News Agencies Delete Kate Middleton Photo Citing 'Manipulated Image'

UPDATED: Catherine, Princess of Wales has issued a statement about the controversial image reportedly taken by her husband, Prince William, last week and published on March 10.

“Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” the royal couple posted on their Twitter/X account. “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.” The message was signed off “C,” indicating it came directly from Catherine.

More from Variety

The statement comes after four news agencies pulled the disputed image following Catherine’s unspecified “abdominal” surgery. On Monday morning, the Press Association — the newswire most relied on by the Royal Family — removed the photo from its service, following Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Press doing so on Sunday night. According to the AP, PA reportedly asked Kensington Palace for “clarification” regarding the photograph but did not get an adequate response.

“In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service,” the news image wire reportedly stated. PA is the most trusted source of official news relating to the Royal Family. Along with the BBC they were the first to break news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death in 2022 and were the only agency granted video access when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son Prince Archie was born in 2019.

The photograph, which showed Kate (as she is informally known) sitting outdoors with her three children around her, was reportedly taken by Prince William last week to mark U.K. Mothers Day on Sunday.

Staff at Kensington Palace published it on the royal couple’s official social media pages on Sunday before issuing it to select press agencies for syndication, as is typical for images distributed by the royals.

Within hours, however, Reuters, AP and AFP had all issued “kill” notifications, taking down the photograph from their own databases and requesting that clients who had licensed the photograph also remove it from their publications.

In their notice AP said “The source has manipulated the image” while AFP cited an “editorial issue.” Reuters said it had withdrawn the photograph following a “post-publication review.”

Even before the photograph was withdrawn, it had sparked intense interest because it was the first time the Duchess had been seen in public since Christmas Day, when she attended church in Sandringham, U.K. along with her family.

On Jan. 17 Kensington Palace issued a statement saying she had undergone “planned abdominal surgery” which would require a further 10-day hospital stay but declined to specify the reason for the operation. They indicated Kate would not resume her royal duties — meaning public appearances — until after Easter, if not later. In February Prince William attended the BAFTA Film Awards alone.

Last week a paparazzi photograph emerged of Kate and her mother in a car, with Kate in the passenger seat. The blurry picture, in which the duchess is wearing large sunglasses, did little to assuage the public’s concern about her welfare.

Whispers that Kate might attend the annual military parade Trooping the Color, during which the Royal Family always appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, were swiftly shot down by the palace last week, causing rumors about the cause of Kate’s prolonged absence from the public eye to intensify.

The image issued on Sunday to commemorate Mothers Day was initially welcomed by the U.K. press and public, showing Kate looking well. But online commentators soon identified a number of discrepancies, such as an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s hand and skirt and the zip on Kate’s sweater. According to the U.K. press, the palace has declined to comment on either the photograph or the reaction of the photo agencies.

The Duchess’s medical leave has come at a particularly tricky time for the British Royal Family after her father-in-law King Charles was also recently diagnosed with cancer. He is currently undergoing treatment.

Variety has reached out to Kensington Palace for comment.

Best of Variety