The royal diary was in upheaval. On May 24, King Charles and Prince William abruptly canceled all their planned appearances for the week, as U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a special election for July 4.

“The royal family will — in accordance with normal procedure — postpone engagements that may appear to divert attention or distract from the campaign,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement, offering “sincere apologies to any of those who may be affected.” And while William and his father are still expected at several outings in June, one family member’s schedule remains completely clear: Princess Kate Middleton’s.

Kensington Palace confirmed that she will not attend a key dress rehearsal for the annual Trooping the Colour celebration on June 8, “and she’s canceled everything else as well,” says a source. “It’s possible we won’t see her until 2025, which would be a whole year without Kate.”

It has already been more than 150 days since the Princess of Wales made her last public appearance on Christmas Day. In January, the palace made the surprise announcement that she was undergoing abdominal surgery. In March, Kate revealed her cancer diagnosis in a heartbreaking video.

“But she insisted she was getting better every day,” says the source. “No one expected her to completely disappear for so long. Now, with the news that she may not resume her royal duties until 2025, everyone is fearing the worst. The truth is, Kate is in the fight of her life.”

The Firm has tried to alleviate concerns. “She’s doing well, thank you,” William, 41, told a well-wisher on May 10. And Kate’s Royal Foundation Business Task Force for Early Childhood unveiled a major new report on May 20. “The work on the princess’ projects is ‘always on,’ ” her spokesperson said. “Early childhood is a huge priority for the princess, and so she has been kept fully updated.”

Kate Middleton’s Private Recovery

For the foreseeable future, Kate, 42, will keep doing it all behind the scenes. “She’s still recovering, and her doctors haven’t given her the green light to get back to work full time yet. Going through chemotherapy has been particularly rough on her,” says the source, noting that the treatment is known to ravage the body and patients often lose their hair. “Kate was already skinny to begin with, so she’s very frail and afraid she won’t be able to give her all to an official engagement right now.”

Especially because her first appearance back will spark a worldwide media frenzy. “She’s been away so long that she’ll be under the intense glare of the spotlight — people will be analyzing every tiny detail of her appearance,” says the source, noting that the princess, who is often applauded for her polished presence and flawless style, “wouldn’t want to show up looking anything less than her best. Everyone has always expected her to be perfect at all times.”

In all likelihood, she’ll release another video first, says the source, “but even that will be nerve-racking.”

Kate, who was slammed for photoshopping her Mother’s Day picture earlier this year and has even been accused of using body doubles, “has been subjected to so many conspiracy theories since she got sick. Who knows what people will come up with next?” says the source. “It’s sad because she could do a lot of good if she visited fellow cancer patients as Charles did recently, and she’s under an enormous amount of pressure to get back to public service. But it’s also understandable that she’d want to stay in hiding.”

Kate Middleton’s Secret Outings

She hasn’t been completely holed up at the palace. “When she’s felt up to it, she’s been out and about, running errands, hiking outdoors and even seeing friends,” says the source. One X user claimed Kate and William hosted a dinner party at home recently, “which is a good sign,” while another posted that he saw her at an event at her children’s school in Berkshire.

“Kate has made it a priority not to disrupt her kids’ busy schedules,” says the source, adding that her mother, Carole Middleton, has been pitching in with George, 10, Charlotte, 9, and Louis, 6. “Kate also celebrated Charlotte’s and Louis’ recent birthdays as usual. The last thing she wants is for them to be anxious about her health.”

William is also doing his best to alleviate their concerns. Despite the pressures of his royal duties — especially because he’s often asked to fill in for Charles, who’s also battling cancer — “he’s really stepped up,” says the source. The prince took George to an FA Cup final match at Wembley Stadium in London on May 25, “and has been spending extra time with all the kids when Kate’s too tired. He has also gotten more involved at school. They’re both trying to keep their home life as normal as possible.”

Of course, nothing has been normal since Kate got her shocking news. “This has obviously been the most difficult and terrifying time imaginable for them,” says the source. “So no one is rushing her back into the public eye.”

The royal family — perhaps having learned a lesson over the years about pushing princesses to the breaking point — “are giving her all the space she needs,” says the source. “Kate will be back when she’s good and ready.”

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