Kate, Princess of Wales, apologizes for editing family photo that fueled rumors about her health

Mar 11, 2024, 5:39 AM | Updated: 7:28 am

FILE: A general view of Kensington Palace on April 14, 2021, in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by S...

FILE: A general view of Kensington Palace on April 14, 2021, in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

LONDON (AP) — Kate, Princess of Wales, apologized Monday for “confusion” caused by her editing of a family photo released by the palace — an image of Kate and her children that was intended to calm concern and speculation about the British royal’s health, but had the opposite effect.

Several news agencies that initially published the photo, including The Associated Press, withdrew the image over concerns about digital manipulation. Issued by the couple’s Kensington Palace office on Sunday to mark Mother’s Day in Britain, it was the first official photo of Kate since she had abdominal surgery nearly two months ago.

The retractions sent the online rumor mill, already rampant with speculation over Kate’s operation and recuperation, into overdrive.

In a post on social media, Kate said that “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,” the post said.

News agencies recall image of Catherine, Princess of Wales, citing manipulation concerns

In the past, the palace has issued several of Kate’s family snapshots featuring her and Prince William with their children Prince George, 10; Princess Charlotte, 8; and Prince Louis, 5.

The latest photo was taken by William, Kensington Palace said. In an accompanying message posted on social media, Kate said: “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

While there was no suggestion the photo was fake, AP retracted it because closer inspection revealed the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards. For instance, the image shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.

Other major news agencies, including Getty, Reuters and AFP, did the same on Sunday.

Shortly before Kate’s statement was issued on Monday, Britain’s national news agency said it was following suit. PA said it had asked Kensington Palace for clarification about the image and “in the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

Kensington Palace said it would not release the original unedited photograph. And while Kate’s statement provided a measure of clarification, it looked unlikely to stop the swirl of rumor that has accelerated during her absence from public duties.

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the mishandled photo release “is damaging for the royals.”

“They knew there would be intense interest in any picture they released of Kate,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Their challenge is that people will now question whether they can be trusted and believed when they next issue a health update.”

The royal family is under particular scrutiny because King Charles III has also had to cancel public duties while he undergoes treatment for an unspecified form of cancer. The monarch has canceled all his public engagements, though he has been photographed walking to church and meeting privately with government officials and dignitaries.

Charles’ relative openness about his diagnosis was a departure for the generally secretive royal family. But it has been eclipsed in popular interest by curiosity over Kate’s condition. In the absence of firm information, conspiracy theories have rushed to fill the vacuum.

The release of the photo followed weeks of gossip on social media about what had happened to Kate since she left a hospital Jan. 29 after a nearly two-week stay following planned surgery. She hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas Day.

Kate, 42, underwent surgery Jan. 16 and her condition and the reason for the operation have not been revealed, though Kensington Palace said it was not cancer-related.

Although the palace initially said that it would only provide significant updates and that she would not return to royal duties before Easter — March 31 this year — it followed up with a statement last month by saying she was doing well and reiterating its previous statement.

“Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess’ recovery and we’d only be providing significant updates,” the palace said Feb. 29. “That guidance stands.”

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.”

Further questions were raised last week when the British military seemed to jump the gun in announcing Kate would attend a Trooping the Color ceremony in June, apparently without consulting palace officials.

It’s up to palace officials, not government departments, to announce the royals’ attendance at events. Kensington Palace didn’t confirm any scheduled public events for Kate, and the army later removed reference to her attendance.

Veteran public relations consultant Mark Borkowski said the photo gaffe exposed a wider PR problem for the monarchy.

“There doesn’t seem to be that much joined-up strategic thinking at the heart of the royal family at the moment, which leads to these problems where it’s a very difficult organization to manage in terms of PR,” he said.

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Kate, Princess of Wales, apologizes for editing family photo that fueled rumors about her health