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Catherine, Princess of Wales, Cancer Diagnosis Draws Londoners’ Sympathy

The morning after Britain finally got some answers about what had kept Catherine, Princess of Wales, away from public view — that she is receiving treatment for cancer — the handful of news cameras set up on Saturday outside Kensington Palace were the only suggestion that anything was amiss.

The sun shone as Londoners went out for their morning runs in the surrounding park, children biked under budding trees and tourists waited for the palace, where Catherine and her family live, to open the doors of its public areas to visitors.

As news of her illness filtered out after weeks of speculation and suspicion, many expressed their shock and their concern for a well-liked member of the British royal family who is in line to one day be queen. Many also seemed to want to throw a protective arm around a woman whose every move has been scrutinized in her marriage to Prince William.

“I just hope for the best for her,” said Helen Mercer, 68, who was reading a book on a bench near the palace.

Ms. Mercer, who was born in Canada but lives in London, said she had grown up with admiration for the royal family. Both of her parents are British, and she said that while her daughter had told her it was not “cool” to be a royalist, she had a fondness for the House of Windsor.

“They’ve always just sort of been there,” she said, but added that she felt the wild speculation about Catherine had been sickening. “I do wonder what all those people that hopped on that bandwagon are feeling now,” she said. “I hope they feel terrible.”

The palace had urged the public and the news media to respect Catherine’s privacy as she recovered from a major abdominal surgery in January. But as the days drew into weeks, the rumor mill swirled — with conspiracy theories growing deeper and wilder — about what was keeping such a prominent member of the royal family out of view.

In a video statement on Friday evening, Catherine, 42, announced that she had been diagnosed with cancer, but did not specify the type and said that her focus now would be on her recovery and her family.

“Your heart goes out to William,” Ms. Mercer said on Saturday. “With his father and his wife both being diagnosed with cancer, it’s just so hard.”

On Friday evening, others also lamented the spotlight Catherine had fallen under in recent weeks.

“She is still just a human,” Aaron Viera, 33, a lifelong Londoner, said as he shared a drink with friends outside the Goat Tavern, steps from Kensington Palace. “It’s just really sad that she has to go through this.”

One of the friends, Maryann, 35, posited that much of the recent frenzy around the princess had been driven by an American “obsession” with Britain’s royals, which had put a huge amount of international attention on her absence from public duties.

While the royals have long been fodder for Britain’s tabloid press, the family is also viewed as a part of the country’s identity, and many British papers have shown some level of restraint when it came to outright speculation about Catherine and the king’s recent health woes. But conspiracy theories and rumors swirled online, driven in part by an obsession with the family’s celebrity.

That speculation drew attention even in places where talk of the British royal family is not the norm. Christiane Lehmanh, 33, who was feeding the ducks at the pond in front of Kensington Palace with a friend on Saturday, said that even in Germany, where she is from, the princess’s health had been big news.

“I was devastated to hear that she was sick, and I wish her well,” Ms. Lehmanh said, describing how hearing that anyone so young was being treated for a serious illness was terrible. “But also, life goes on.”

Concern for Catherine’s well-being was the overwhelming sentiment as the news filtered out in alerts on smartphones, in clips of the video on social media and by word of mouth.

And many in London seemed to take a protective stance around the country’s future queen. Two older women who had just come from the theater on Friday evening said they thought the criticism of Catherine after it was revealed this month that she had altered a publicly released photo of herself and her three children had spun out of proportion.

In her announcement on Friday, Catherine also expressed empathy for those whose lives have been affected by cancer.

“For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope,” she said in the video address. “You are not alone.”

Her candor in her remarks about her own diagnosis had made her more relatable, many said.

“Everyone knows someone who’s gone through this or has someone in their family who has had cancer,” Ms. Mercer said. “So, yes, I think people can understand.”

Cancer specialists in Britain as well as charities that support people diagnosed with cancer and their families expressed their support for Catherine and reminded the public that her experience with the disease was one that played out every day in families across the country.

The Macmillan Cancer Support charity said on social media that it was “sending our best wishes to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.”

“We hear from people all over the country, every day going through the experience the Princess has described, and our thoughts are also with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and their children,” the charity said. “Many families will be sending solidarity to them.”

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