A timeline of Kate Middleton's absence from the public eye, from abdominal surgery to a cancer diagnosis

Kate Middelton
Jack Hill/ WPA Pool/Getty; BI
  • Kate Middleton announced she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy for cancer on Friday.

  • The announcement comes after the princess has been absent from the public eye since January.

  • In her announcement video, the princess requested privacy for her family.

On Friday, Kate Middleton revealed she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy for an unspecified type of cancer after months of speculation.

The Princess of Wales had a "planned abdominal surgery" in January, Kensington Palace previously announced, saying that she likely wouldn't return to public duty until after Easter.

As time passed, Kate's absence led conspiracy theories about the princess to run rampant online, some of which were bolstered after Kensington Palace released an edited photo of Kate and her children on March 10.

But Kate spoke directly to the public about her health on Friday, revealing her diagnosis and reiterating a request for privacy in a video shared on the Prince and Princess of Wales' social-media accounts.

Here's everything we know so far.

Kate Middleton made her most recent public appearance on Christmas Day.

The Prince and Princess of Wales walk on Christmas morning 2023 at Sandringham with their children.
The royal family on Christmas Day 2023.Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Kate joined the royal family for their annual walk from Sandringham in Norfolk, England, to attend a church service on Christmas Day.

The Princess of Wales walked with her children and husband to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in one of her signature coatdresses, much like she did in years past.

On January 17, Kensington Palace announced Kate was in the hospital for "a planned abdominal surgery."

Kensington Palace said in its statement that Kate would remain in the hospital, The London Clinic, for up to two weeks following the procedure.

"Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales was admitted to hospital yesterday for planned abdominal surgery," the statement read. "The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for ten to fourteen days, before returning home to continue her recovery. Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

Kensington Palace provided no additional information about what procedure Kate underwent, though the palace told the Associated Press the princess didn't have cancer.

The statement also said Kate hoped "her personal medical information remains private" to help provide her children with "normality."

"Kensington Palace will, therefore, only provide updates on Her Royal Highness' progress when there is significant new information to share," the statement went on to say.

Prince William was photographed visiting Kate at the hospital the following day.

Kensington Palace said on January 29 that Kate had returned to Windsor Castle.

Kate Middleton walks in a red coat dress.
Kate Middleton in November.Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

"The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery," the statement shared on Instagram said. "She is making good progress."

William and Kate went on to thank the staff at The London Clinic in the statement, as well as those who sent them well wishes.

The same day, Buckingham Palace announced King Charles was returning home after having a procedure for a benign prostate enlargement.

Buckingham Palace announced on February 5 that King Charles has cancer.

King Charles III during the state tour of France in September 2023.
King Charles III during the state tour of France in September 2023.Samir Hussein - Handout/Getty Images

Buckingham Palace said in a statement that "a separate issue of concern was noted" during the king's prostate procedure, and additional testing disclosed he has cancer. The palace didn't disclose what form of cancer he was diagnosed with, though they said it wasn't prostate cancer.

The statement also said that the king "commenced a schedule of regular treatments" and that although he would still be working from home, he would "postpone public-facing duties" per medical advice.

The palace didn't specify how long the king would forgo public-facing work.

"His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer," the statement also said.

Prince William returned to public duty on February 7.

Prince William smiles with his mouth closed.
Prince William in March 2023.Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

William paused his royal engagements amid Kate's surgery and recovery, returning to work on February 7 for an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.

The same day, he attended a gala raising money for the London Air Ambulance, and he thanked the public for their messages of support for Kate, Town & Country reported.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you, also, for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days," he said, adding that "it means a great deal to us all."

He has attended a handful of public events since. The public was predicted to look to William in Charles and Kate's absences, as he represents the monarchy's future as heir to the throne.

"It's an opportunity for him to communicate on behalf of the royal family," Eric Schiffer, the chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, said.

In addition, the public generally responds to younger royals more favorably. Without Kate, as well as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, William's youth could be a boon for the monarchy, as Kristen Meizner, a royal watcher, told BI.

"They are most focused on the royals when they are of courtship age, getting married, having babies, that kind of thing," she said. "They're not necessarily considered as dazzling or as exciting to the public when they're 60 or 70 or whatnot."

Kate was reported on February 9 to have traveled to Norfolk to continue her recovery.

