Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images

Are Prince William & Kate Middleton Buying IG Followers? This Theory Says Maybe

For public figures, influencers, and really anyone with a platform, social media is a great way to spread your message and grow your audience. The British royal family knows this to be true. The two most popular royal couples — Prince William and Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — use Instagram to update millions of fans on their appearances, charity work, and personal news. But according to a new conspiracy theory based on New York Times reporting, there could be something sketchy going on behind the scenes. Are Prince William and Kate Middleton buying Instagram followers?

I know, I know… what? Hear this out. A Feb. 27 New York Times story dove into the growth and engagement statistics for both @KensingtonRoyal (Will and Kate) and @SussexRoyal (Harry and Meghan), and they found something pretty odd. When Harry and Meghan first launched @SussexRoyal back in April 2019, the account broke the record for the quickest accrual of one million followers. It took them only five hours and 45 minutes to get there (a record later surpassed by Jennifer Aniston, but I digress).

With that kind of growth, it seemed only natural that @SussexRoyal would soon surpass @KensingtonRoyal's follower count. The NYT predicted it should have happened within a month or two. Meghan and Harry are known for being social media savvy; she used to run a successful lifestyle blog before her royal life began. Plus, their Google search numbers were way higher than Will and Kate’s, accounting for 83% of the public interest between the two couples, according to NYT.

But months went by, and the accounts remained neck-and-neck. At the time of publication, @KensingtonRoyal and @SussexRoyal both have 11.3 million IG followers… the exact same number. Despite this, the NYT reports that Harry and Meghan’s Instagram posts get consistently higher engagement then Will and Kate's. And with all the news headlines the Sussexes have garnered lately (Baby Archie! Megxit!), it does seem like their follower numbers should spike accordingly.

PHIL HARRIS/AFP/Getty Images

This begs the question… are Will and Kate propping up their IG followers to stay on par with Harry and Meghan? After all, the Cambridges may very well be the future king and queen of the British Commonwealth. The image-conscious royal family might feel the need to maintain the hierarchy by ensuring Will and Kate remain the most “popular” of the two couples.

Representatives for the Cambridges and Sussexes denied to NYT that anything inauthentic was happening with the Instagram accounts. So it’s entirely possible that Will and Kate have the same number of real followers as Harry and Meghan, full stop. But it’s pretty bizarre that their follower counts are the exact same. What does it all mean?

Things are bound to get even more interesting now that Harry and Meghan have stepped back from royal life. Their @SussexRoyal brand will soon omit the word “royal" at the Queen’s behest, which means their IG account will probably see some major changes. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching closely for any clues about this supposed IG rivalry between Harry, Megs, Will, and Kate.