But at three months along, the expectant royal, 32 – who is due in April – is only now enjoying a smoother ride after her battle with hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe pregnancy sickness, kept her sidelined for the past six weeks.
Forced to cancel her first tour abroad in September, the princess has been slowly recovering, and at a recent gathering in her hometown of Bucklebury, she was eager to mingle with other guests.
“She was her smiling, bubbly self,” a guest tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “You would never have guessed she’s been ill.”
Still, a source at the palace says she continues to take things day by day.
“It is not right to say that she is absolutely fine,” cautions the source. “She is still feeling some of the effects of HG. But she is definitely recovering.”
Now that she’s starting to feel better, she and Prince William, 32, have been focusing on getting their new country home, Anmer Hall, ready for move-in – and preparing their firstborn, 15-month-old Prince George, for big brotherhood.
The couple, says an insider, “are now consolidating life as a young family.”
• Reporting by SIMON PERRY and PHILIP BOUCHER
For much more on Princess Kate’s road to recovery, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands Friday