Kate Middleton looks down in a purple suit.
Kate Middleton in 2023.Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

On February 9, the Daily Mail reported that Kate had joined her family at their home in Sandringham, Anmer Hall, for her children's half-term holiday.

The outlet also reported that her recovery was going well at the time.

Kate wasn't photographed during her trip from Windsor to Sandringham.

King Charles was photographed a few times throughout February, while Kate remained unseen.

King Charles and Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace on February 21, 2024.
King Charles and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace on February 21.ONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Although he isn't taking on public-facing duties, King Charles has still been photographed a few times since his cancer diagnosis and the beginning of his treatment.

On February 11, he and Queen Camilla were spotted going to church in Sandringham, and he was photographed meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on February 21 at Buckingham Palace.

Kate, on the other hand, remained absent, as Kensington Palace released no photos or videos of her.

William released a rare solo statement on February 20.

Typically, William and Kate have released statements as a pair since they got married.

But on February 20, Kensington Palace released a statement on only William's behalf regarding the conflict in Gaza, in which he said he remained "deeply concerned about the human cost of the conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas terrorist attack on 7 October."

"I, like so many others, want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible," the statement said. "There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza."

William also said he continued "to cling to the hope that a brighter future can be found, and I refuse to give up on that."

In addition to speaking for only William, the statement had a "W" seal at the top rather than the crown featured on messages from the Prince and Princess of Wales as a unit.

William missed a service of thanksgiving on February 27 because of an unnamed personal matter.

Prince William sits at a table with his hands clasped.
Prince William didn't attend his godfather's service of thanksgiving. Kin Cheung - WPA Pool/Getty Images

On February 27, members of the royal family attended a service of thanksgiving for King Constantine of Greece, King Charles' second cousin and close companion. He was one of William's godfathers.

William was set to attend the event alongside Queen Camilla and other family members but missed the service because of a personal matter, Kensington Palace told Business Insider.

A palace representative also told BI that Kate was doing well, but they didn't elaborate on what caused William to miss the event.

Following his absence, chatter about Kate's prolonged absence from the public eye erupted on social media, with users speculating about why she hasn't been seen in months. The princess was trending on X, and thousands of people posted about her on TikTok. "Kate Middleton" was also sixth on Google's list of trending search terms on February 27, highlighting how high public interest got in her absence.

Kensington Palace reiterated that Kate was "doing well" as William returned to public duty on February 29.

Prince William speaks to Holocaust survivor Renee Salt at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue on February 29, 2024.
Prince William speaking to a Holocaust survivor, Renee Salt, at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue on Thursday.Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

On February 29, Prince William resumed public duty, visiting the Western Marble Arch Synagogue to learn about the Holocaust Educational Trust, as Kensington Palace shared on Instagram.

He sat down with a Holocaust survivor, Renee Salt. Rebecca English, a royal editor for the Daily Mail, reported on X that during the conversation, he spoke on behalf of himself and Kate.

"Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism," English quoted the prince as saying to Salt. "That's why I'm here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen, and we can't let that go."

Kensington Palace also reiterated that Kate was "doing well" in a statement sent to BI on February 29.

"We gave guidance two days ago that The Princess of Wales continues to be doing well," the statement said. "As we have been clear since our initial statement in January, we shall not be providing a running commentary or providing daily updates."

Kate was spotted for the first time in 2024 on March 4.

Kate Middleton walks in a green suit next to a car.
Kate Middleton in September 2023.Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On March 4, a sunglasses-clad Princess of Wales was seen riding in a car with her mother, Carole Middleton, in photos obtained by Backgrid and shared by TMZ.

According to TMZ, the pair were driving near Windsor Castle when they were photographed, and no other royals or security appeared to accompany them on the drive.

The sighting came as Queen Camilla announced she was taking a break from filling in for her husband at royal engagements until March 11.

After initially indicating she would attend, the British army removed references to Kate from online tickets for a June event shared on March 5.

Kate Middleton in a green hat and green dress at Trooping the Colour 2023.
Kate Middleton during the Trooping the Colour parade in 2023.Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

On March 5, outlets like BBC News reported that Kate's name was included on tickets released online to The Colonel's Review, an event the British army hosts amid Trooping the Colour, on June 8. Kate was named the Colonel of The Irish Guards in December 2022, and the Colonel typically participates in the Review.

