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Princess of Wales appears in 1st photo since surgery amid wild speculation

Kate, 42, underwent abdominal surgery on Jan. 16, but didn’t say what for

The first photo of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since her abdominal surgery nearly two months ago was issued Sunday along with a statement thanking the public for its support.

The photo of her in a chair surrounded by her three children was credited to her husband, William, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, and was said to be taken earlier in the week in Windsor.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” Kate said on social media. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

It follows weeks of wild speculation on social media about her whereabouts since she left a hospital Jan. 29 after a nearly two week stay following planned surgery. She hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas Day.

The royal family has been under more scrutiny than usual in recent weeks, because both Kate and King Charles III can’t carry out their usual public duties because of health problems.

Royal officials say Charles is undergoing treatment for an unspecified form of cancer, which was discovered during treatment for an enlarged prostate. The monarch has canceled all his public engagements while he receives treatment, though he’s been photographed walking to church and meeting privately with government officials and dignitaries.

Kate, 42, underwent surgery Jan. 16 and her condition and the reason for the surgery have not been revealed, though Kensington Palace, Prince William and Kate’s office said it was not cancer-related.

Although the palace initially said it would only provide significant updates and that she would not return to royal duties before Easter — March 31 this year — it followed up with a statement last month amid the rumors and conspiracy theories by saying she was doing well and reiterating its previous statement.

“Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess’ recovery and we’d only be providing significant updates,” the palace said Feb. 29. “That guidance stands.”

At the time, royal aides told The Sun newspaper: “We’ve seen the madness of social media and that is not going to change our strategy. There has been much on social media but the Princess has a right to privacy and asks the public to respect that.”

Further questions were raised last week when the British military appeared to jump the gun in announcing Kate would attend a Trooping the Color ceremony in June, apparently without consulting palace officials.

The appearance would have been her first major official duty since the surgery but Kensington Palace didn’t confirm any scheduled public events for Kate. It’s up to palace officials, not government departments, to announce and confirm the royals’ attendance at events.

The army later removed the reference to her attendance.

British media reported that the army did not seek approval from Kensington Palace before publishing details about Kate’s appearance in June, and announced the event based on the expectation that Kate, in her role as Colonel of the Irish Guards, would inspect the troops this year at the annual military ceremony.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The photo attached to this story was later withdrawn by the Associated Press and other news agencies and Kate apologized for providing an edited photo. Read more about that here.

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