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The telling signs that Princess Kate was delaying her return to royal duties

The Princess of Wales is now recovering from abdominal surgery

The telling signs that Kate Middleton was delaying her return to royal duties© Getty
Diane Shipley
Senior Online Writer
January 17, 2024
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The news that the Princess of Wales had been taken into hospital for abdominal surgery came as a surprise to royal watchers on Wednesday. However, in retrospect, there were some hints that Kate might not return to royal duties as early as anticipated, with the Princess not having been seen in public since Christmas at Sandringham. 

It's not unusual for the Prince and Princess of Wales to lay low at the start of the year while their children are still on holiday from Lambrook School. However, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all returned to class last week.

William enjoyed a public appearance in Leeds, presenting CBEs to rugby stars Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield at Headingley Stadium, Kate had not yet announced her return to royal duties – and is now not expected to return to work until after Easter. 

Prince William, Prince of Wales meets rugby coach Kevin Sinfield and former rugby league player Rob Burrow to congratulate them for raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease© Getty
Prince William returned to work last week

In addition, while the family traditionally celebrates the Princess' birthday privately, she will typically issue a personal message on social media to thank fans and family for their good wishes but did not do so this year. 

The King and Queen kindly marked the day with a heartfelt message on Instagram as they shared an unseen image of the beloved royal at their coronation last year. "Wishing The Princess of Wales a very happy birthday today!" read the caption. 

Kate also did not attend a meeting for The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood earlier this month, with photos from the Royal Foundation Business Taskforce for Early Childhood at Kensington Palace on 15 January notable for her absence, as you can see below.  

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The taskforce met without the Princess

HELLO!'s royal editor Emmy Nash comments: "This has come as a shock at a time when most of us were expecting to see the Princess back in action with a busy schedule of engagements lined up."

As she recovers, William will no doubt support Kate and their children, Prince George, ten, Princess Charlotte, eight, and Prince Louis, five, having significantly rearranged his diary in light of his wife's hospitalisation. 

In 2022, the Princess of Wales marked her 40th birthday and had her first royal outing on 19 January © Getty
In 2022, the Princess of Wales marked her 40th birthday and had her first royal outing on 19 January

The couple were previously believed to be headed to Italy later this year in their first joint overseas visit at the request of the Government since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales but the trip may now be delayed. 

Prince William and Kate returned to royal duties on the 12 January last year, as they attended Liverpool University Hospital © Getty
Prince William and Kate returned to royal duties on 12 January last year, as they attended Liverpool University Hospital

Kensington Place announced the news of Kate's successful surgery on Wednesday, the day after it occurred. Their official statement read: "Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales was admitted to The London Clinic yesterday for planned abdominal surgery. 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. 

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"Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter. 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; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private. 

Kate Middleton in blue blazer and white shirt© Getty
The Princess plans to return to work after Easter

"Kensington Palace will, therefore, only provide updates on Her Royal Highness' progress when there is significant new information to share. The Princess of Wales wishes to apologise to all those concerned for the fact that she has to postpone her upcoming engagements. She looks forward to reinstating as many as possible, as soon as possible." 

The London Clinic previously treated Prince Philip for "abdominal investigations" and also performed an operation on Princess Margaret. The Princess' condition is understood to be non-cancerous but she will need to remain in hospital for the next few days before recovering at home.

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