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Kate Middleton’s Surgery Came as a Surprise to Those Close to the Royal Family

The Princess of Wales is recovering from planned abdominal surgery in the private London Clinic

Kate Middleton
Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton shocked the world — and most of those around her — when the palace announced on Jan. 17 that she had been hospitalized.

The Princess of Wales, 42, was admitted to the London Clinic a day prior for “planned abdominal surgery.” Yet just three weeks earlier there was no hint of any impending issue as Kate stepped out on Christmas morning alongside Prince William and their children Prince George, 10,  Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5. Kate beamed as she greeted well-wishers, exchanging laughs and cheerful banter with the public following a church service.

Within their broader circle of family friends, there had been no indication that anything was wrong, and the carefully guarded news about Kate’s situation came as a surprise even to those who work closely with the royal family, PEOPLE understands.

Spending the holiday season at their country home, Anmer Hall, the couple and their children enjoyed family time with their royal relatives while catching up with friends for outings in the Norfolk countryside, PEOPLE reports in this week's issue.

Related: Former Patient at Kate Middleton's Hospital Details Recovery After Abdominal Surgery: 'It's a Bit Scary at First'

<p>Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty</p> Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William and Prince Louis attend Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Dec. 25, 2023

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty

Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William and Prince Louis attend Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Dec. 25, 2023

Around the New Year they spent time with Kate’s family, and as they resumed daily life at Windsor’s Adelaide Cottage, they celebrated Kate’s 42nd birthday on Jan. 9 privately. The following day George, Charlotte and Louis returned to their school, Lambrook.

However, as William resumed public duties on Jan. 11, it became evident that some expected public engagements for Princess Kate were unconfirmed—and behind the scenes, there were schedule changes and growing concern.

For more on Kate Middleton's health crisis, pick up a copy of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

According to the palace, Kate could remain hospitalized for “10 to 14 days" before returning home to continue her recovery, and it would be unlikely for her to “return to public duties until after Easter.”

“It is sensible to take the time,” says a source close to the royal household. “That is a great example to the rest of us, as you’re often told to get back to work as soon as possible, which can be damaging."

Adds a former patient at the London Clinic: “The physical therapists are amazing, helping you recover and get back on your feet. After abdominal surgery, you need a lot of patience, and it’s a bit scary at first.”

Related: Kate Middleton Wants to 'Maintain Normality' for George, Charlotte and Louis amid Hospitalization

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty</p> Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales with her children Princess Charlotte and Prince George

Chris Jackson/Getty

Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales with her children Princess Charlotte and Prince George

Once back home at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor, Kate will receive ample support from her close-knit family, including parents Carole and Michael and siblings Pippa and James, who are a short car ride away.

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“Her parents are an enduring factor in the upbringing of their grandchildren,” a palace insider tells PEOPLE. “And they will be a reassuring presence when she goes back to Windsor to recuperate.”

Adds the source close to the royal household, “She is in great hands and will have lots of care and support at home."

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Read the original article on People.