Two of the most senior members of Britain’s royal family have been hit by health concerns, with Catherine, the Princess of Wales and the wife of Prince William, undergoing abdominal surgery in London on Tuesday, while King Charles III will receive treatment for an enlarged prostate next week.
Catherine will be hospitalized for 10 to 14 days, according to the couple’s office in Kensington Palace, and will convalesce for two to three months after that. The king’s recovery is expected to be swifter, according to Buckingham Palace, which described his treatment as a “corrective procedure” for a common, benign condition.
Kensington Palace did not offer details on Catherine’s diagnosis or prognosis, other than to say that the surgery had been planned and was successful, and that her condition was “not cancerous.” It said the princess, who is 42, would recuperate at home after she left the hospital and would not return to public duties until after Easter.
“Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales was admitted to the London Clinic yesterday for planned abdominal surgery,” Kensington Palace said in a four-paragraph news release. It added: “She hopes the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.”
The news of King Charles’s medical procedure came about an hour later. Buckingham Palace announced he would postpone his engagements for a “short period of recuperation.” It did not say at which hospital Charles, 75, would be treated. A palace official said the king had decided to disclose his treatment because he hoped it would encourage other men who may be experiencing symptoms similar to his to get checked.
Benign prostate enlargement is common in men over age 50, according to Britain’s National Health Service. In those over 70, it can be found in up to 90 percent of men. It is not cancerous and it does not usually pose a serious health threat. Treatment includes medication and changes to diet and lifestyle, as well as surgical procedures in some more severe cases to cut excess tissue from the prostate gland.
Taken together, the medical announcements were a jolt to the British royal family, which had been in a period of relative tranquillity, following a turbulent couple of years that included the deaths of Queen Elizabeth II, in 2022, and her husband, Prince Philip, in 2021.
Catherine’s hospital, The London Clinic, an elite private institution in the Marylebone neighborhood of London, has treated other members of the royal family, as well as celebrities like the actress Elizabeth Taylor and foreign leaders like the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. John F. Kennedy, the future president, was told by doctors he had Addison’s disease while a patient at the hospital in 1947.
In a royal family buffeted by drama and scandal, Catherine, formerly known as Kate Middleton, has recently been viewed as a figure of stability. After being subjected to titillating media coverage of her romance with William, a classmate at St. Andrews University in Scotland, Catherine has carved out an identity as a parent, a patron of charities and a dauntless companion to her husband on foreign tours.
She and Prince William, along with their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, have moved to the foreground of the family since the queen’s death, and the rupture between the family and Prince Harry, William’s younger brother, and his wife, Meghan.
The family played a conspicuous role in the queen’s state funeral, as well as the coronation of Charles last May, where Prince George held the king’s robe as one of the pages. His sister, Charlotte, wore an ivory silk crepe dress by the designer Alexander McQueen — a miniature version of the one worn by her mother.
Catherine has also become a familiar figure at events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament, where she is a patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and has presented the trophy to the winner of the ladies’ singles competition.
In public opinion polls, Catherine routinely ranks among the family’s most popular members, though she still occasionally draws negative coverage for issues like her relationship with her sister-in-law Meghan, which newspapers have described as frosty.
William and Catherine are known for guarding their privacy on medical issues. William suffered a bout of Covid-19 in April 2020, during one of the most intense phases of the pandemic, but the news was not disclosed for several months. Some suggested that he did not want to cause alarm, since his father, then Prince Charles, had contracted the illness around the same time.
William, 41 and the heir to the throne, will also suspend his public duties while Catherine is in the hospital and immediately after her return home, according to a palace official. He may postpone other engagements during the two to three months that his wife is expected to be convalescing.
Catherine will recuperate at Adelaide Cottage, a four-bedroom house on the grounds of Windsor Castle, to which the couple moved in 2022, after having lived in a grand apartment in Kensington Palace.