Where Is Kate Middleton? What We Know So Far

It’s turning into a mystery to rival the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or the D.B. Cooper hijacking. As Andy Cohen so eloquently put it on “Watch What Happens Live” on Tuesday night: “What the fuck is going on with Kate Middleton?”

Kate, whose official title is Catherine, Princess of Wales (previously she was the Duchess of Cambridge but moved up the ranks following Queen Elizabeth II’s death), was last seen in public in December. In January, Kensington Palace confirmed she’d undergone an unspecified “abdominal surgery.” By March, the princess — who is married to Prince William — had not been seen for almost three months. With little concrete information, rumors and conspiracy theories have flourished. An innocuous attempt to allay the public’s curiosity with a Mother’s Day photograph fanned the flames, quickly snowballing into an unmitigated disaster. So what is going on?

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Here, Variety takes you through what we know and don’t know about Kate’s mysterious absence.

Dec. 25: Kate’s Last Public Appearance

Kate last appeared in public on Christmas Day on her way to church on the royal Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. She was accompanied by her husband, Prince William, and their three young children. Dressed in a cobalt blue coat and jaunty hat, the princess looked in good health, giving no indication that she would soon find herself hospitalized just two weeks later.

Jan. 16: Kate Admitted to Hospital

Unbeknown to anyone outside the royals’ inner circle, Kate underwent “planned abdominal surgery” in a private hospital in London. Kensington Palace wouldn’t confirm the surgery until the following day.

Jan. 17: Two Royal Medical Procedures Revealed

In two separate statements, palace officials announced that Kate successfully underwent “abdominal surgery” the previous day and would remain in the hospital for up to two weeks before recovering at home. They declined to disclose any further details of the surgery but said she was “unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.”

In a separate communication, the Buckingham Palace press office revealed that King Charles was to undergo a medical exam the following week for an “enlarged prostate.”

Kate’s desire to keep the reasons for her surgery a secret — while understandable — contrasts with Charles’ openness about his prostate exam and leads to an explosion of rumors and conspiracy theories across the internet. These range from speculative, with online commentators suggesting an “abdominal surgery” could mean a hysterectomy or even a colostomy (requiring a colostomy bag), to ludicrous, with some people across the internet suggesting Kate had died.

Jan. 28: Spanish Anchor Claims Kate Was in a Coma

Spanish news anchor Concha Calleja claimed Kate was in an “induced coma” and needed life-saving intervention during a stint on the news show “Fiesta.” She added that Kate was first hospitalized on Dec. 28 — just days after her last public appearance — and a decision was made to operate. The Times of London reported that Kensington Palace strongly denied Calleja’s claims.

Jan. 29: Kate Is Discharged From Hospital

Kate returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery.

Feb. 6: King Charles Has Cancer

More bad news for the British royals, as it was revealed that King Charles had been diagnosed with cancer and would postpone his public duties to begin treatment immediately. Upon hearing about his father’s condition, Prince Harry immediately boarded a plane for London, where local papers reported he’d spent 30 minutes with Charles before returning to California. Although the type of cancer has not been confirmed, Buckingham Palace said it had been discovered during his “hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement.”

March 4: First Picture of Kate Post-Op Emerges

After two months out of the public eye, international tabloids including TMZ published a single paparazzi picture of Kate in the passenger seat alongside her mother as they drove through Windsor. It was not published by the U.K. press, who are cautious about running paparazzi shots of the royal family after they were blamed for Princess Diana’s death. The grainy image, which showed Kate with her neck covered up and large dark glasses, fanned the conspiracy theorists, some of whom claimed the person in the passenger seat was someone else, such as a body double or Kate’s look-alike sister Pippa.

March 6: Kate’s Uncle Gives a Tantalizing Clue

Adding to Kate’s woes, her rogue uncle Gary Goldsmith turned up as a contestant on “Celebrity Big Brother,” where fellow contestant and former “Love Island” winner Ekin-Su wasted no time in asking him “Where’s Kate?” Goldsmith stumbled over his response, saying Kate “doesn’t want to talk about that” and “there’s a kind of code of etiquette.” But he added cryptically: “If it’s announced, I’ll give you an opinion.” Royal watchers immediately wondered what “it” referred to, but Goldsmith gave no further clues, although he promised: “She’s getting the best care in the world… She’ll be back. Of course she will.”

March 10: Mother’s Day Photo Controversy

With speculation intensifying over Kate’s condition and whereabouts, the Kensington Palace X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram accounts — which function as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official social media — posted a photograph celebrating U.K. Mother’s Day. It featured Kate with her three children and was said to have been taken by William the previous week. The photo, which in accordance with tradition was subsequently passed to official news agencies for syndication, quickly spiraled into a royal scandal. After suspicious social media users spotted a number of discrepancies in the image, four photo agencies – AP, AFP, Reuters and PA – soon sent out a “kill notice” on the photo, accusing the royals of “digital manipulation.”

March 11: Kate’s Mea Culpa and Another Paparazzi Image

With the photo scandal gathering steam, threatening to overshadow even the Oscars, the royals published a statement in which Kate took responsibility for altering the image. “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” the statement, ostensibly from Kate, read. “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.”

That afternoon, another blurry paparazzi photograph of her emerges in the car with William, who is on the way to a royal engagement while Kate is said to be going to a “private appointment” in London. Her face is not visible in the picture which, this time, is published by both the British and international press.

March 13: Andy Cohen Asks What Everyone’s Thinking

During “Watch What Happens Live” on Tuesday night, host Andy Cohen asks British comedian John Oliver what everyone is thinking: “What the fuck is going on with Kate Middleton?”

“There is a non-zero chance she died 18 months ago,” Oliver replied. “They might be ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’-ing this situation. I’m not saying it happened, I’m saying it’s non-zero. Until proved otherwise, until we see her with a copy of today’s newspaper.”

Update: On March 22, Middleton confirmed she has undergone treatment for cancer in a health update. Read the princess’s statement below:

“I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you, personally, for all the wonderful messages of support and for your understanding whilst I have been recovering from surgery.

It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family, but I’ve had a fantastic medical team who have taken great care of me, for which I am so grateful.

In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful. However, tests after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy and I am now in the early stages of that treatment.

This of course came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.

As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But, most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK.

As I have said to them; I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body and spirits. Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance too. As is the love, support and kindness that has been shown by so many of you. It means so much to us both.

We hope that you will understand that as a family we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment. 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.

At this time, I am also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.”

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