Early 2024 saw the British royal family rocked by news of serious health issues. Buckingham Palace announced on Jan. 17, 2024, that King Charles III was scheduled to undergo hospital treatment the following week for an enlarged prostate. The next day, his wife, Queen Camilla, said Charles was feeling “fine” and “looking forward to getting back to work.” 

That same day, Kensington Palace revealed in a statement that the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, had undergone abdominal surgery that had been scheduled the day prior at London Clinic. It said the surgery had been “successful” and that the princess would remain at the hospital for a 10–14-day recovery period. 

News of the pair’s hospitalization led to an outpouring of well wishes and support from their supporters across the world. However, things turned out to be as saddening as could have been expected.

In February 2024, it was revealed that King Charles III was diagnosed with cancer. Following that, the public became very interested in knowing how Kate had been doing after she hadn’t been seen publicly for some time. After weeks of speculation, Kate squashed the rumors and appeared in a tearful video announcing her own cancer diagnosis. 

Meanwhile, Prince William has also taken the time to be by his family’s side following the announcement of Kate’s condition. Only on April 18, 2024, did he return to public duty, where he was met with crowds wishing the king and Kate well. On that same day, William made a moving promise to a local woman who wanted to give Kate and King Charles a well-wishes card. Keep reading to learn more about how William and Kate are navigating this challenging time.

Catherine, Princess of Wales (2023), (IMAGO/i Images)

As Charles and Kate took time off from their royal duties, other family members, particularly their spouses Queen Camilla and Prince William, stepped up in their absence. With the support of their loved ones, Charles and Kate were given the time and space to prioritize their recovery. Facing their health challenges together, they have also comforted each other. 

After news of her hospitalization broke, the public also expressed their sympathies and concerns for Kate, even writing letters to her. Among them was social media user @AllemarieHoll1, who recounted her surprise at receiving a response from Kensington Palace after sending Kate a get well soon letter. 

“Today I received this beautiful acknowledgement and I can honestly say I shall treasure this my entire life,” the user shared alongside a photo of a “Thank You” note from the Waleses’ office. “The envelope has Kensington Palace on the back lol hubby thought he was going to have to get his suit out for a garden party (silly him) but he is just as blown away as I am to received this beautiful, and much treasured card,” the user wrote. 

Many commended the princess for her thoughtful response, prompting the user to remark that it  “made me feel even more emotional.” 

Broadcaster Kate Garraway said she also received a letter of condolences from the princess after the passing of her husband, television host Derek Draper, from COVID-19 complications.

“Catherine and William sent a beautiful letter, and I know Catherine has been in hospital herself,” she said, adding, “it was lovely of them to reach out to me.”

With more optimistic news surrounding Kate’s health being reported, some have started to wonder whether she could, even as she continues her cancer treatment, return to some public-facing duties soon.

William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2016), (IMAGO/Parsons Media)

Some experts raised the prospect of Kate returning to her duties earlier than expected. Royal correspondent Cameron Walker said due to “the princess’s cancer diagnosis, she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy at the moment,” but suggested the princess may feel up to the task of taking on a few appearances should she feel like it.

“What I am hearing from those close to the Princess is that she may well decide to attend certain events if she feels up to it, and if she’s keen to go,” Walker said.

However, he dismissed the likelihood of Kate resuming the full extent of her duties any time soon.

“But in terms of a return to full-scale public duties and as a full-time working royal, I suspect that will take some time,” he remarked.

Despite this, Walker remained optimistic about seeing the princess up and back on her feet as soon as her doctors allowed her.

“But perhaps, maybe we’ll see her at some point this summer. But it just honestly depends on how her treatment goes.”

A Kensington Palace official confirmed, as reported by Express, that Kate wouldn’t be reappearing to resume her royal duties so soon after Easter Sunday. The spokesperson shared: “The Princess will return to official duties when she is cleared to do so by her medical team. She is in good spirits and is focused on making a full recovery.”

In light of Kate’s health diagnosis, her and Prince William’s silence on social media has become noticeable, with some insiders speculating that they might break an important annual royal tradition of releasing a photo of Prince Louis on his birthday, given that she’s in recovery. 

However, the royal couple delivered by gifting the nation with a dashing photo of Prince Louis showing his pearly whites.

