Who Is Rose Hanbury and Why Can’t Kate Middleton Escape Her?

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Attend Gala Dinner To Support East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ Nook Appeal
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Kate Middleton made her last public appearance on Christmas Day last year before disappearing from view for a “planned abdominal surgery” in January. Since then, all manner of conspiracy theories about the Princess of Wales’s whereabouts — and at least one doctored photo — have been whispered in the British tabloids and screamed, annoyingly, on TikTok. Where is Kate? Why did she disappear, really? Could it be because Prince William had an affair?

The events of the last few weeks prove that Kate will never, ever escape one of the silliest names in all of British nobility: the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chumley,” obviously). Born Rose Hanbury, this 40-year-old former model has been rumored to be William’s mistress for the last five years. Who is she, and why is everyone suddenly talking about her again? Let’s review.

The Sun starts a rumor

This story begins, like all the best royal rumors, with an oblique story in the British tabloids. In 2019, The Sun reported that Kate had fallen out with one of her closest friends, Rose Hanbury, for unknown reasons. Hanbury, who looks not unlike Kate herself, is married to David Rocksavage, 63, the Marquess of Cholmondeley. The couple lives in the storied Houghton Hall in Norfolk with their three children. Their home is just four miles down the road from Will and Kate’s country retreat Anmer Hall, and the couples reportedly socialize in an elite country circle in Norfolk called the “Turnip Toffs.” (I don’t have an explanation for how that nickname came to be.)

But, as The Sun reported, Kate allegedly decided to “phase out” Rose from the circle for mysterious reasons. “No one understands quite how things have come to this,” a source told the tabloid at the time, referring to Rose as Kate’s “rural rival.”

Royal sources were quick to quash the feud rumors. Royal-friendly reporter Richard Kay published a story in the Daily Mail soon after claiming that “I am told the rumors of a falling out between these two attractive young women are false. I can also reveal both sides have considered legal action but, because none of the reports have been able to offer any evidence about what the so-called dispute is about, they have chosen to ignore it.”

The “evidence,” if you could call it that, was later tweeted and deleted by British columnist Giles Coren. “Everyone knows about the affair, darling,” he wrote, shocking the British press and leading royal watchers to suspect he was talking about an affair between Will and Rose. Oh!

Then the palace reportedly did threaten legal action, and the British tabloids dropped the story completely. There was no follow-up reporting about a potential affair, no evidence presented (other than photos of Will and Kate and David and Rose attending the same fancy events), and certainly no comment from any of the involved parties. Now, if the Cholmondeleys come up, the British tabloids refer to them simply as friends of Will and Kate.

Photo: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

The Cholmondeleys take on key roles in King Charles’s coronation

Perhaps to prove to the British public that everything was just fine between the Waleses and the Cholmondeleys, King Charles put the marquess front and center at his coronation last May. The king named David as his “lord-in-waiting,” and he also tapped Lord Oliver, one of David and Rose’s 14-year-old twin sons, as an official page of honor for the ceremony. Oliver stood right alongside Will and Kate’s eldest son, Prince George, who was also a page of honor.

Tatler noted at the time that David had been made a permanent lord-in-waiting to King Charles, which means he will have a presence at all kinds of royal events and state functions throughout Charles’s reign.

Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Kate’s absence reignites the rumors

There is zero evidence that Kate’s retreat from public life has anything to do with Rose Hanbury. As we’ve discussed, these rumors have been around for several years now, and Kate has never addressed them, much less done anything about them. But thanks to an almost complete information vacuum created by the palace regarding Kate’s well-being and whereabouts, a whole new audience of people is just discovering the Cholmondeley rumors.

Amateur sleuths on TikTok have been spilling everything they know about Rose (not much), and Stephen Colbert joked about the rumors in one of his late-night monologues this week, bringing the name “Cholmondeley” to mainstream America. Colbert even made a crack about William having an illegitimate son, which has driven TikTokers to claim Lord Oliver is really the heir to the throne. Unfortunately for Oliver, even if that were true (it’s not), he wouldn’t be the heir: His twin brother, Alexander, the Earl of Rocksavage, is a few minutes older.

The palace has never commented on the rumors about Rose, and they definitely will not now — they won’t even provide the press with a recent, unmanipulated photo of the princess. Poor Kate is going to be hearing about the marchioness for the rest of her natural life.

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Who Is Rose Hanbury and Why Can’t Kate Middleton Escape Her?