The Princess of Wales was last seen in public 23 days ago on Christmas Day when she walked to church with the rest of the royal family.
She held hands with her daughter Princess Charlotte and looked happy and relaxed as she grinned at well-wishers while strolling to the service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham.
Three weeks later, Kate, who has undergone abdominal surgery, is expected to be out of action until after Easter and away from royal duties for up to three months.
In December, the princess was busy hosting her annual carol concert at Westminster Abbey.
The service has become a regular festive feature of the royal calendar, with Prince George, Charlotte, Prince Louis, the Prince of Wales and other royals gathering to support Kate.
The princess turned 42 on January 9, and while the monarchy’s official social media accounts celebrated the day with a behind the scenes photo of Kate at the coronation, there was unusually no customary response from Kensington Palace this year thanking well-wishers for their messages.
Wishing The Princess of Wales a very happy birthday today! 🎈🎊
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 9, 2024
The princess will miss the Baftas in February, the annual Commonwealth Day service and the St David’s Day Parade at the start of March as well as the St Patrick’s Day parade with the military later the same month.
The Prince of Wales is also temporarily stopping official duties to care for his wife and children while the princess is in hospital for the next fortnight, and during the immediate period when she returns home.
The couple’s reported trip to Italy in the spring looks in jeopardy, with the pair not expected to carry out any overseas travel in the coming months.
There is also traditionally an incoming state visit in the spring, which would be hosted by the King, supported by William and Kate at the banquet and other engagements.
The princess, who will recuperate at the Waleses’ family home Adelaide Cottage in Windsor’s Home Park, is known for being fit, sporty and competitive at team games.
She enjoys playing tennis and is a fan of cold water swimming.
She was previously admitted to hospital while pregnant after suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum – severe morning sickness.
And last year she was spotted with two fingers strapped up as a precaution after a trampoline accident.
The princess also has a scar on her left temple under her hair relating to a childhood operation.
William’s former university flatmate Kate has carefully carved out her charity work since marrying the prince in 2011 and becoming an HRH.
Gradually and patiently developing her role over the years, she has focused on mental health and the early years of childhood, and is known to meticulously research the issues facing the charities she works with.
Kate and William have faced personal challenges in recent years, dealing with the fallout from Megxit and the Sussexes’ bombshell claims.
The princess was publicly singled out by the Duchess of Sussex in the primetime television Oprah Winfrey interview for allegedly making former Suits actress Meghan cry in the run-up to her wedding.
It related to a disagreement over flower girl dresses and Meghan said the Palace failed to correct reports which said she left Kate in tears.
In his memoir Spare, Harry alleged it was William and Kate who encouraged him to wear a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party in 2005 and “howled” with laughter when they saw it.
The princess was accused of being “cold” and ignoring the Duchess of Sussex’s “cries for help” in Endgame by royal writer Omid Scobie, who is seen as a cheerleader for Meghan.
Kate, who has remained silent about the allegations, has often been hailed for her levelheadedness, her measured outlook and her bubbly, kind nature.
Family life is sacrosanct to Kate – mother to 10-year-old George, Charlotte, eight, and five-year-old Louis.
She remains close to her parents Carole and Michael Middleton and siblings Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, and had a happy home life growing up.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born to the Middletons at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on January 9 1982.
Sharing some festive memories this Christmas because #ShapingUs is all about the vital importance of our early years and the role played by those around us in shaping the rest of our lives.
📸 of The Princess, Christmas 1983
Don’t miss the Together at Christmas Carol Service… pic.twitter.com/YbtYrZIbmt
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) December 18, 2023
She was christened at the parish church of St Andrew’s Bradfield in Berkshire on June 20 the same year.
Amman in Jordan was home to Kate and her family for a few years in the mid-1980s, where she attended a nursery school from the age of three, before the family returned to Berkshire.
At 13, she went to the exclusive private Marlborough College in Wiltshire, where she part-boarded.
She graduated in 2005 with a 2:1 in history of art from St Andrews University, where she met and began dating William, whom she married at Westminster Abbey in 2011.
She was dubbed “Waity Katie” for her patience during their long courtship, and was described by William in their engagement interview as having “a really naughty sense of humour”.
A keen photographer, the princess usually takes the publicly released photos of her children to mark their birthdays.