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Kate Middleton Spotted in Public for First Time ... Since Hospitalization

Kate Middleton has surfaced for the first time since her hospitalization earlier this year that sidelined her for a good while -- and she's maintaining a low profile ... or trying to anyway.

The Princess of Wales was seen riding passenger Monday in a vehicle that was being driven by her mother, Carole, near Windsor Castle in the UK ... and like we said, this sighting is a big deal considering we haven't seen her whatsoever since December.

Kate was wearing shades, and appeared to be rocking somewhat of a smile here -- there didn't appear to be any other relatives with them for this outing ... and ditto for security.

It's interesting that she's popping up like this right now ... frankly, the internet has been rife with speculation these past couple weeks over her whereabouts -- and there's been a lot of jokes made at her expense.

Point is though ... people have been wondering where the heck she was and how she was doing -- especially since the condition she's been dealing with has been kept under tight wraps ... with Royal officials only saying she underwent abdominal surgery and nothing else.

Buckingham Palace only said at the time that she would remain hospitalized for about 2 weeks -- and after that, she wouldn't be able to resume her duties until about Easter time.

They also reassured the public that she was making progress in her recovery -- something they reiterated last week when they finally responded to all the viral conjecture going on.

We know Prince William has been coming to her side throughout all this -- he was seen going to the hospital while she was in there ... but since then, he's continued on with his work solo.

Her father-in-law, King Charles, has also been dealing with health issues -- due to his recent cancer diagnosis -- but he's been able to carry on just fine ... already being seen out and about.

Good to see Kate here ... now we all know, she's alive and well!

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