A Complete Timeline of the Kate Middleton Post-Surgery Photo Scandal

Here's your exhaustive guide to Kate-gate.

<p>Stephen Pond/Getty Images</p>

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

It's been a long, long time since the internet managed to rally around a single cause (RIP, Harambe), and the seemingly unlikely unifier this time is the Princess of Wales, Catherine Middleton, though we all know her by Kate Middleton. Since Kensington Palace announced that the beloved princess had undergone abdominal surgery in January 2024, she's been out of the spotlight, but she hasn't managed to stay out of the headlines. Instead, because of her absence, she's in the news more than ever and giving eagle-eyed royal fans an opportunity to spiral into a tin-foil-hat-style obsession with what exactly is going on behind the gilded gates of Buckingham Palace.

With everything from a possible facelift to the re-emergence of Prince William's alleged affair making the rounds on TikTok and Instagram, the palace has been uncharacteristically quiet about the whole ordeal — but what it has shared (and not shared) is enough to get everyone talking. Here's everything you need to know about the "Where is Kate Middleton" speculation that's sweeping the internet, from the very beginning with her "planned" surgery to that now-infamous Photoshop fail.

On Mar. 22, 2024, Kate shared that she was diagnosed with cancer while she was recovering from abdominal surgery and is undergoing preventative chemotherapy, finally putting all the rumors to rest.

December 25, 2023: Christmas Walk

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p>

Samir Hussein/WireImage

The last time that Kate was seen at an official royal engagement was the royals' annual Christmas walk at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Norfolk. Like in years past, she attended a service with members of the royal family, and her children, Louis, Charlotte, and George, were in tow. Kate, William, and the children met with royal fans gathered outside the church before they returned to Sandringham House to celebrate Christmas.

January 17, 2024: Kate's "Planned Abdominal Surgery" Is Announced

On Jan. 17, 2024, Kensington Palace shared a statement about the Princess of Wales's "planned abdominal surgery." And though the palace described it as "planned," it came as a shock to the public.

“The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remain in the hospital for 10 to 14 days before returning home to continue her recovery,” the statement read. After the news broke, Kensington Palace added that Kate's procedure was not cancer-related.

The statement noted that Kate would be back to her royal duties on Easter, which falls on Mar. 31.

January 17, 2024: Prince William Cancels His Royal Appointments

According to People, on the same day that Kate's surgery was announced, Prince William cleared his calendar in the wake of Kate's operation so that he could be with her and the kids as she recovered.

January 18, 2024: The Palace Releases Its First Statement Post-Op

On Jan. 18, Kensington Palace shared a statement that let the public know that Kate is "doing well." It would be the first of just a few updates from the Firm.

January 18, 2024: Prince William Visits Kate in the Hospital

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images</p>

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The Prince of Wales is seen visiting Kate at the London Clinic on Jan. 18. The Telegraph is the first outlet to publish the photos, which show William behind the wheel. It was a "low-key visit," according to sources.

January 29, 2024: Kate Heads Home

On Jan. 29, Kate was discharged from the hospital. The palace issued another statement, telling royal fans that Kate would continue her recovery at home. The princess also thanked her medical staff.

“The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery. She is making good progress," Kensington Palace noted in a statement. “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."

February 7, 2024: William Mentions Kate's Recovery

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images For Buckingham Palace</p>

Chris Jackson/Getty Images For Buckingham Palace

On Feb. 7, at the annual fundraising gala for the London Air Ambulance, William addressed the public's concern for Kate and for King Charles, who was facing health issues of his own.

“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,” William said during a speech. “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!”

February 27, 2024: William Unexpectedly Pulls Out of an Appointment

On Feb. 27, after the palace issued another update that stated that Kate was "doing well," William canceled an appointment at his godfather's memorial service. He had been expected to share remarks at an event honoring King Constantine of Greece, but he cited a "personal reason" and didn't end up speaking at all. To be clear, Kensington Palace didn't mention whether or not William's "personal reason" was related to Kate's recovery or not.

February 2024: Where Is Kate Middleton?

As one of the most photographed women in the world, not having a constant stream of updates from the Princess of Wales proved to be too much for the internet, which started buzzing with conspiracy theories about where she could be and why she was out of the public eye.

Kensington Palace issued another statement as things started to ramp up, with TikTok users and X posters positing that Kate could be growing out her new curtain bangs or that she had undergone some sort of plastic surgery.

