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Inside Kate Middleton's Last Public Appearances Before Abdominal Surgery

The Princess of Wales has not been seen since the new year began

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Kate Middleton opens Evelina London Children

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate Middleton opens Evelina London Children's Day Surgery Unit on Dec. 5, 2023.

Kate Middleton had a busy few weeks before Kensington Palace announced that she had abdominal surgery.

The palace announced on Wednesday that the Princess of Wales, 42, underwent a "planned abdominal surgery" at The London Clinic the day prior and that Kate would remain hospitalized for 10 to 14 days following the successful procedure. While the palace said the surgery was “planned,” the Princess of Wales has not been seen in public since the start of the new year.

Her last public appearance was on Christmas Day when she joined her husband Prince William and children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, for their annual family walk to church in Sandringham.

Kate had a busy December. On Dec. 5, she pulled double duty with a morning hospital visit and evening reception. Princess Kate began the day at the Evelina London Children's Hospital, where she opened the Children’s Day Surgery Unit. The hub cares for children with rare and complex conditions and Kate has served as patron since 2018.

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Kate Middleton with Chief Executive Gubby Ayida at the opening of Evelina London's new children's day surgery unit on December 5, 2023.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate Middleton with Chief Executive Gubby Ayida at the opening of Evelina London's new children's day surgery unit on December 5, 2023.

Related: Kate Middleton Hospitalized After Abdominal Surgery, Cancels All Engagements Until Easter

“She puts people at ease so much that at one point when she came to say hello I thought people were going to start high-fiving! She is so able to connect with people and allow people to be themselves which is not an easy task to do when you’re connecting with anybody in the population,” James O’Brien, director of operations and improvement for Evelina London, tells PEOPLE.

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Kate Middleton opens Evelina London Children's Day Surgery Unit on Dec. 5, 2023.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate Middleton opens Evelina London Children's Day Surgery Unit on Dec. 5, 2023.

That evening, the Princess of Wales joined Prince William, King Charles and Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace for the Diplomatic Reception. The annual event welcomes hundreds of members of the Diplomatic Corps to the royal residence, and Kate glittered in the Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara.

<p>Jonathan Brady/Pool via AP</p> Kate Middleton at an evening reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace on Dec. 5, 2023.

Jonathan Brady/Pool via AP

Kate Middleton at an evening reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace on Dec. 5, 2023.

On Dec. 8, Kate hosted her third annual Together At Christmas concert at Westminster Abbey, which highlighted her “Shaping Us” early childhood campaign in its first year. As in years past, Prince William and other members of the royal family attended the carol service she spearheaded during the coronavirus pandemic. The Prince and Princess of Wales were all smiles when they arrived with Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, in what doubled as Louis’ debut at the event.

Related: Prince William Postpones Official Duties to Support Family amid Kate Middleton's Hospitalization

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Prince William, Prince George, Prince Louis, Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte leave the Together At Christmas concert at Westminster Abbey on Dec. 8, 2023.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Prince William, Prince George, Prince Louis, Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte leave the Together At Christmas concert at Westminster Abbey on Dec. 8, 2023.

A little more than two weeks later, the Wales family stepped out for the royal family’s annual walk to church on Christmas Day at Sandringham in Norfolk. Princess Kate seemed to be in good spirits during the strolls to and from St. Mary Magdalene, where cameras caught her sweetly handing Zara and Mike Tindall's 10-year-old daughter Mia a bouquet of red roses from a well-wisher.

Neither Prince William nor Princess Kate were seen the following week, as they typically scale back their schedules when George, Charlotte and Louis are off from school. There were plans for a catch-up with her family, including her new nephew Inigo (the son of her brother James Middleton and wife Alizée Thevenet)—and settling her children back into school.

Kate turned 42 on Jan. 9 and spent the day privately, and William made his first official outing of the new year last week. The Princess of Wales met with Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield at Headlingley Stadium in Leeds, where he presented the friends with CBEs for their work fundraising and raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease after Burrow was diagnosed with MND in 2019.

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Kate Middleton, Princess Charlotte, Prince William, Prince Louis and Mia Tindall in Sandringham on Dec. 25, 2023.

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Kate Middleton, Princess Charlotte, Prince William, Prince Louis and Mia Tindall in Sandringham on Dec. 25, 2023.

The Prince of Wales William is now expected to postpone some engagements to be by Kate’s side amid her hospitalization following abdominal surgery. PEOPLE understands that the procedure was non-cancerous and William has shifted his schedule to support her.

"The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for 10 to 14 days, before returning home to continue her recovery," said the statement from Kensington Palace on Wednesday. “Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Kate Middleton at Sandringham on Dec. 25, 2023.

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Kate Middleton at Sandringham on Dec. 25, 2023.

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"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," the statement continued. "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 palace said.

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