Catherine, Princess of Wales, receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer | Catherine, Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales has disclosed that she has been diagnosed with cancer and is in the early stages of receiving chemotherapy treatment.

In a “personal message” filmed in the gardens of Windsor Castle by the BBC, Catherine told of her “shock” when her condition was discovered after she had major abdominal surgery in January.

She has since been the subject of wild rumours, and Friday’s news prompted Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to condemn the “lurid” and “unfair” speculation of recent weeks.

Catherine said she and her husband, Prince William, had needed time to explain the situation to their three children, George, 10, Charlotte, eight, and Louis, five.

“This of course came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” she said. “As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But, most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK.”

King Charles, 75, who is also being treated for cancer and was in hospital at the same time as Catherine in January, spoke of his pride at her “courage in speaking as she did”.

“Following their time in hospital together, [His Majesty] has remained in the closest contact with his beloved daughter-in-law throughout the past weeks,” Buckingham Palace said. “Both Their Majesties will continue to offer their love and support to the whole family through this difficult time.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they wished “health and healing for Kate and the family, adding: “[We] hope they are able to do so privately and in peace.”

The palace said Catherine started her chemotherapy treatment in late February. It is understood her public announcement of the news was timed to coincide with the children breaking up from school for the Easter holidays.

Catherine, wearing a white jumper with black stripes, talked without apparent nerves but looked down briefly when talking of her family’s shock at the news.

The palace said Catherine had wished to provide a medical update in order to put an end to the speculation sparked by her admission to the London Clinic on 16 January for major abdominal surgery. At the time, the palace refused to confirm what Catherine was being treated for, but said the condition was non-cancerous.

Catherine said it was only after the surgery that the cancer had been found. In her statement – made public on Friday and which began with words of thanks for those who had sent messages of support – Catherine said she felt well and was “getting stronger every day”.

She added: “It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family, but I’ve had a fantastic medical team who have taken great care of me, for which I am so grateful.

“In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful. However, tests after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventive chemotherapy and I am now in the early stages of that treatment.”

Catherine said she had been able to reassure her children that she would recover from her diagnosis. “As I have said to them; I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body and spirits,” she said. “Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance too. As is the love, support and kindness that has been shown by so many of you. It means so much to us both.”

It is understood that the cancer diagnosis was the “personal matter” that led to William pulling out from a memorial service for his godfather, King Constantine II, in late February.

The royal couple, who will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary next month, have endured weeks of rumours about Catherine’s condition. The speculation was only fuelled when the first official photograph of the Princess of Wales to be released after her abdominal surgery two months ago was recalled by some of the world’s biggest picture agencies over claims it had been manipulated.

She soon after issued a public apology for the “confusion” and said she had been responsible for digitally editing the Mother’s Day family photograph.

Catherine asked in the statement issued on Friday for time and space for her to complete her treatment and said she looked forward to returning to royal duties.

She said: “We hope that you will understand that, as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment. My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy and I look forward to being back when I am able, but for now I must focus on making a full recovery.

“At this time, I am also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.”

The palace did not provide any further information about the type of cancer that had been discovered.

Responding to the announcement, Sunak condemned the treatment of the princess “by certain sections of the media around the world and on social media”.

Starmer said: “Any cancer diagnosis is shocking. But I can only imagine the added stress of receiving that news amid the lurid speculation we’ve seen in recent weeks.”

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