"We were very clear from the outset that the Princess of Wales was out until after Easter and Kensington Palace would only be providing updates when something was significant," a spokesperson for the royals said at the time, adding that the princess is "doing well."

March 4, 2024: Kate Middleton Hires a New Secretary

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images</p>

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

While the internet was spiraling, Kate hired Lt. Col. Tom White as her new private secretary and to head up her staff. White was already in the royal inner circle, he was previously serving as Queen Elizabeth’s equerry. According to The Telegraph, he joined Buckingham Palace back in 2020 after serving with the Royal Marines. Internet sleuths automatically believe that the handsome new member of Kate's staff is a diversion from more pressing issues.

March 4, 2024: Kate Is Seen for the First Time Since Her Surgery With Carole Middleton

Princess Kate was seen in a car with her mom, Carole Middleton, on Mar. 4. While there was finally photographic evidence, conspiracy theorists questioned the validity of the photo. On Mar. 6, insiders finally addressed the royal family's unusual approach to Kate and her health.

Sally Bedell Smith, a royal biographer, said, "She's so central to the monarchy and the future. Everybody feels unsettled by uncertainty, and there is too much uncertainty that is surrounding the monarchy right now."

Royal reporter Emily Andrews said on X that Kensington Palace “exerted huge pressure on the British media NOT to publish the pic" and that no British outlets had done so.

March 10, 2024: Kate's Mother's Day Post

Unlike the United States, the U.K.’s Mother’s Day falls on Mar. 10, and Kate emerged from her radio silence to post for the occasion. However, instead of breathing a sigh of relief, the public got caught up in another series of conspiracies, especially as people noted some heavy retouching and editing in the photo, including inconsistencies in some of the Cambridge children’s hands and in Charlotte’s outfit.

The photo was so heavily edited that the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images, and Reuters would retract distribution of the portrait hours after its release. “At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image,” an AP announcement explained. Omid Scobie, arguably the journalist closest to the royals, called the situation "mysterious."

March 11, 2024: Kate's Photoshop Apology

Just a day later, on Mar. 11, Kate issued an apology for the mishap, saying that she "edited" the photo. “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” she wrote in a statement on X. “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.”

A Kensington Palace source told Harper's Bazaar, “This was an amateur, family photograph taken by the Prince of Wales. [William and Kate] wanted to offer an informal picture of the family together for Mother’s Day.”

After her statement, the paparazzi captured photos of Kate riding in a car with her husband as they left Windsor Castle together. Naturally, internet sleuths also analyzed those photos and compared them to photos of Kate from 2016 — and found some eerie similarities.

March 12, 2024: Enter the Marchioness of Cholmondeley

<p>Karwai Tang/WireImage</p>

Karwai Tang/WireImage

On Mar. 14, stories about Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeleybegan to surface on the internet. Back in 2019, rumors of Prince William having an affair with Hanbury made headlines.

During an episode of The Late Show on March 12, Stephen Colbert addressed the "cheating' theories, saying, ”As we were talking about this show yesterday, the kingdom has been all fluttered by the seeming disappearance of Kate Middleton. Well, now, internet sleuths are guessing that Kate’s absence may be related to her husband’s and the future king of England, William, having an affair."

“So, I think we all know who the other alleged woman is — say it with me — The Marchioness of Cholmondeley … now, there have been rumors of an affair between William and [Hanbury] since 2019. According to tabloids back then, when Kate confronted him about it, he laughed it off, saying there was nothing to it. ‘Haha,’ always a good response when your wife accuses you of cheating,” he finished.

March 12, 2024: What's Going on With This Year's Trooping the Colour?

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p>

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Glamour reports that Kate's name was "quietly" removed from this year's Trooping the Colour attendee list. The event is set for June 15, which is a long way away, but also very much after Easter, which is when the palace said that she was expected back to her royal duties.

According to the magazine, "observers noticed that the U.K. Ministry of Defense had claimed on its website that Middleton would be attending the Trooping the Colour ceremony on June 8. Then, on the same day, it quickly and quietly scrubbed the claim after."

Kensington Palace explained, per Nieman Lab, that the princess's attendance had not yet been confirmed.

