The major questions raised over the 'manipulated' photo of Kate

By John Mercury March 11, 2024

After major photo agencies pulled the Mother’s Day picture of the Princess of Wales and her three children, Kate has now personally apologised for any “confusion” caused and said she edited the image.

Sky News answers the major questions raised by some over the “manipulated” image.

When and why was the photo released?

The photo was published on Sunday morning on the Prince and Princess of Wales’s social media accounts in celebration of Mother’s Day, and featured Kate surrounded by the couple’s three children: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

It was accompanied by the caption: “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C.”

The caption also said the photo was taken in 2024 by Prince William.

Analysis of the photo’s metadata by Sky News’s data & forensics unit found the image had been saved in photo editing software Adobe Photoshop twice on an Apple Mac – but it is unclear if it was saved on the same device.

The first save was made at 9.54pm on Friday night, with the second at 9.39am on Saturday morning.

The image was taken at Adelaide Cottage – the family’s home in Windsor – on a Canon 5D mark IV, which retails at £2,929.99 and used a Canon 50mm lens, which is priced at £1,629.99.

The Royal Family regularly publish their own photos to mark family occasions including birthdays and Christmas.

It is the first photograph released by Kensington Palace since Kate, 42, had abdominal surgery in January.

US celebrity news outlet TMZ did publish an unofficial paparazzi shot of the princess last week. It said the princess was spotted in a car driven by her mother Carole Middleton near Windsor Castle.

Kate was last seen in public on Christmas Day when she joined other members of the Royal Family for their annual church service and walk.

Britain's Kate, the Princess of Wales, William, the Prince of Wales, arrive behind King Charles III and Queen Camilla to attend the Christmas day service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham in Norfolk, England, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The Princess of Wales when she was last seen in public on Christmas Day. Pic: AP

The princess spent almost two weeks at The London Clinic earlier this year. The palace has revealed few details about her medical condition but said it is not cancer-related.

Kensington Palace said the princess was not expected to return to official duties until after Easter and would only provide updates on her recovery when there was significant new information to share.

It also added in a statement that the princess preferred to keep her personal information private, saying she wanted to “maintain as much normality for her children as possible”.

Why did news agencies ‘kill’ the picture?

Major international picture agencies “killed” the photograph on Sunday night – a direction that instructs media organisations that have used the picture to remove it from both their articles and archives.

Agencies that distribute news photographs prohibit the publication of images that have been overly edited.

Kill notices are uncommon and usually due to issues with copyright or journalistic process – but royal photographs being pulled is rare.

Associated Press (AP) was the first to pull the picture due to an “inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand”.

The agency told Sky News in a statement: “The Associated Press initially published the photo, which was issued by Kensington Palace. The AP later retracted the image because at closer inspection, it appears that the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards.”

Reuters soon followed, saying it withdrew the picture following a “post-publication review” with a spokesperson adding the agency is “reviewing the matter”.

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Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said it had “come to light” that the image of the “Princess of Wales and her kids had been altered” and was therefore removed from its systems.

A Getty Images spokesperson also told Sky News: “Earlier today our picture desk identified a problematic image provided to Getty Images by Kensington Palace. We can confirm the image in question was removed from our site in accordance with our editorial policy.”

The Press Association news agency initially did not kill the picture on its service. A spokesperson said it was seeking urgent clarification from Kensington Palace on the concerns raised about manipulation.

But it later said it would be withdrawing the image from its picture service, saying: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

A community note was also added under the post on X, formerly Twitter, saying it had been “digitally altered”.

Community notes allow readers to add context to posts to help other users have a better understanding of what they are reading or viewing.

What questions were raised about the photo?

The most obvious issue is the apparent alteration with Princess Charlotte’s sleeve – AP quoted this as the main reason why it pulled the image.

But there are other peculiarities people have pointed out in the photograph.

Kate’s right hand is blurry in comparison to her left, some say her left jaw appears superimposed, and the zip on the left side of her jacket is not straight.

As well as Princess Charlotte’s cardigan, the waistband of her skirt also appears to have been inserted.

The pattern on Prince Louis’s jumper is also uneven and the wall to his right is not straight.

Kate is not wearing her wedding or engagement rings in the photo.

The editing of photographs after they have been taken for professional purposes is a common practice.

What has Kensington Palace said?

The palace initially declined to comment after the photo was pulled by picture agencies.

But on Monday morning, a statement was published on the Prince and Princess of Wales’s social media account – signed by Kate.

It said: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.

“I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day. C.”

Kensington Palace later said it would not be reissuing the original unedited photograph of Kate and her children.

We are expecting to see Prince William today as he attends Commonwealth Day celebrations.

Why has there been so much speculation about the Princess of Wales?

After Kate was admitted for surgery in January, the lengthy recovery time has resulted in widespread speculation online about her health.

Separately, the King is undergoing treatment for cancer and Prince William pulled out of a memorial of his godfather the late King Constantine of Greece on 27 February due to a “personal matter” – giving further rise to conspiracy theories on social media sites.

Sky’s royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills said at the time that Prince William’s decision not to explain his absence at the memorial “exposed how high-risk their strategy of keeping quiet is – a vacuum of information is quickly filled by rumour and speculation”.


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