As Exciting As It Is, Princess Kate's Trooping the Colour Appearance Doesn't Mean She Has Fully Returned to Royal Duty

Continued reports indicate she will resume her work in the public eye when given the green light from her medical team.

Kate Middleton in green dress and hat and sapphire and diamond earrings at Trooping the Colour
(Image credit: Getty)

Before Friday's surprise announcement from the Princess of Wales that she would, indeed, attend Trooping the Colour on June 15—her first public appearance since Christmas Day 2023, nearly six months prior—buzz was circulating that she was “considering” making a surprise Buckingham Palace balcony appearance for today’s ceremony “if she is feeling well enough” as she continues treatment for cancer.

Kate has been a fixture at Trooping the Colour since marrying into the royal family in 2011, and would normally be a staple at the event; that said, there has been nothing “normal” about 2024, after a planned abdominal surgery in January detected cancer, which she reportedly found out about in February. She revealed her diagnosis in a courageous video message on March 22, and has been laying low since, receiving preventative chemotherapy and prioritizing her health.

Kate Middleton

Despite today's very welcome appearance, Kate remains away from public duty for the foreseeable future as she prioritizes her health following a cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kate’s last public appearance was on Christmas Day 2023, when she joined the rest of the royal family for the traditional service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham Estate. Though her appearance in public today is a taste of what's to come, her full return to royal duty remains unknown as, in her own words, "I am not out of the woods yet," she wrote in a statement on June 14, alongside a stunning photo taken by longtime royal photographer Matt Porteous. 

Kate said she hoped "to join a few public engagements over the summer" and wrote she is "learning how to be patient, especially with uncertainty," she continued. "Taking each day as it comes, listening to my body, and allowing myself to take this much needed time to heal."

As to her return date to work, royal historian Gareth Russell told Us Weekly that he believes she will return to public duty when “she feels ready to, rather than because she feels pressured to.”

And as for the Princess of Wales’ return date remaining ambiguous, “I think the royal household have been very clear that they will keep that private until she is ready to do that herself,” Russell said. “And I think that’s probably the best way forward.” Numerous outlets have reported that, when Kate does return, it might not look the same as it once did, to which Russell responded “I think maybe they’re trying to draw a line that with this Princess of Wales, there will be less of a sense of public ownership of her in her private [life],” as opposed to the Princess of Wales before her, Princess Diana, who was arguably the most famous woman to hold the title until Kate was given it in 2022. 

atherine, Princess of Wales (L) and Prince William, Prince of Wales (2nd R) with Prince Louis of Wales (R), Prince George of Wales (C) and Princess Charlotte of Wales (2nd L) attend the Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church on December 25, 2023 in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Before Saturday's appearance, Kate was last seen in public nearly six months prior, seen here on Christmas Day 2023 alongside her immediate family and the larger royal family.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Royal author and Vanity Fair royal correspondent Katie Nicholl told The Sun that Kate had “turned a corner” in regards to her health and will “100 percent” be returning to work as soon as her medical team gives her the green light to do so. “I’ve been told by sources very close to the Princess of Wales that she had struggled with the treatment initially,” Nicholl said. “It’s preventative chemotherapy—it’s not a pleasant thing. No one wants to have this, you know, off the back of major surgery, a pretty long recovery period, and then she has to go through the treatment. I think it was a struggle initially and I was very, very relieved to hear from actually more than one source that she has recently turned a corner.”

To reports that Kate will not be returning to public duty in the same capacity again, Nicholl said “I really think this is not the case. Everything I hear is that she will be back to work. She’s coming back 100 percent to pick up as Princess of Wales and do the great work she was doing before. It will just be in her time, and she’s ready and, crucially, when she gets the sign off from her medical team.”

Prince Charles Kate Middleton

Both the Princess of Wales and the King have faced cancer battles in 2024, and both are continuing to receive treatment.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In Kate's own words, "I am making good progress, but, as anyone going through chemotherapy will know, there are good days and bad days," she wrote. "On those bad days you feel weak, tired, and you have to give in to your body resting. But on the good days, when you feel stronger, you want to make the most of feeling well."

She added that her "treatment is ongoing and will be for a few more months," she continued. "On the days I feel well enough, it is a joy to engage with school life, spend personal time on the things that give me energy and positivity, as well as starting to do a little work from home."

Kate also thanked the public for "all the kind messages of support and encouragement over the last couple of months," adding "It really has made the world of difference to William and me and has helped us both through some of the harder times."

She closed her statement—unprecedented in terms of royal candor and openness—with the words "Thank you so much for your continued understanding, and to all of you who have so bravely shared your stories with me."

Of today's Trooping the Colour, which Russell said has been a “tradition since the time of George II in the early 18th century," King Charles, instead of riding on horseback as he did last year in his first Trooping the Colour as monarch, will ride in a carriage alongside wife Queen Camilla, as he, too, is battling cancer. 

“His doctors have been quite clear, given his ongoing cancer treatment, it’d be better if he was in a carriage,” Russell said.

It is understood that the King and the Princess of Wales have never been closer as both go through this unexpected season of life together, perhaps a reason why Kate felt compelled to, if she felt able, honor and celebrate him today at Trooping the Colour.

According to People, Kate is expected to ride in a carriage as well alongside her children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, while her husband Prince William takes part on horseback. She will watch the parade from the Major General's Office overlooking the parade grounds before traveling back to Buckingham Palace, where she'll join the rest of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch the Royal Air Force's flypast, a highlight of the annual event that concludes the celebrations.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.