March 13, 2024: Another Photoshop Controversy

After Kate's apology, U.K. newspapers The Sun and The Daily Mail published a photo of Middleton and Prince William in the backseat of a car while the two were headed to a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. Only the back of Kate's head was visible in the shots because she was turned away from the camera, though people noticed that the bricks behind the Cambridges looked a little off — and Kate's hat and hairstyle appeared to be eerily similar to a past look. Those two details led some to believe that the royals were Photoshopping images again.

Goff Photos, which distributed the new images, told E! News that the photos "have been cropped and lightened," but "nothing has been doctored."

March 14, 2024: Royal Update That Kate Is "Smiling" and "Upbeat"

Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Perhaps in an effort to reign in any outlandish theories (or infidelity rumors making the rounds on TikTok), insiders shared that Kate is "smiling" and "upbeat." A royal source told Harper's Bazaar that the princess is “doing well, all things considered" and that she's left the house several times. How she did that and dodged the notoriously pesky U.K. paparazzi? Nobody knows for sure.

“[This situation] has caused some stress for the princess, but she tends not to pay attention to online chatter or even the press," the source added before mentioning Photoshop-gate 2024. "I think people forget that this was simply a mother wanting her family to look their best in a photograph that was going to be heavily scrutinized. She was protecting her children.”

March 18, 2024: Kate and William Pick Up Some Produce

On Mar. 18, photos and videos of Kate Middleton and Prince William visiting a farmstand made waves on the internet. In the clip, Middleton wore a sweater to the Windsor Farm Shop that had a special meaning: her half-zip Umbro pullover had the Rugby Football Union logo on it, which happens to be one of her patronages. In the video, which was taken on Mar. 16 and first published by TMZ, the Prince and Princess of Wales were seen with shopping bags in their hands and smiles on their faces.

Of course, with so many conspiracies swirling around Kate, the internet immediately assumed that the whole walkabout was a staged moment by the palace. Heidi Agan, who has worked as a Kate Middleton impersonator for 12 years, spoke out after many TikTok users claimed it was actually her in the TMZ clip.

There has obviously been some speculation about whether it was Kate and William in that footage and stills. In fact, my own social media has gone crazy as people think it is me, but ... I was at work at the time, so I know that is not me. I 100% believe that is Kate Middleton and William in that video,” she told The Mirror. Like a few other people, Agan said that the wild theories about Kate have gone too far, saying that the situation has "turned into a drama really, so it needs to stop.”

March 19, 2024: Kate's Medical Records Were Involved in a Security Breach

In what may be the most ick-inducing moment of Kate's recovery, The Mirror reported that on Mar. 19, an employee at London Clinic may have tried to get into Kate's medical records.

“This is a major security breach and incredibly damaging for the hospital, given its unblemished reputation for treating members of the royal family,” a source told the newspaper. “The whole medical staff have been left utterly shocked and distraught over the allegations and were very hurt that a trusted colleague could have allegedly been responsible for such a breach of trust and ethics.”

Sources close to the royals added that the Firm will conduct a thorough investigation, and the Clinic offered a statement that didn't mention whether or not Kate's information was actually accessed: “We firmly believe that all our patients, no matter their status, deserve total privacy and confidentiality regarding their medical information.”

March 22, 2024: Kate Is Undergoing Treatment for Cancer

After months of speculation about her whereabouts and well-being, Kate shared that after her planned abdominal surgery in January, her medical team found cancerous cells. She started preventative chemotherapy in February, but kept the news away from the headlines so that she could tell her children in a way that was accessible to them. She shared the news in a video posted to X and asked for privacy and time as she recovers from her surgery and undergoes continued medical treatment. Her statement was as follows:

"I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you personally for all the wonderful messages of support and for your understanding whilst I’ve been recovering from surgery.

"It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family, but I’ve had a fantastic medical team who’ve taken great care of me for which I am so grateful. In January I underwent major abdominal surgery London and at the time it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful, however test after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy and I’m now in the early stages of that treatment."

"This of course came as a huge shock and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family."

"As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte, and Louis in a way that’s appropriate for them and to reassure them that I’m going to be okay. As I’ve said to them, I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal in my mind, body, and spirits."

"Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance too. As is the love, support, and kindness that has been shown by so many of you. It means so much to us both."

"We hope that you’ll understand that as a family, we now need some time, space, and privacy while I complete my treatment. My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy and I look forward to being back when I am able. But for now, I must focus on making a full recovery. At this time, I’m also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone."

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