constantly watched and under the palace’s control.”

Still, divorce is the worst-case scenario. “The palace — and William — will do everything in their power to fight to keep this marriage together,” says the source. “The speculation alone has been a nightmare.”

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