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Why Haven't We Seen Kate Middleton Since Her Abdominal Surgery?

Why Haven't We Seen Kate Middleton Since Her Abdominal Surgery?

The Princess of Wales hasn't been seen since Christmas as she recovers from her operation out of the public eye

<p>IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty</p> Kate Middleton visits children

IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty

Kate Middleton visits children's hospital on Dec. 5, 2023

Kate Middleton usually spends the month of January busy getting back to royal engagements in the public eye after the holidays. But this year was different. After a jam-packed December and stepping out with the royal family on Christmas, both Princess Kate and Prince William maintained a notably low profile during the first weeks of 2024, with just one solo outing for the Prince of Wales.

Then on Jan. 17, the palace disclosed that the Princess of Wales, aged 42, had undergone a planned abdominal surgery the day prior. She remained hospitalized for nearly two weeks before transitioning to home recovery, with a return to public engagements projected post-Easter.

Following Prince William's unexpected withdrawal from a memorial service honoring his late godfather on Tuesday, concerns regarding Princess Kate's welfare have surged across the internet, fueling a wave of conspiracy theories.

Although a palace source tells PEOPLE that Kate "continues to be doing well" in her recovery, the lack of updates about the Princess of Wales has caused concern. All that's known is that the issue was non-cancerous.

<p>IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty</p> Kate Middleton visits children's hospital on Dec. 5, 2023

IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty

Kate Middleton visits children's hospital on Dec. 5, 2023

Kate's absence from public view is in stark contrast to King Charles, who is facing his own health battles. The monarch, 75, underwent a procedure to treat an enlarged prostate last month and revealed his cancer diagnosis on Feb. 5 (his cancer is understood to not be prostate cancer, however). While he has not made public outings, he has been seen going to church with Queen Camilla, sharing statements as he works behind the scenes and even appearing in a video where he read letters from well-wishers.

Here's what we know about Princess Kate's recovery and why she's stayed out of the public eye.

Related: A Complete Timeline of Kate Middleton's Abdominal Surgery and Recovery

Princess Kate wants to maintain normality for her three children

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte attend Trooping the Colour 2023

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte attend Trooping the Colour 2023

Princess Kate made it clear that she wanted the lives of Prince GeorgePrincess Charlotte and Prince Louis to remain as normal as possible amid her surgery and recovery. In the initial statement released by Kensington Palace, they said, "The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate. She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible."

Prince William contributed by canceling his royal duties in order to help his wife and children.

“We know they are a very tight family unit, and he wants to be there for them,” Robert Hardman, author of The Making of a King: King Charles III and the Modern Monarchy, told PEOPLE. “So much of what they do with those kids is about normalizing life and not making them feel like they are in a special gilded cage.”

The Prince of Wales was expected to manage the children alongside longtime nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo and help with school pickups and drop-offs.

“They are a modern royal couple," added Hardman. "There would have been more delegation [in the past]. He doesn’t want to leave it all to the nanny."

Related: Prince William Will 'Step Up' amid King Charles' Cancer News Despite Kate Middleton's Recovery (Exclusive)

Her wish is for privacy

While King Charles disclosed both his procedure for an enlarged prostate and his cancer diagnosis, Princess Kate chose discretion.

In the initial statement about her surgery, the palace said it was Kate's "wish that her personal medical information remains private."

The palace added that they would "only provide updates on Her Royal Highness’ progress when there is significant new information to share."

The Princess of Wales' recovery will be out of the public eye

<p>Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images</p> Kate Middleton visits a prison on Sept. 12, 2023

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Kate Middleton visits a prison on Sept. 12, 2023

After initially sharing that Princess Kate would remain in the hospital for 10 to 14 days following her surgery, she was quietly released on Jan. 29, 13 days later.

"The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery. She is making good progress," Kensington Palace said in a statement announcing the news. "The Prince and Princess wish to say a huge thank you to the entire team at The London Clinic, especially the dedicated nursing staff, for the care they have provided.

“The Wales family continues to be grateful for the well wishes they have received from around the world," they added.

The royal returned to her home of Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor estate, where she will largely continue to recover until at least the end of March, per the palace.

“It is sensible to take the time,” a source close to the royal household told PEOPLE. “That is a great example to the rest of us, as you’re often told to get back to work as soon as possible, which can be damaging. It is good for all of us to see her taking the time, recovering properly and then coming back. We can all learn from that."

Prince William revealed that his wife was being looked after by two “amazing and kind” nurses during an investiture ceremony on Feb. 7.

Kate was well enough to travel to Norfolk

In a promising sign, the Princess of Wales traveled to Anmer Hall, her and Prince William's home on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, while their children were on a school break in February.

"Catherine is recovering well," a source told the Daily Mail. "She was looking forward to a change of scene and will be able to take it easy in Norfolk while the children let off steam with William."

Prince William has returned to royal duties

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty</p> Prince William attends London's Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner on Feb. 7, 2024

Chris Jackson/Getty

Prince William attends London's Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner on Feb. 7, 2024

After staying out of the public eye for several weeks during Princess Kate's hospitalization and home recovery, the Prince of Wales returned to royal work. On Feb. 7, he hosted an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle followed by attending London’s Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner. In a speech at the event, Prince William said, "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. It means a great deal to us all."

Keeping the mood light, Prince William quipped, "It's fair to say the past few weeks have had a rather 'medical' focus. So I thought I'd come to an air ambulance function to get away from it all!"

A friend told PEOPLE of Prince William's return to public life, "He is coping remarkably well considering his wife had surgery and he only found out his father’s news recently."

Prince William spent his children's school break with them and Kate in Norfolk and has since visited the headquarters of the British Red Cross, held another investiture ceremony and attended the BAFTAs.

Prince William apologized for his wife's absence at the British equivalent of the Oscars. "I'm sorry Catherine's not here. She does love the BAFTAs," he said, adding that he hadn't seen all of the year's nominees as he had "other things on my mind."

Related: Kate Middleton 'Doing Well' amid Recovery as Prince William Pulls Out of Royal Outing Last Minute

Princess Kate won't return to public outings until at least Easter

<p>Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty</p> Kate Middleton with her family on Christmas 2023

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty

Kate Middleton with her family on Christmas 2023

The palace's initial statement on the Princess of Wales' surgery and recovery said, "Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

Although it still remains to be seen if Kate will join in late March, the royal family traditionally attends church on Easter. Last year marked the first time the Prince and Princess of Wales stepped out as a family of five at the event as their youngest child, Prince Louis, made his Easter debut.

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