On January 17, Kensington Palace released a statement revealing that Kate, the Princess of Wales, had undergone a planned abdominal surgery the previous day at the private London Clinic hospital. “The surgery was successful and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for 10 to 14 days, before returning home to continue her recovery,” read the announcement. “Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.” The palace offered few additional details, leading to massive speculation over why the 42-year-old may have gone under the knife — and whether or not her health is in serious danger. (Officials said the operation was not cancer-related.) A source exclusively tells In Touch Kate and her husband, Prince William, have been “adamant” about not releasing her medical information, and only wanted the barest details revealed. “Kate and William would’ve preferred to keep the surgery quiet but felt the public should know why she’ll be out of the spotlight the next few months,” says the source. Between the lack of an official medical report and the long recovery time, there’s growing concern about Kate’s condition. “People think the royals are being very coy,” adds the source, “and they’re worried there’s something very serious going on.”

The timing couldn’t be worse, as Buckingham Palace announced that same day that King Charles III would be undergoing “corrective surgery” for a benign enlarged prostate. The Firm clearly disclosed more details in the 75-year-old’s case, but they revealed that Charles himself wanted to be open about his diagnosis in the hopes of encouraging men to take care of their own health. Seeing two high-profile royals out of commission at the same time is more than unusual for the royal family. (For example, William, 41, didn’t disclose that he had contracted Covid-19 at the same time as his father until well after the fact.) “Having both Charles and Kate be stricken with health issues is concerning to palace officials,” adds the source. “They’ve had to cancel engagements and are facing a barrage of media inquiries, about Kate especially. There’s a sense of panic that arises from this kind of bombshell. It makes people worried.”

With little official news, speculation was rife about what was really going on — especially considering Kate’s lengthy recovery time. Going off the news that the surgery was abdominal, Dr. Ryan Neinstein of Neinstein Plastic Surgery offered his theory that the mom of three underwent a tummy tuck. The NYC-based doc, who does not treat Kate, said he’s seen a 60 percent increase in demand in the past year for these types of procedures, including a $75,000 VIP procedure he calls “the Birkin Body,” which focuses on postpartum issues like loose skin, damage to muscles, stubborn fat and saggy breasts.

More seriously, there has also been talk Kate had a hysterectomy, which can involve a long recovery. Still others believe she may have undergone laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, a procedure to repair the valve at the end of the stomach in order to curtail reflux (GERD). The reasoning is that the princess sustained damage from her three difficult pregnancies. Kate suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum; in 2012 she was hospitalized for the condition, which causes extreme morning sickness. “Those pregnancies took a toll,” says the source, “but Kate bounced back and got through it. She’s been very open about that. Hyperemesis gravidarum happens to a lot of women. If anything, she helped spread awareness.”

Was Kate Middleton's Major Operation Eating Disorder Related? Prince William 'Worries' What People 'Think'
Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images

More troubling, some surmise damage may be the result of a rumored eating disorder. (GERD has been linked to bulimia.) For years, the rail-thin royal has been dogged by questions about her weight. It’s a touchy subject for William in light of Princess Diana’s public struggles with bulimia. “William gets angry when people say Kate has an eating disorder,” says the source. “Of course it worries him that people think that, but it’s also a sensitive topic given what his mother went through.”

Palace officials are assuring everyone that Kate’s condition isn’t life-threatening, but there’s still cause for concern. “She pushes herself so hard and she’s only human,” says the source. Though she’s always beaming in public, there are whispers she told William she’s been in pain for months. “The palace is worried.”

William has been stepping up to fill her place as she recuperates, pulling double-duty at home with Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5. He was upfront with them when he told them about Kate’s situation. “The kids are aware of Kate’s present condition,” says the source. “The whole family is taking a step back to deal with it. They are a very close-knit family and they will get through this together.”

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