Prince William (2024), (IMAGO/i Images)

In recent years, it had been a tradition for Kensington Palace to release photos of William and Kate’s children to the press the day before their birthdays. This year, however, the Wales’ bucked this tradition by releasing a photo of Louis on his 6th birthday via social media on the day itself. 

The Prince and Princess of Wales uploaded a photo of the young royal and captioned it:

“Happy 6th Birthday, Prince Louis! 🎂Thank you for all the kind wishes today,” the caption read. Notably, the caption also confirmed that Kate did not break the annual royal tradition of personally taking their children’s official birthday portraits, as she was credited on the post as its photographer. 

Prince Louis looked dashing in a multi-colored gingham shirt perfect for summer. In the photo, he flashed his pearly white teeth, smiling. 

Before the photo’s release, royal watchers and fans had doubts about whether the tradition would be upheld. Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams said fans would have been “disappointed by the lack of a photograph.”

“It is something of a royal tradition that royal birthdays are celebrated by the release of photographs. Catherine has taken a great many and they are always eagerly awaited,” he explained.

“This is a shame because of the vexed issue of her Mothering Day photograph. The revelation that it was edited led to a highly embarrassing contretemps and the subsequent revelation that she was not only recovering from abdominal surgery but bravely fighting cancer. The video message when she revealed this was probably the bravest by any public figure about their health in Britain,” he added. 

“The lack of a photograph on this occasion simply emphasizes her need for time, space, and privacy which she expressed so movingly in the message and, after the misunderstandings of recent weeks, this should be universally understood,” he concluded.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, William, Duke of Cambridge (2016), (IMAGO/PA Images)

On April 18, 2024, William publicly appeared and helped load food and cooking equipment at the food and distribution charity Surplus to Supper in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey. One of the volunteers, 71-year-old Rachel Candappa, interacted with William and handed him two get-well cards for Kate and King Charles. 

A visibly moved William thanked Candappa: “Thank you, you are very kind.” Just as the helper asked William to look after his wife, he placed his hand on her shoulder and promised: “I will.” 

According to an interview with Candappa on The Mirror, she revealed that the night before, she wondered if she would have a chance to give the card directly to palace officials – not knowing that she would hand them personally to William. 

“I said ‘can I shake your hand?’, I loved it, he was very down to earth. I’m never washing my hand again,” she added. 

Candappa also shared with the publication the contents of her letter to Kate. 

“Nation’s hearts were broken when you very courageously went on the global stage on your own to talk about your personal health issues. With no trimmings or flowering around issues, you gave the chance just few chosen words to assure anyone who cares to listen that you will fight this dreadful “C” disease. You must have had a lot of steel in you to hold it together,” she wrote. “Your Royal Highness you are going to beat this with the support of your dutiful and loving husband, caring parents and very close siblings. It’s no miracle not only His Majesty the King but the whole world is proud how you are focusing on to keep healthy and protect your children through this difficult times. You have not stepped a foot wrong to date and don’t let anyone say otherwise. The whole nation will be behind you.”

Princess Catherine (2022), (IMAGO/i Images)

William’s appearance at the Surrey charity sparked discussion among royal watchers. Among them was author Alexander Larman, who explained how William and Kensington Palace needed to change their approach as the public and media were “obsessed by the health of the royal family.” 

He highlighted the difference between the way King Charles’ diagnosis was revealed compared with Kate’s, saying:

“Buckingham Palace came forward very quickly and gave a fairly candid idea of what’s happening with Charles with his illness, and Kensington Palace didn’t. I think that’s because Prince William is much more into the vein of never complain, never explain, which was his great grandfather’s motto, and has always served the Royal Family well. But it doesn’t hold up in 2024, because you’ve got to allow the idea the information is going to get out into the public, whether you like it or not.”

Meanwhile, others believed William’s approach has been exemplary. Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told The Sun that William’s “well-timed” charity appearance suggested the royal family was on its way back to normality.

“Royals realize that every single thing they do sends a message in one way or another. … It was a question of sending a signal that it was business as usual – as far as that was reasonable to be expected. If Catherine had been there, it would have been fantastic, but no one is expecting that,” he said.

He stressed William, in particular, was doing well, saying:

“The royal family obviously needs him. This was an important appearance, simply in the sense that it was what one would call normal. Obviously, with the royal family very little is actually normal at the moment. He is clearly looking after the children as far as feasible. I mean, it’s a burden William has. It sent this message that things some things are going on, more or less as normal.”

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