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Kate Middleton spotted in public for the first time since surgery

The Princess of Wales, who has been out of the public eye since Christmas, was photographed riding in a car with her mother near Windsor Castle, where she's been recovering.
/ Source: TODAY

Catherine, the Princess of Wales, was photographed for the first time this year on Monday after rumors about her health spread on social media following a planned abdominal surgery in January.

A photographer snapped shots of Princess Kate wearing sunglasses inside of a black SUV driven by her mother near Windsor Castle.

Kensington Palace declined to comment on the new photos.

The Princess of Wales, formerly Kate Middleton, has been out of the public eye since undergoing her surgery, leading social media users to speculate about her whereabouts and condition.

"Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the Princess’ recovery and we’d only be providing significant updates," a spokesperson for the princess said in a statement to NBC News on Feb. 29. "That guidance stands."

Princess Kate was last seen in public on Christmas Day, just a few weeks before Kensington Palace announced on Jan. 17 she underwent a "planned abdominal surgery" at a London hospital the day before.

"The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate," Kensington Palace said in a statement. "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 palace added she wished to apologize for having to postpone her upcoming engagements.

"She looks forward to reinstating as many as possible, as soon as possible," the palace said.

Kensington Palace did not provide any further details on the surgery other than it was non-cancerous, but said she would remain in the hospital for about 10 to 14 days.

Prince William visited his wife at the London Clinic, a private hospital, on Jan. 18, according to palace officials, and Kate was discharged on Jan. 29, 13 days after her procedure took place.

"The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery," a spokesperson said in a statement on Jan. 29. "She is making good progress."

Kate was expected to recuperate from the surgery for about two to three months, a palace source told NBC News. Kensington Palace said in a statement to NBC News she was "unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

Speculation about the princess' health reached a peak last week when Prince William missed a memorial service for his godfather due to a "personal matter."

The prince and future heir to the British throne also walked the BAFTAs red carpet alone on Feb. 18 as Kate continued her recovery. William and Kate have attended the event together in recent years.

William was in Wales on Friday, where he visited the city of Wrexham. He shared a beer with actor and Wrexham AFC soccer team co-owner Rob McElhenney.

Royal fans there shouted and asked William about Kate's condition. At one stop, a group of children gave him a bouquet of flowers.

"I will pass those on to Catherine, as well," he told the little well-wishers.