As the world’s media descended on the London hospital where Kate Middleton underwent abdominal surgery Tuesday, Kensington Palace sources sought to assure the public that the “planned” surgery was successful, the Princess of Wales is doing “OK,” and her abdominal issues are not “cancerous.”
But as the palace declined to reveal anything more about the princess’ “private medical information,” people online noted that the palace said she could be in the hospital for up to two weeks and that her recovery time at home could leave her unable to perform royal duties for two to three months. To many, this lengthy hospital stay and recovery time suggests that her condition is serious, even if she expects a full recovery.
Even the U.S. entertainment site TMZ pointed out: “It’s a startling development, which seems to have come out of nowhere — and more troubling is the fact that a 14-day hospital stay after a surgery is quite a long time.”
In replies to the Kensington Palace statement posted on X, many wished the princess a speedy recovery and supported her desire to keep her medical information private. However, the lack of specific information prompted many others to speculate on her condition, with one person remarking: “I hate to say it, but I suspect that the words abdominal surgery and 10 to 14 days in hospital will lead to some Google searching and intense speculation as everyone plays Doctor House and tries to figure out what might be wrong with her. It might have been better to just spell it out.”
Kat Leath, the medical editor for the UK Times, agreed that the length of Kate’s hospital stay indicates that the operation was “fairly serious,” particularly for a healthy, 42-year-old woman. Abdominal surgery could involve “the stomach, appendix, kidneys or bowel, or the reproductive system,” Leath said.
The 10- to 14-day expected hospital stay is indeed longer than usual and exceeds the national average in Britain, which a report by the U.K. Health Foundation said was 8.3 days in 2022. In the United States, the average length of stay for patients in 4.5 days, according to a 2023 analysis.
In both Britain and the United States, there has been a movement to reduce the length of time that patients stay in hospitals, and not just to reduce costs. “It’s much better for patient’s physical and mental wellbeing to leave hospital as soon as they are medically optimized for discharge,” the National Health Service said in a 2019 report.
A wealth of research shows that longer hospital stays put patients at risk of developing infections or suffering medical complications. Patients also report that hospitals are not restful, comfortable places to recover. In Kate’s case at least, she will probably enjoy a private suite at the London Clinic and be shielded from the worst of hospital accommodations. The private hospital, in Marylebone’s historic medical district, has long experience treating royals, celebrities and politicians, offering concierge service and “personalized food menus” made by top chefs, the Times reported.
Still, the princess will probably look forward to leaving the hospital and recovering in the comfort of her own home near Windsor Castle, where she can be looked after by Prince William, her family and their private staff.
The dearth of information about Kate’s condition is in contrast to medical news released Wednesday about King Charles III. Buckingham Palace revealed Wednesday that the monarch would undergo treatment next week for an enlarged prostate. “His Majesty’s condition is benign and he will attend hospital next week for a corrective procedure,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. The Telegraph reported that the king probably will stay overnight in a hospital, while the palace said his public engagements “will be postponed for a short period of recuperation.”
The king was “very keen” to share his diagnosis in order to encourage other men to get regular checks for an enlarged prostate, a condition that is common in men over 50, The Telegraph reported.
In sharing news about the princess’ surgery, Kensington Palace said: “The princess understands the interest this statement will generate. She hopes the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible, and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.”
The Telegraph reported that the palace has not ruled out releasing more information about Kate’s condition in the future. Sources told The Telegraph that she made the call on what information to release.
The Telegraph reported that the Princess of Wales was not rushed to the hospital, and that her condition is not something that developed over the weekend, suggesting that her surgery was in fact planned for a least a few days, if not more. Aides, however, have declined to say whether the condition that necessitated the surgery is something that might affect her in the long term.
But in the short term, Kate’s recovery means she is expected to miss out several high-level winter and spring royal engagements, including the BAFTA awards, St Patrick’s Day and the Commonwealth Service, the Daily Mail said. She and Prince William also were planning a high-profile visit to Rome this spring, but this trip is now in doubt, the Daily Mail also said.
In the U.K., and in a family often buffeted by drama and scandal, the future queen is regarded as a figure of stability. She’s also known for being active and athletic, often showing off her skills in tennis and other sports while participating in royal engagements. In the past, she was admitted to the hospital during her pregnancies because she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum — a severe form of morning sickness.
The princess was last seen in public on Christmas Day as she walked to church with other members of the royal family the Telegraph said. She was photographed, smiling and greeting well-wishers as she arrived at St. Mary Magdalene Church near the family’s Sandringham estate. Two weeks later, on Jan. 9, she celebrated her 42nd birthday privately with her family at her home near Windsor Castle.
It’s not expected that Kate will be able to return to royal duties until after Easter at the end of March. But her recovery could take up to three months, The Telegraph reported.
While Kate is in the hospital, Prince William is expected to divide his time between being by her side and looking after their three children, the Telegraph reported. He, therefore, will also need to postpone a number of engagements and isn’t expected to return to royal duties until after she’s had time to recover at home.