Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales. Image Credit: AFP

Los Angeles: Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales, was spotted in public on Monday for the first time since she underwent abdominal surgery in mid-January, according to photos published by US outlet TMZ.

The 42-year-old princess, whose husband Prince William is heir to the British throne, has been recovering mainly at their home in Windsor, west of London, since leaving hospital on January 29.

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Photos published by TMZ showed Kate wearing sunglasses while being driven in a car, with the celebrity news site saying they were taken Monday near Windsor Castle.

UK media outlets including the Daily Mail and The Sun have chosen not to publish the photos.

"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," ITV News royal editor Chris Ship said on X, formerly Twitter.

The sighting comes as social media has been alight with conspiracy theories over the famously hard-working and dutiful princess's absence from the spotlight.

The speculation has come despite Kensington Palace clearly saying at the time of her surgery that she would be "unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter."

It also said the surgery was not related to cancer.

Last week, William pulled out of a public out of attending a memorial service, citing a "personal matter" and fueling more rumors.

Kensington Palace declined to elaborate on the last-minute withdrawal, but said Kate continued to be "doing well."

The king, 75, has also withdrawn from public duties during his treatment, though he has attended church services and held his weekly audience with the prime minister.

Kate's hospitalization came almost simultaneously with the announcement that William's father, King Charles, had been admitted for surgery for a benign prostate condition and subsequently diagnosed with an unrelated cancer.