World is obsessing over Princess of Wales Kate — here’s a timeline

World is obsessing over Princess of Wales Kate — here's a timeline

World is obsessing over Princess of Wales Kate — here’s a timeline

Britain’s Catherine, Princess of Wales and Britain’s Prince George of Wales (L) leave after attending the Royal Family’s traditional Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham Estate in eastern England, on December 25, 2023.

Adrian Dennis | Afp | Getty Images

LONDON — An online frenzy over the U.K.’s Royal Family has dominated social media and the news in recent weeks, as seemingly everyone has been asking where the Princess of Wales is and why she has not been seen in public since December.

Obsession reached a high after a picture of the former Kate Middleton (known as Kate, Catherine or Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales) and her children was released on Mother’s Day earlier this month, before being found to be edited.

Conspiracy theories about her family life, physical and mental health, and even whether she is still alive have since gone viral around the world. The palace has widely stayed silent on the matter, which at times has added fuel to the fire.

Her return could be around the corner, as the upcoming Easter holiday traditionally involves public appearances for the Royal Family.

Here’s a timeline of events so far, and what could be on the horizon:

Dec. 25, 2023, Christmas Day: As per tradition, Kate is seen walking to and attending a church service alongside the wider Royal Family, including her children and husband Prince William, on Christmas Day in Sandringham — one of the royal residencies in England.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales and Mia Tindall attend Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church on December 25, 2023 in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Samir Hussein | Wireimage | Getty Images

Jan. 17, 2024: Kensington Palace releases a statement saying that Kate was admitted to hospital the previous day for planned abdominal surgery. The procedure was successful, the palace said, but Kate would stay in hospital for two weeks.

There is no confirmation of what the surgery was, with the palace saying Kate hoped that the public would respect “her wish that her personal medical information remains private.” It is also at this point that the palace suggests Kate will not be resuming public duties until after Easter.

In the following days, William is pictured visiting Kate in hospital.

Despite the palace statement, rumors and conspiracy theories start flying. What type of surgery could keep her in hospital for that long and require that long a break from her duties? And especially at a time when King Charles III is also being treated for multiple health issues? Was her absence really planned or was it an emergency? Did it really all go well or were there complications?

The public weigh in with their personal experiences and half-knowledge. Some doctors and medical professionals join the conversation online, explaining what they think could be going on. Social media posts start going viral, diagnosing Kate with a range of physical and mental illnesses from afar.

Jan. 29: Kensington Palace releases a statement on social media saying Kate has returned home and “is making good progress” and thanking the public for their well wishes.

Feb. 27: Prince William resumes public engagements after some time off, but no updates are released about Kate. Meanwhile, King Charles is diagnosed with cancer and begins treatment. At the last minute, William pulls out of an appearance at a memorial service for his godfather.

March 4: A paparazzi photo of Kate in a car goes online, but many claim the woman pictured is not in fact Kate. Rumors intensify as the public tries to find an explanation.

March 5: The BBC reports that the British Army removed a reference to Kate appearing at a military event scheduled for June from its website, after Kensington Palace said it had not confirmed that she would attend. Rumors are fueled yet again, with many asking whether she may not recover according to the original timeline.

March 10, Mother’s Day in the UK: Kensington Palace releases a picture of Kate with her three children. But news agencies soon pull the picture, issuing a so-called “kill notice,” as they find it has been edited too heavily. Every detail of the image is scrutinized, from Kate’s hair to the children’s clothes that seem inconsistent, to a ledge in the background that appears warped and trees with leaves on them, a rarity this early in the year in the U.K.

A picture shows stories in Britain’s national newspapers, about the altered mother’s day photo released by Kensington Palace on March 10, of Britain’s Catherine, Princess of Wales and her children, in London on March 12, 2024.

Paul Ellis | Afp | Getty Images

Social media goes wild. More and more conspiracy theories emerge and go far beyond her health. People try to find explanations for the edited picture, with some saying it was photoshopped from a magazine cover that Kate posed for in the past and others claiming the picture was taken in 2023 with different clothes photoshopped onto the princess and the children.

March 11: Kensington Palace posts a statement from Kate on social media, saying she edited the picture.

“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. C,” it reads.

A picture of William and Kate’s side profile in a car reaches the media, but the public are not convinced that it is really her.

The statement and picture do nothing to stem the rumors. Why would she edit the picture, why is she taking the blame for the failed edit, why is the palace not giving an update, why is there no picture of her recovering from surgery at home, why is the palace staying silent on the public’s theories? Global media joins the discussion with news platforms from Germany to the U.S. covering the story.

March 18: The British tabloid The Sun publishes a video of what appear to be Kate and William at a farm shop. Once again, the public are convinced this is really Kate and not a double.

A view of the newspaper headlines that published photographs of Princess Kate during a casual outing with her husband, Prince William, at a farm produce market in Windsor on March 20, 2024 in London, United Kingdom.

Rasid Necati Aslim | Anadolu | Getty Images

March 19: Reports emerge that a staff member at the hospital Kate was being treated at tried to access her files without permission to do so.

March 29 – April 1, Easter weekend: Traditionally, the royal family spend the Easter holiday together and make public appearances, including a walk through the grounds of Windsor Castle to attend a church service on Easter Sunday.

This could be Kate’s first official public appearance after her time off, especially when considering that Kensington Palace in January said she would likely resume public duties after the holiday.

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