Why Is 1 Photo Of Kate Middleton And Her Kids Stirring So Much Speculation?

The Princess of Wales has since apologised over the Mother's Day image.
The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate
The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate
via Associated Press

A new Mother’s Day photo of Kate Middleton and her three children was removed from major photo agencies last night over suspicions it was manipulated.

The image, which could have silenced the conspiracy theories around the Princess of Wales’ ongoing absence from the public eye, has only stirred up more speculation around her whereabouts.

The royal even issued a surprise online statement about the furore on Monday, and apologised for editing the photo.

Here’s what you need to know.

Where is Kate Middleton?

Kate is taking time off from her royal duties to recover from planned abdominal surgery nearly two months ago, on January 16.

The Palace told HuffPost at the time: “The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remained in hospital for 10 to 14 days, before returning home to continue her recovery.

“Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.”

Kate left the hospital on January 29 to continue her recovery at home in Windsor.

Kensington Palace refused to reveal the nature of the surgery, only saying the Princess of Wales – wed to the heir apparent Prince William – was hoping to return after March 31 (Easter) and that it was not cancer-related.

The Palace said Kate wanted her personal medical information to remove private, to “maintain as much normality for her children as possible”.

However, social media was soon flooded with speculation about her whereabouts.

Kensington Palace did attempt to shut it down last month, with a spokesperson telling HuffPost that they “made it clear in January the timeline of the princess’s recovery and we’d only be providing significant update”.

They added, “that guidance stands,” and said Kate is “doing well”.

Kate was then photographed in public for the first time since her surgery, driving in the car with her mother Carole Middleton.

At the time, royal aides told The Sun newspaper: “We’ve seen the madness of social media and that is not going to change our strategy.

“There has been much on social media but the princess has a right to privacy and asks the public to respect that.”

Why has this Mother’s Day image led to so many headlines?

In line with their own family tradition, Kate and William released an image to mark the national day of celebration.

It showed their three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – hugging Kate, who was sat down on a chair outside.

The photo came with 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 – written by “C” for Catherine, Kate’s full name – also said the image was taken by the Prince of Wales, even though his wife is usually the one snapping the family photos.

However, there were several curious parts of the image which eagle-eyed fans spotted.

Charlotte seems to have two cardigan sleeves near her left wrist, Kate’s back boot appears to have two openings, and Louis apparently has surprisingly flexible fingers on his right hand.

Further questions have been asked about the way Charlotte’s skirt folds, parts of Kate’s hair, the unusual absence of the Princess of Wales’ wedding ring and the window frames in the background.

Then several major photo agencies – Reuters, Associated Press, Getty, AFP – suddenly refused to distribute the image, hours after it was first released.

Associated Press issued a “kill notification” – meaning an image should no longer be used as all.

It added: “At closer inspection, it appears that the source [the Palace] has manipulated the image, no replacement photo will be sent.”

It asked all clients to “remove it from all platforms, including social, where it may still be visible”.

The international agency AFP said there was an “editorial issue” with the photo, while Reuters said the image was “withdrawn following a post publication review”.

Others noted an “inconsistency in alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand”.

The Palace did not immediately respond to comment on Sunday, according to AP – but the Palace is not open at weekends and a voicemail from the agency was not immediately returned, AP’s report claimed.

The BBC reported that it is highly unlikely the entire image is fake, or that Kate is more unwell than she appears in the photo.

What did Kate say about the photo?

Kate surprised royal fans when she responded directly to the criticism on Monday morning.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the Princess of Wales wrote: “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 has not taken the image down from any of its own social media accounts, nor has it uploaded the original photo Kate tried to edit,

X (formerly Twitter) added a community notes disclaimer on the image, saying it was “believed to be digitally altered”.

The family is known for sharing more personal photos on social media, showing the group in a casual setting at home, to mark special occasions like birthdays.

However, this is not the first time a lack of royal transparency has only added to the social media gossip in recent months.

William’s sudden withdrawal from a memorial (where he was expected to perform a reading) for his godfather, the former King of Greece, in early February added fuel to the fire.

He did not explain his absence, only saying it was due to a “personal matter”.

Kensington Palace did not elaborate further, but said Kate continued to be doing well after her surgery.

Then last week, the British military also withdrew a statement saying Kate would be appearing at Trooping the Colour in June, after allegedly publishing it without checking with Palace officials first.

Kate is the Colonel of the Irish Guards and so usually inspects the troops at the annual military ceremony.

This would have been the first royal appointment on her schedule since her operation.

What else do you need to know?

The Royal Family has had a tough few months, with King Charles’ cancer diagnosis revealed in February.

Buckingham Palace announced it was discovered during a “recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement”.

The Palace said: “Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer.

“His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties.”

Officials said Charles “will continue to undertake State business and official paperwork as usual”.

The monarch has since been photographed going to church and holding an in-person meeting with PM Rishi Sunak.


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