The glaring errors in Kate Middleton’s Photoshopped family photo


After having been out of the public eye since mid-January, Kate Middleton has fueled new speculation about her whereabouts when Kensington Palace issued a family photo for UK Mother’s Day on Sunday.

Kensington Palace posted the photograph of the Princess of Wales with her three children (Prince George, 10; Princess Charlotte, 8; and Prince Louis, 5). This was the first photo she had released of herself and her family since undergoing surgery in January. The photo, posted on X and Instagram, was also issued by the major news wire services.

But they all quickly yanked the image, issuing “kill notices” to its customers. 

“AP retracted it because closer inspection revealed the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards,” the Associated Press noted. “For instance, the photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.” Getty Images, AFP and Reuters also pulled the image, noting the same left-hand alignment. 

While the AP didn’t call it AI manipulation, it’s caused concern among public relations, communications, and journalism professionals about the power this nascent technology can have. 

“In today’s digital era where AI can seamlessly manipulate visuals, the scrutiny faced by Kate Middleton’s image just highlights the complexities of maintaining authenticity and credibility in the media and what people or organizations put out to the world under scrutiny,” Rebecca May, founder of London-based public relations firm RM Publicity, tells Fortune. It also “signals a turning point in the wider public doubting what they see.”

Especially coming from an institution recognized worldwide and “trusted family, it naturally raises concerns in the future of trusting authoritative organizations and institutions,” May says.

Issues with the released image

On Monday, Britain’s national news agency, PA, said it was also withdrawing the photo. 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.”

On closer inspection, Princess Charlotte’s left hand appears to jut out of her sleeve at an unnatural angle. Online commentators also noted some potential manipulation around the children’s hair and hands, as well as Kate’s lack of wedding and engagement rings. 

Shortly after, Kate, 42, personally apologized for the image, saying in a statement, “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.” 

Kensington Palace said it would not release the unedited photograph, according to the AP.

The botched and supposed Photoshop job by Kate has lit a fire under photo editors amateur to professional, leading them to call out the many recognizable issues with the photo. Many have pointed out that the foliage on the trees isn’t consistent with the current climate in Britain, there aren’t shadows or reflections indicative of a real photo, one of Kate’s hands is blurry, her legs appear to be too short to make sense proportionately… the list goes on. There was a meme tsnuami making fun of the fact that Kate had supposedly Photoshopped the photo—with even the Dublin Airport jumping in on the fun. 

Many other spectators believe that the photo was AI-generated, although there’s currently no way to confirm that—especially since the palace won’t talk and Kate announced herself that she had been the one to do the “editing.” 

Either way, photo manipulation is a big deal in the public relations, communications, and journalism industries—and it only makes people fearful of where AI and photo manipulation could go in the future. The AP doesn’t just kill photos or stories for no reason. 

“So just to be clear here—in the public relations industry, a ‘kill notification’ is the coup de grâce of the media circuit,” journalist Tenille Clarke posted on X. “For AP to issue this update, means that something is TERRIBLY wrong. Think of it as a Cat. 5 cyclone. This is literally a death blow to any press source.”

Where is Kate Middleton?

On Monday, The Daily Mail released a photo of Kate and William in the car just hours after she had issued her public apology for the “confusion” about the Mother’s Day photo. William was on the way to Westminster Abbey for the annual Commonwealth Day service, but Kate was heading to a “private appointment,” according to The Daily Mail.

But the photographic debacle on Sunday only fueled rumors about Kate’s whereabouts. Since Kensington Palace issued a statement in mid-January that the princess would be on leave due to “planned abdominal surgery” until after Easter (the last weekend of March), controversies about Kate’s whereabouts have swirled around the internet and social media. 

Although the palace set expectations that it would “only provide updates on Her Royal Highness’ progress when there is significant new information to share,” that didn’t satisfy her constituents and other curious folks around the world. Conspiracy theories have been plentiful. About a week ago, a different photo who appeared to be Kate surfaced, albeit a very blurry one taken of her wearing sunglasses in a car with her mother, Carole Middleton. There was also unproven controversy about whether the woman with uncanny likeness to Kate was even her.   

It’s led royalists, fans, and haters alike to also draw comparisons to Princess Diana’s relationship with the press and her untimely death. Not only has Kate disappeared from the public eye, but there are other rumors about her relationship with William.

The Kate Middleton conspiracy theories also started up in conjunction with several other tragic events and unfortunate happenings within the royal family. On Feb. 5, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles had been diagnosed with prostate cancer during a recent hospital procedure for “benign prostate enlargement.” Interestingly enough, Charles chose to be forthright about his diagnosis while Kensington Palace has been reluctant to share the details of Kate’s abdominal surgery. 

“His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer,” Buckingham Palance said in a statement.

Also in late February, Thomas Kingston, a British financier, former boyfriend of Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton, and former husband of Lady Gabriella (the daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent), died of a gunshot wound to the head at the age of 45.

So far, the royal family’s attempts to address the concerns of a curious public have backfired and let to even more speculation.

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