What we know about the Princess of Wales's recovery from surgery

The Princess of Wales has apologised after she edited the first image of her since her abdominal surgery that was pulled by multiple picture agencies.

The Princess of Wales greets well-wishers after attending the Christmas service at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham. December 25, 2023
The Princess of Wales was last spotted at the Christmas service at Sandringham before her abdominal surgery in January. (Alamy/PA)

This article is no longer being updated. You can read everything we know about the Princess of Wales’s cancer diagnosis here.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have refused to comment on the ongoing fallout from the photo controversy of amid reports Kate has found the last few weeks of unfounded social media speculation around her absence from public life "distressing"

The comment, made by a Kensington Palace aide to The Times, came after the palace released a photo of Kate – seemingly taken by the Prince of Wales at their home in Windsor - with her three children to coincide with Mother's Day in the UK. However, after intense scrutiny and online accusations that the image had been doctored, multiple photo agencies retracted the picture.

The backlash over the image came amid growing concern about Kate's whereabouts, with the doctored image only adding fuel to the numerous conspiracy theories circulating online. Kate later apologised for editing the image.

She wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C."

Some have pointed at Charlotte's cuff and Louis' jumper as areas that may have been doctored. (PA, Yahoo News UK)
Some have pointed at Charlotte's cuff and Louis's jumper as areas that may have been doctored. (Prince and Princess of Wales/ Yahoo News UK)

Here's a breakdown of what we know - and don't know - about the Princess of Wales's surgery and her recovery:

What we know

A statement released by Kensington Palace on 17 January revealed that Kate was admitted to a private London Clinic the previous day. She went on to stay in hospital for 12 days before returning to her Adelaide Cottage home in Windsor. The palace said she would not return to public duties until Easter.

Kate was last seen in public on Christmas Day. (PA)
Kate was last seen in public on Christmas Day. (PA)

We also know that further details of Kate’s medical information will remain private for the foreseeable future. Kensington Palace said her progress will only be shared “when there is significant new information”.

The last time Kate was seen in public was on Christmas Day. Since then she has remained out of the public eye. The day after her surgery was announced her husband was seen visiting her in hospital on 18 January.

On 26 January, King Charles underwent his procedure for an enlarged prostate in the same hospital where Kate was recovering. People magazine reported that the King visited her ahead of his own surgery. She was also visited by William.

Kensington Palace announced three days later that Kate had returned home “to continue her recovery”, adding she was making “good progress”. William temporarily stepped back from his royal role to care for her and their children, while Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, and siblings, Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, were also believed to be helping the family.

The Prince of Wales drives away from the London Clinic, in central London, where the Princess of Wales is recovering. (PA)
The Prince of Wales drives away from the London Clinic where the Princess of Wales had surgery. (PA)

On 7 February, Prince William returned to public life and he was pictured attending the Baftas on 18 February.

Kate and Charles's dual health scare is, however, an indication of how fragile Charles's approach to a "slimmed-down" monarchy is – particularly as Prince Harry and the Duke of York do not carry out official duties.

On 27 February, William pulled out of the service for the late King Constantine of Greece, despite being due to give a reading at the memorial. Charles also missed the service as he continued his treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer. Kensington Palace would not elaborate further but said the Princess of Wales continued to be doing well.

However, William's unexplained absence sparked a slew of unfounded social media rumours, prompting the Royal Family to brush off any speculation, subsequently telling the BBC: "Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess's recovery. We said we'd only be providing significant updates. That guidance stands."

London, UK. 18th Feb, 2024. Prince William, Prince Of Wales attending the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall in London, UK on February 18, 2024. Photo by Aurore Marechal/ABACAPRESS.COM Credit: Abaca Press/Alamy Live News
Prince William attended the Baftas on 18 February. (Abaca Press/Alamy Live News)

On 4 March, a US magazine published a long-range paparazzi image of Kate in the passenger seat of a car alongside her mother – the first time she had been pictured in public since Christmas Day.

The palace broke their silence two days later on various unfounded rumours about Kate’s health, that sprung up after William pulled out of the memorial. Referring to William, a spokesperson told People magazine: “His focus is on his work and not on social media.”

On 10 March, to coincide with Mother's Day in the UK, Kensington Palace released an image of Kate (the first since her surgery) and her three children, but later that day a number of international photo agencies pulled the picture from their services over concerns it had been "manipulated".

Kate issued a personal apology on 11 March, saying that she had edited the image before it was released.

Royal sources said Kate had made “minor adjustments” to the image, while Kensington Palace said it would not be reissuing the original unedited photograph of her and her children, George, Charlotte and Louis. That same day, , a Kensington Palace aide told the Times that the speculation about her ongoing "disappearance" from public life had been "distressing" to the couple.

Later that day, Kate was spotted leaving Windsor in a car with William, who was travelling to attend the Commonwealth Day service. The Princess of Wales did not attend the service, but was instead understood to have a private appointment.

What we don’t know

Beyond describing the surgery as "successful", the initial palace statement gave no indication as to the seriousness of the surgery and the impact it has had on Kate.

The fact the palace felt the need to comment on the speculation on social media shows at least tacit acknowledgement of the misinformation that has been spread online.

That speculation ramped up on social media since William pulled out of King Constantine's funeral and it wasn't helped when Kate's appearance at Trooping the Colour in June was put on the official army website, only to be promptly deleted hours later. It is still unclear what caused that confusion, though a lack of communication with the palace seems the most likely option.

The information void was further filled by Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, while appearing on Celebrity Big Brother at the start of March when he was asked by a fellow contestant: “Where’s Kate?”

He replied: “Because she doesn’t want to talk about… the last thing I’m going to do is… there’s a kind of code of etiquette. If it’s announced, I’ll give you an opinion. I spoke to her mum, my sister, she’s getting the best care in the world.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Kate, the Princess of Wales joins a family portage session at the Orchards Centre, Multi Agency Service Hub, to highlight the importance of supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities and their families, in Sittingbourne, Kent, Britain, September 27, 2023. Paul Grover/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
The Princess of Wales will not attend public engagements until at least April. (Reuters)

“And all the family’s done is put the wagons round and look after family first before anything else. They put a statement out and just said, ‘She’s taking some time to (recuperate) and will see you in Easter’.”

None of what Goldsmith told his fellow housemates can be confirmed.

While April is the earliest date she will be seen at a public event, it could be that she cancels more engagements beyond then. The Times reported on the day her surgery was made public that her diary has been cleared for “many months”.

And while Kensington Palace said the surgery was “planned”, we don’t know how long it had been planned - though it does likely mean the surgery was not an emergency procedure. According to the well-connected Royal Central website, the Palace reportedly told journalists that her condition was not cancerous.

Despite these suggestions, we don’t – and may never – have the details of what the operation was for, with the statement saying that Kate’s medical notes are private.

The silence that greeted claims her Mother's Day photo had been doctored places the palace under pressure, and it is difficult to know whether future updates about Kate's health will be trusted by the public.

There are also numerous online conspiracy theories circulating on Kate's whereabouts, adding to pressure on the palace to provide further information about Kate's wellbeing.