When and where could the Princess of Wales return to public life?

Kate's announcement that she has cancer means it is uncertain when she will to return to public duties

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Kate, Princess of Wales, visits the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and meets with some of the young people that the charity supports in Bath, England, Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Kin Cheung/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
The Princess of Wales has been absent from public life since undergoing surgery in January. (Reuters)

The question of when the Princess of Wales will return to public life has been front and centre since she underwent abdominal surgery in January.

But following Kate Middleton's announcement last month that she has cancer and is undergoing preventative chemotherapy, the answer to that question is more uncertain than ever.

It had initially been suggested Kate, 42 - who has not been seen on any official appearances since Christmas Day 2023 - would return to public life after Easter. But her announcement revealing she is undergoing cancer treatment included an emphasis on the fact she plans to focus on making a full recovery, which means it remains unknown when she will be back carrying out public duties.

In her video message, Kate said: “My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy and I look forward to being back when I am able, but for now I must focus on making a full recovery.”

It comes as the Prince of Wales, who has spent the past three-and-a-half weeks with Kate and their children during the Easter holidays, returns to public work on Thursday. The 41-year-old heir to the throne will visit Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, and then a youth centre in west London which benefits from the organisation’s regular deliveries.

William was seen taking eldest son Prince George to an Aston Villa football match last week – their first public outing since Kate’s announcement.

FILE - Britain's Prince William, left, and Britain's Kate, Princess of Wales, attend a ceremonial welcome for the President and the First Lady of the Republic of Korea at Horse Guards Parade in London, England on Nov. 21, 2023. Attention on Princess Kate has reached levels not seen since she married Prince William in a fairy-tale wedding in 2011. An admission from Kate that she altered an official family photo triggered a backlash. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP, File)
The Prince and Princess of Wales. (PA)

What the Palace has said

Up until the Princess of Wales's video message on 22 March, only a limited number of statements about Kate had been released following her admission to the London Clinic for surgery in January.

The palace's initial statement said she would be in hospital for up to 14 days before continuing her recovery at home.

The statement from Kensington Palace stated that “based on the current medical advice”, Kate would be “unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter”. Another statement was released about her return home.

In her announcement saying she is having treatment for cancer, the princess referred to her return to public duties but gave no timeline for when she will be back in public life. A Kensington Palace spokesman added that the “Princess will return to official duties when she is cleared to do so by her medical team. She is in good spirits and is focused on making a full recovery.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 22: A view of breaking news on television is announced that Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton is diagnosed with cancer and receive treatment in London, United Kingdom on March 22, 2024. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales revealed her condition in a video statement. (Getty Images)

A Palace spokesman added: “Their Royal Highnesses understand the interest this update will generate and are grateful for the public support they have received throughout this period. Kensington Palace will provide information, when the time is right, and the princess is able to restart work and her duties. In the meantime, we would ask that the family’s privacy is respected.”

A running commentary on Kate’s health is not expected as she will need the time, space and privacy to fully recover. It would be likely that Kensington Palace will only provide further updates on Kate’s plans to return to public events when the time is deemed appropriate.

Kate’s own views on whether she wants to attend events and if she feels able to, along with medical advice, would form part of the decision-making process. It should also be expected that any initial public events will not necessarily signal a return to a regular public schedule.

What events are coming up?

Any return to public life is likely to be later in the year.

There are two major official engagements that Kate could attend, the first being Trooping the Colour on 8 June. This major event previously sparked confusion when the army included Kate's name on its website as potentially attending but then later removed it, apparently because it did not seek approval from Kensington Palace before publishing the page.

Another event is Royal Ascot, which takes place on 18 June and is usually attended by senior royals. There is currently no mention of Kate’s future engagements on the official schedule, so it remains to be seen if she is ready to return to public duties by that time.

In the wake of Kate's announcement, royal expert Joe Little, editor of Majesty magazine, said public engagements were “clearly not on the cards for some time” for both Charles and Kate, adding the princess’s situation was “complicated” by her young family.

London, UK. June 17th, 2023. The Princess of Wales and Prince George travel along The Mall in a carriage at Trooping The Colour. Credit: Doug Peters/E
The Princess of Wales, pictured in June 2023, has not set a timeline for her return to public life and is taking time to focus on her recovery. (PA)

Little noted that the “time of British pomp and pageantry” in June was approaching with “all manner of high profile events” such as the Trooping the Colour and Royal Ascot.

While no engagements may be officially planned for Kate, a source previously told the Sunday Times that she and William are planning to release a birthday photo of their youngest son, Prince Louis, who turns six on 23 April. They will reportedly continue the tradition of releasing photographs marking their children's birthdays – despite the recent controversy over the editing of Kate's Mother’s Day image.

What events did Kate attend around this time last year?

On 20 April last year, the Prince and Princess of Wales both tried their hand at darts during their visit to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, with one fellow competitor praising Kate for her “very solid” throwing action.

During a visit to The Rectory bar, William and Kate chatted for more than half an hour with business owners and workers from the city’s creative industries sector, before taking to separate oches in the cellar bar.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Catherine, Princess of Wales during a visit to The Baby Bank on April 24, 2023 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales during a visit to The Baby Bank in April last year. (Getty Images)

On 24 April, Kate surprised volunteers when she visited a baby bank on her “doorstep” in Windsor on Monday. Kate visited the Baby Bank, a charity which has supported over 21,000 families across the region, and praised the “brilliant” work of volunteers as she helped them to pack donations.

On 28 April, William and Kate visited the Welsh village of Aberfan, the site of the 1966 disaster in which 144 people, including 116 children, were killed. They were led through the Aberfan Memorial Garden to pay their respects to those who died when a colliery spoil tip collapsed and sent tonnes of ash slurry onto the village below.

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