TMZ Photo of Kate Middleton Hasn’t Put People at Ease

Kate Middleton has been spotted for the first time since she underwent a “planned abdominal surgery” two months ago. 

On Monday, TMZ published images of the 42-year-old Princess of Wales in a car with her mother near Windsor Castle. The images follow weeks of unrelenting online speculation, and even conspiracy theories, about her health and whereabouts. The royal was last seen with Prince William and their children during Christmas festivities in Norfolk, England, but there have been no appearances or images of her since.

Meanwhile, the Princess of Wales’s uncle Gary Goldsmith became a contestant on the British reality TV show Big Brother on Monday evening, and said his niece is in a “nice house somewhere” recuperating from surgery.

Kensington Palace issued a statement in January announcing that Kate had undergone abdominal surgery in January and would recover—out of the spotlight—until after Easter. The statement added that it was her desire to maintain “as much normality for her children as possible” and to keep her medical information private. 

But social media users and royal observers began sharing all kinds of conspiracy theories about Kate’s extended absence in the meantime. Kate was discharged on Jan. 29, after two weeks in hospital, with Kensington Palace announcing that she was “making good progress” and recuperating at their family home in Windsor. 

Read More: Kate Middleton and the History of Royal Secrecy on Health Issues

Prince William had paused his royal engagements while Kate was recovering but he returned to duties on Feb. 7 for an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. Meanwhile, Kate is due to take part in the royal family’s annual Trooping the Colour parade on June 8.

Speculation over the Princess of Wales’s health and whereabouts comes at a sensitive time for the royal family, after Buckingham Palace disclosed last month that King Charles had been diagnosed with a form of cancer

No major British outlets have published the TMZ images so far. “There are pap picture of the Princess of Wales. We are not running them out of respect for her privacy whilst she recovers from her operation in the timescale we were given for it,” wrote Chris Ship, ITV’s royal editor, in a post on X. “As far as I know, no other UK broadcaster or newspaper has published the photos either.”

The royal family has a long history of secrecy about medical information, but the Princess and Prince of Wales have previously been candid about medical matters, including pregnancy and mental health. 

“That’s why William and Kate’s reticence about what’s going on with them is odd,” royal historian Clare McHugh previously told TIME.

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