To say that the personal lives of the British royal family have been riddled with WTF drama in recent years would be… a royal understatement.
It doesn’t even seem to matter whether the stories plastered all over news outlets are true or false — it appears as though we collectively can’t get enough of the House of Windsor, fabricated or not. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear anecdotes along the lines of King Charles’ latest outburst, another bombshell Prince Harry interview… or Prince William’s alleged mistress. (Not to mention Prince Andrew, of course.)
According to recent Google Trends, William is peaking the curiosity of many again, with “does Prince William have a mistress?” becoming a breakout search term. It’s been an on-again, off-again rumour — a thorn in the side for the heir to the throne — since April 2019, when, according to celeb gossip publication InTouch, it started circulating among the upper crust of British society (before eventually making its way online via an anonymous source close to the royal family — more on that in a minute).
On paper, it’s not an entirely shocking accusation — after all, royal history is rife with examples of extramarital affairs, most famously with the oft-married King Henry VIII. It’s not uncommon for a royal, especially an heir to the throne, to take on a mistress (or two or three).
However, what makes this particular rumour so surprising to royal watchers is that William has worked hard at maintaining a family-man public persona: hardworking son, loving father and doting husband. Unlike younger brother Harry — who, as we know, speaks more off-the-cuff and wears his heart on his sleeve — William strives to keep his private life… private.
So, does Prince William actually have a mistress? We’ll try to answer that question.
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Does Prince William have a mistress?
The short answer: we don’t actually know, but probably not? But also… maybe? The nagging persistence of the rumour is certainly interesting.
Allegations of an illicit affair between Prince William, 40, and longtime family friend Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, 39, first made the rounds in the tabloids in April 2019.
Royal fans have noted that this was around the same that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, was pregnant with her first child, Archie. In the 2022 Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan, Prince Harry opened up about the vastly different treatments he and William received when it came to the tabloids. “They [the royal family] were happy to lie to protect my brother,” he says in the doc. “They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
Granted, Harry doesn’t make specific mention of Hanbury here; however, fans of the Sussexes have pointed out that, around the time William’s affair was hitting the tabloids, the tides suddenly surged against Markle again. As Markle herself said in the documentary, she wasn’t so much “thrown to the wolves” as she was being “fed” to them.
Make what you will of that. I find it too vague to make any direct parallels, personally.
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William and wife, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, had plenty of support when the rumours first surfaced, including from royal reporters. At the time, the Daily Mail’s royal reporter Richard Kay felt compelled enough to issue the following statement: “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.”
However, the news reared it’s head once again in the summer of 2022 when a blind item was reportedly posted to celebrity/PR Instagram DeuxMoi.
It read: “This is so salacious I’m almost too shook to share with you (but will anyway). This British royal’s extramarital affair is an open secret in London and amongst the English aristo set, and is the talk of every party and desk. At a recent media party, I was told the real reason for the affair was the royal’s love of pegging, which the wife is far too old-fashioned to engage in. The wife doesn’t mind her and in fact prefers her husband getting his sexual needs fulfilled elsewhere, as long as things don’t become emotional, which was the case with the last woman.”
(Some of you may remember this ultimately kicked off the cheeky Twitter hashtag #PrinceOfPegging which made waves on social media and various news outlets. We won’t get into all that here, but it’s worth looking up, if you need a refresher. At the time, Rolling Stone reported that searches for “pegging” exploded on Google Trends by more than 400 per cent.)
As a result, much has been made off-and-on in media reports that there’s an ongoing “rural rivalry” (ha!) between Kate and Rose. It’s been alleged that the duchess even asked the heir to have Rose “phased out” of their inner circle.
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Who is Rose Hanbury?
So, who is this mysterious Rose? Turns out, she’s a mainstay in the same social circles that William and Kate travel in. She’s the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (pronounced “chumley” — I know. And you’re welcome) who, in 2009, married the much-older David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (there’s a 23-year age gap between them). The couple have three children together.
A former model and researcher for conservative MP Michael Gove, Hanbury has attended a plethora of significant royal family events, including William and Kate’s 2011 wedding and the late Prince Philip’s memorial service in 2021. Fun fact: Hanbury’s grandmother — Lady Elizabeth Lambert — was a bridesmaid at the late Queen Elizabeth’s 1947 nuptials.
Rose and her hubby live just a few miles from Anmer Hall, Will and Kate’s longtime country residence. The Cholmondeley’s live at Houghton Hall, a palatial home that makes Anmer look like a studio apartment. Houghton is open to the public for tours and Rose herself often posts photos to its official Instagram account. So, she’s savvy with social media.
Much has been made about her striking resemblance to Kate (honestly, I don’t see it?), leaving many to muse that, if nothing else, Will certainly “has a type.”
Related: 10 bizarre rules royal children absolutely have to to follow.
Our verdict on whether Prince William is having an affair
Although there’s no way to know for sure (wilder things have happened involving wealthy white men, after all), my guess is that the rumours are total BS.
It’s hard to believe that William — media-savvy, one-day-will-be-king Wills — would put his career on the line by making such a careless mistake. After all, an affair that becomes public knowledge didn’t work out so well for King Charles. Would William really be so sloppy as to follow in his father’s footsteps? When you’re in the public eye as much the royal family, there’s no way a secret like that doesn’t come out completely (look at the phone tapping and backstabbing that his mom, Princess Diana, had to endure).
The only way I could conceivably see this as being even remotely true is if he had Kate’s blessing to carry out an extramarital affair — for whatever reason. We may never know for certain, but something tells me this rumour won’t be going away any time soon.
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