Many took her inclusion on the tickets as a sign she was on track to return to work in the summer. But then, the army quickly removed all references to Kate after the tickets were released because Kensington Palace had not confirmed she would attend.

A source close to the situation told Business Insider's Mikhaila Friel the army didn't get approval from Kensington Palace to include references to the princess in the tickets, leading to the confusion.

The palace didn't respond to a request for comment from BI on the matter.

Kensington Palace released a photo of Kate with her children for Mother's Day — but the photo was immediately met with suspicion.

March 10 was Mother's Day in the UK, and to commemorate the occasion, Kensington Palace released the first official portrait of Kate since Christmas.

In the photo, Kate sits in a chair surrounded by her children, who are all giggling. According to the caption they shared on social media alongside the image, William took the picture of his family in 2024, and the photo appeared to come directly from Kate, as she signed the caption, "C," which stands for Catherine.

"Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months," she wrote. "Wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day."

But shortly after it was released, people began to speculate the photo had been edited. Photo editor Patrick Witty told BI's Shubhangi Goel it was "astonishing" the palace released the photo at all because of issues in the image, pointing to areas where the picture is blurred and things that seemed to be added to the shot during the editing process, like a zipper on Kate's jacket.

Later that day, multiple photo agencies removed the picture from their platforms.

Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2023.
Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2023.Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On March 10, Reuters, the Associated Press, and the French organization Agence France-Presse sent kill notices for the picture, which means the picture is no longer available for distribution through their platforms.

Reuters said it removed the picture after a "post-publication review," while the AP said explicitly in its kill notice that it wouldn't distribute the photo because "it appears the source has manipulated the image. No replacement photo will be sent."

Kensington Palace has been accused of editing photos of the royals before, as was the case with the Waleses' 2023 Christmas card, but the photo released March 10 is the first to be killed by photo agencies.

The palace did not respond to a request for comment on the editing controversy.

Kate personally apologized for "any confusion" the picture caused on March 11.

Kate Middleton in September 2023.
Kate Middleton in September 2023.Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

On March 11, Kate addressed the controversy surrounding the photo in a statement released on social media, seeming to take responsibility for the manipulated image.

"Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing," she wrote on X. "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."

Notably, the statement was signed by Kate alone. Kensington Palace typically speaks on behalf of the couple as a unit, and the royals said in their post on Sunday that William took the shot.

The statement didn't appear to convince royal watchers online. Kate was trending on X, and the edited image had been viewed over 72 million times on the platform as of Monday.

William and Kate were photographed together on March 11 before he attended a Commonwealth Day service.

Prince William attends a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March 2024.
Prince William attends a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March 2024.Henry Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty Images

A few hours after the princess posted on X, the Daily Mail released a photo of William and what appeared to be Kate in a car together leaving Windsor Castle.

Kate is looking out of the window in the shot, so only her profile is visible. According to the outlet, Kate was going to "a private appointment," and William was en route to a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

William was photographed alongside Queen Camilla at the Commonwealth Day service after the photo of him and Kate was published.

Multiple tabloids released a video of what appeared to be Kate and William shopping in Windsor on Monday.

On Sunday, The Sun reported that William and Kate were spotted shopping at a "farm shop" near Adelaide Cottage, their home on the grounds of Windsor Castle. But The Sun's coverage didn't include any images of the prince of princess.

Then, on Monday, TMZ and The Sun released a video of what appeared to be William and Kate walking through the market, holding shopping bags.

The video was grainy, and Kensington Palace did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the matter.

On Friday, Kate announced she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy in a video, speaking directly to the public.

Kate Middleton is receiving treatment for cancer.
Kate Middleton is receiving treatment for cancer.BBC Studios

On Friday, Kensington Palace uploaded a video of Kate speaking directly to a camera on its social media.

In the video, Kate said that her abdominal surgery in January was successful, but "tests after the operation found cancer had been present."

Her medical team recommended she "undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy" after reviewing the tests, as Kate said in the video. She began treatment in late February, according to a press release shared with BI.

The princess said that the diagnosis was a "shock" and that she and William "have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family," adding that determining how to share the news with their children was difficult.

"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," Kate said.

In the press release shared with BI, Kensington Palace said it would not be revealing what kind of cancer Kate has, nor what stage her cancer is.

The release also said Kate will return to work "when she is cleared to do so by her medical team."

In the video, Kate reiterated Kensington Palace's previous requests for privacy.

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

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