Kate’s Abdominal Surgery: Everything We Know So Far
The Princess of Wales is not expected to return to public duties until April.
Catherine, the Princess of Wales, underwent planned abdominal surgery Tuesday, according to a statement released by Kensington Palace. The surprise news — including that she would be recovering in a hospital for the next 10 to 14 days and be off royal duties for another two to three months — made headlines around the world. Below, a summary of everything that has been reported so far, including more on the timing (and what royal appearances have been postponed or canceled) as well as past royal hospital visits.
First, a quick comment on King Charles III. On Wednesday, about 90 minutes after Kensington Palace released the princess’s news, Buckingham Palace issued a statement on surgery for the new sovereign. Charles will undergo treatment for a benign enlarged prostate next week. The specificity surprised some in the media — but it was for a good reason. “His Majesty was apparently ‘very keen’ to share details of his diagnosis to encourage other men to get checked,” reports Emily Nash, royal editor at Hello!, in her latest newsletter. Kudos to the king for this approach!
But mostly: Sending well wishes and all the best to both Charles next week as well as Catherine during her extended recovery period.
Kate’s Abdominal Surgery: Everything We Know So Far
What has Kensington Palace shared about Kate’s surgery?
On Wednesday, around 2pm in the UK, Kensington Palace released a statement with the following information:
Catherine underwent “planned abdominal surgery” at a private hospital in London on Tuesday; the procedure was described as “successful.”
The princess is expected to recover in the hospital for the next 10 to 14 days.
She is “unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter” on March 31.
Prince William has postponed his appearances for the remainder of the month while Kate is in the hospital and will be scaling back public appearances during her recovery period.
Do we have any idea what necessitated the surgery?
Although speculation is rampant around the internet, no reputable news outlets have hazarded any sort of guess as to what the surgery was for or why Catherine needed it this week. (No leaks! That feels notable.)
One thing we do know: Kate’s surgery was not related to cancer, as has been reported by multiple members of the royal rota. “Aides are happy for us to publicly share that information in order to minimise public concern about her condition,” tweeted Rebecca English, royal editor of the Daily Mail.
The princess is “doing well,” according to unnamed palace sources quoted in the Times.
What do we make of the timing?
Kensington Palace said the surgery was “planned,” however the same statement acknowledged (and apologized for) the need to postpone engagements. “Planned” would suggest it was not an emergency, meaning the princess was not rushed into surgery in a matter of moments. But it does sound as though this was added to the calendar quite quickly given the things that have been canceled in the wake.
“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,” reports Emily Nash, royal editor at Hello!.
Kate’s engagements around the UK, including an Early Years push on behalf of her work for the Centre for Early Childhood, were due to ramp up. Her traditional St. Patrick’s Day visit, as Colonel of the Irish Guards, will have to wait, according to the Times. Appearances at the BAFTAs and the Commonwealth Day service, in February and March, respectively, are now unlikely.
Travel, too, will be rescheduled. “It is thought that two short overseas tours, planned for the coming weeks, have been postponed,” according to the Telegraph.
Kate, who turned 42 earlier this month, was last seen on Christmas Day during the royal family’s walk to church at Sandringham.
What do we know about where Kate is at now?
The princess is at the London Clinic, which calls itself the UK’s “largest independent private hospital.” The facility, on Harley Street in the city’s medical district, receives about 120,000 patients per year and has a team of 800 surgeons and physicians, according to the 2022 annual report. It was first opened in 1932 by the late Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, when she was the Duchess of York. It has since been known to treat members of the royal family, as well as politicians and celebrities.
Many members of the royal family have made public appearances there, including then-Prince Charles to open a physiotherapy department in 1989 and the late Queen Elizabeth to unveil a new cancer unit in 2010, according to the Independent. Notable past patients include the late queen’s late husband, Prince Philip, as well as her sister, Princess Margaret, and US President John F. Kennedy. “Former prime minister and current foreign secretary, David Cameron, was born at the central London hospital, and actress Elizabeth Taylor was also treated at the clinic after falling on a film set in the 1960s,” the newspaper reports.
The media rushed to set up live shots from outside the London Clinic, where security was understandably heightened following the news. The Telegraph live blog has this from India McTaggart, a royal correspondent on the scene: “A police officer patrolling the back garage of the clinic’s building — which is now shut off but is filled with rubbish bins — could be heard quipping with his colleagues that the bins were the best protected in London.”
Has Kate been in the hospital before?
Aside from the births of her three children, the only known time Kate was admitted to the hospital during her royal tenure was in December 2012. She was pregnant with Prince George at the time and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that causes severe nausea and vomiting. The hospital admittance prompted the palace to announce her pregnancy earlier than planned.
Why hasn’t Kensington Palace shared more details on Kate’s surgery?
The royal family considers health concerns a private matter. If information is shared — and that’s an if — it is often vague and/or not timely. Victoria Murphy reports in Town & Country that Prince Philip’s major abdominal surgery in 2013 was described as “exploratory.” When Prince William had Covid in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic and the height of coronavirus fears, it was not disclosed for several months.
Consider, too, the cause of death given for Queen Elizabeth. While the official reason was stated as “old age,” a reputable biographer, Gyles Brandreth, reported in his 2022 book that the queen had a form of bone marrow cancer.
What’s the history of royal family members spending time in hospitals?
On the whole, the Windsors don’t tend to check themselves in very often. Their presence at a hospital tends to stir up tremendous amounts of interest (like the media camped out in front of the London Clinic right now), which could possibly disrupt other patients. What’s more, hospitals are crawling with people, raising the likelihood for leaks.
The most recent example of a hospital stay that comes to mind is back in October 2021, when Queen Elizabeth was admitted on her medical team’s advice. She was discharged following some tests and asked to rest at home.
The most serious hospital stays of her reign came in 2003. Then 76 years old, she underwent the first of two knee surgeries at King Edward VII hospital in London that January. The 45-minute procedure to remove torn cartilage from her right knee was described as “minor.” (A fashion aside: This is one of the rare public appearances the queen made in trousers — presumably to cover any evidence of the surgery.)
Her Majesty had a similar procedure on her left knee the following December. “The decision on the timing of the operation was made to minimise the impact on The Queen’s commitments,” the statement from Buckingham Palace read at the time, “and to enable her to continue her recovery at Sandringham over the Christmas and New Year period.” (This feels though it could be relevant to the timing of today’s news for both Charles and Catherine?)
The late Prince Philip had several hospital visits, including a recurring bladder infection in 2012 and abdominal surgery in 2013, according to the BBC. In the spring of 2021, just before his death, he spent four weeks in the hospital. He was admitted on Feb. 16, at the age of 99, “after he felt unwell and was given treatment for an unspecified, but not COVID-19-related, illness,” according to Reuters report from his release. During that same time, he underwent a procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at another London hospital. (Philip passed away that April.)
What’s next for Kate?
Kensington Palace said they would update the public on her progress “when there is significant new information to share.”
I imagine there’s a possibility, however small it might be, that William could bring their three children to visit their mum. Whether that outing would be made public — like when we saw Prince George walking into the hospital after the birth of Princess Charlotte — is unclear. There is also a chance we will see the princess depart from the hospital, as we did when she was discharged in 2012. But I would hope, for her sake, that there is a way either a visit or her departure could be done privately.
Above, a collage of the Thursday front pages out of London, covering the news of Catherine and Charles’s surgeries. Sending my best wishes to them both.
PS: What Kate Wore shared the following address to send get well cards:
HRH The Princess of Wales
London SW1A 1BA