What Is Going on With Kate Middleton?

Ever since Kate Middleton had abdominal surgery in January, unanswered questions about her health and recovery have only multiplied. From the beginning, Kensington Palace said they would be keeping the Princess of Wales's diagnosis private, explaining, "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."

But when Prince William bowed out of attending a memorial service for King Constantine of Greece at the last minute, speculation regarding Kate's health exploded online. That was almost two weeks ago. In the 13 days since, there have been two paparazzi photos of Kate (after no sightings of her since Christmas) and an official photograph released by the Palace that was later recalled by multiple major photo agencies due to image manipulation. Kate later issued an official apology for editing the photograph.

But all this drama raises the question: What is going on with Kate Middleton? Let's break it down.

topshot britain royals
The Princess of Wales’s health and whereabouts have been the subject of intense online speculation.SUZANNE PLUNKETT - Getty Images

The drama began when Prince William missed a memorial service.

After the shock of Kate Middleton's surgery wore off, news surrounding her health subsided. That relative quiet ended on February 27, when Prince William missed a memorial service for his godfather, leading Kensington Palace to provide an update on Kate, saying she continues to be doing well. But William's absence, coupled with the tragic passing of Thomas Kingston, led to an explosion of speculation about Kate's whereabouts and wellbeing. In response, a spokesperson for Kate told T&C, "Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the Princess' recovery and we'd only be providing significant updates. That guidance stands." That didn't do much to calm social media.

An (unauthorized) paparazzi photo is taken of Kate.

Less than a week after William missed the service, Kate was photographed in the passenger seat of a car driven by her mom, Carole Middleton, near Windsor. The blurry picture showed the Princess of Wales wearing large sunglasses. UK media declined to publish the photo, but it appeared in some U.S. outlets.

As Victoria Murphy noted in T&C, "There is no specific media blackout on this. That kind of agreement between the media and the Palace is actually very rare." However, the press is subject to "strict legal and ethical codes," which include an individual's right to privacy—they applied to this photograph of Kate. As Murphy writes, "When photographers are asked to stay away from trying to capture private moments, not only do they know that there could be legal repercussions from ignoring this, they also know that there is a limited market for these images as the vast majority of UK publications just won’t go near them."

A portrait of Kate and her three kids is released by the Palace.

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The Mother’s Day portrait.Prince William / Kensington Palace

To celebrate UK Mother's Day on March 10, Kensington Palace shared an image of Kate and her three children. "Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day," read a message signed "C" (for Catherine, Kate's full name). The photograph showed Kate with her arms wrapped around her children Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte, as her eldest, Prince George, stood behind her. In the photo, Kate notably was not wearing her wedding or engagement rings.

Later in the day, photo agencies—i.e. the organizations that distribute photos to news sites worldwide, like Getty Images—issued a kill notice on the photo, recalling it and instructing news sites to remove it from their coverage. As the Associated Press noted, "close study of the image revealed inconsistencies that suggested it had been altered, for instance in the alignment of Princess Charlotte's left hand with the sleeve of her sweater." Image standards are strict for news wires; the AP, for example, does not use altered or digitally manipulated images (which they deemed this photograph to be).

Kate apologizes for editing the photograph.

Around 24 hours after the photo of Kate was shared, the Princess of Wales issued a personal apology for editing it. "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," she wrote, again signing it "C," indicating that it was a personal message.

This statement, while confirming the photograph was digitally altered, didn't do much to quell new conspiracy theories that had arisen around Kate, including the suggestion that the photograph was not taken by Prince William last week, as Kensington Palace said it was. The Palace has not shared the original image, and photo agencies have reported that a replacement will not be sent for the recalled photograph.

Kate and William are pictured leaving Windsor Castle.

After Kate's apology was posted, a paparazzi photographed Kate and William leaving Windsor Castle. Kate's head is turned in the image, so you cannot see her face clearly, but she was en route to a private appointment while William was going to attend Commonwealth Day Service. Unlike the photograph of Kate in the car with her mom, this one was published by UK media.

The timeline of Kate's return to public duties is still not clear.

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Kate’s last official appearance was Christmas 2023.Stephen Pond - Getty Images

When Kate's surgery was initially announced in January, the Palace said, "Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter." Easter is Sunday, March 31; the royal family typically attends church at St. George's Chapel on Easter Sunday.

When the UK's Ministry of Defence announced on their website she would be appearing at Trooping the Colour on June 15, 2024 (Trooping is a major royal event, a birthday parade in honor of the monarch), Kensington Palace quickly made it clear that the Ministry does not speak for the Princess of Wales. T&C understands that the Palace was not consulted on the announcement, and her attendance will not be confirmed by anyone but the Palace.

In addition, when Prince William's 2024 Earthshot Prize was announced to be in South Africa in November, there was no confirmation regarding the Prince or Princess's attendance.

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