Prince William Gave No Hint of Kate Middleton's Cancer Diagnosis at Recent Event: 'He Was Dealing with So Much' (Exclusive)

Tessy Ojo of the Diana Award tells PEOPLE the Prince of Wales was absorbing the positivity in the evening's celebration amid his personal struggles

<p>James Veysey/Shutterstock</p> Prince William

James Veysey/Shutterstock

Prince William

Prince William kept calm and carried on at a Diana Award charity event in London just a week before his wife Kate Middleton revealed her cancer diagnosis to the world.

Tessy Ojo, chief executive of the Diana Award, is one of several people who interacted with the Prince of Wales, 41, during his appearance on March 14. Ojo tells PEOPLE that William gave no indication of just how much he was grappling with, keeping focus on the night's honorees.

Learning Kate's cancer news today "makes [William's stoicism] even sadder, as it took place against the backdrop of all the conspiracy theories of the past few weeks," says Ojo. "It reinforces of the danger of the society we live in, where rumors get picked up and almost become a false reality."

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<p>Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty</p> Prince William talks with staffers at the Diana Award on March 14.

Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty

Prince William talks with staffers at the Diana Award on March 14.

Related: Prince William Shares What His Mother Princess Diana Taught Him as He Honors Young People in Her Name

That evening, the future monarch spent time with the group of Legacy Award recipients.

"He said that it was refreshing to hear all the amazing things the young people were doing. In the context now, knowing he was dealing with so much and that he was in a place where there was such positivity, it was refreshing," Ojo says. "In some sense, when you're dealing with such bad news, you need hope and positivity, and the event was all about that.

"Everyone needs hope," she continues, "and I know he had heaps of that on that evening. And hopefully, he took that home.”

When William didn't mention his wife, 42, while socializing at the event, many believed it was due to the timing — at the height of speculation following the Mother's Day photo controversy.

<p>The 2023 Diana Awards Ceremony/Youtube</p> Prince William 2023 Diana Awards

The 2023 Diana Awards Ceremony/Youtube

Prince William 2023 Diana Awards

After seeing the Princess of Wales share her health news, Ojo says, "My heart went out to her. It was a sad and emotional video.

"For her having to feel the pressure to explain everything and address this — it wasn’t just a statement. She had to address this, on video, in some sense. I can’t think about the courage and the strength she would have had to rustle up to make that happen."

Ojo continues, "I felt sad she had to do that. It was hard — you could tell from the video. It was sad, from a woman to another woman, amid the mental torture these past few weeks. I hope we give them the privacy for their children [that they requested] and allow them to be."

Ojo adds that she was relieved to hear the couple waited to share the news until their three children —  Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5 — had time away from school, tying it into what the Prince of Wales has learned through his work with the organization.

"He has worked on cyberbullying and really understands the power of the internet, which can be quite destructive, especially for young children. I know he has the tools to protect the children, particularly Prince George," she says. "They can lean in as a family without the external noise. She has a great family and I have no worries. Personally, I am sad that they have had to endure this ongoing social media conspiracy theory, knowing what they were battling internally.”

Ojo is hopeful the public will learn the harm of speculation in situations such as these after learning of Middleton's diagnosis.

“I would love for the public to learn from this and make people stop and think. We think that because they are public figures, we have every right to know the ins and outs of everything. I would hope this will teach us something as a public: that people should respect privacy and that people have private lives and that we don’t have to know everything."

Moving forward, Ojo is hopeful that the Waleses will be treated with "kindness."

"The least we can do is show kindness. I hope that we will learn but I doubt that we will, when you look at what they’ve been through the last couple of months. It has been awful."

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