Palace Photo, Meant to Dispel Rumors About Catherine, Fans Them Instead

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A photograph of Catherine, Princess of Wales, with her three children, released by Kensington Palace and meant to showcase her recovery from surgery, has come under scrutiny after three news agencies advised news organizations on Sunday evening to withdraw it, saying the image had been manipulated by the palace.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse issued advisories about the photo, which circulated widely on news sites, including The New York Times, and social media after it was distributed by the palace on Sunday morning. The Times has since removed the photo from an article about it.

In a “kill notification” issued on Sunday evening, the A.P. said: “At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement image will be sent.” It added, “Please remove it from all platforms, including social, where it may still be visible.”

Kensington Palace, where Catherine and her husband, Prince William, have their offices, did not respond to requests for comment. Earlier, a palace official said the photo had been taken by William this past week in Windsor, where the couple live in Adelaide Cottage, on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The allegation that the photograph had been doctored is likely to deepen the mystery around Catherine, 42, who has not appeared in public since undergoing abdominal surgery nearly two months ago. Although a paparazzi shot of Catherine circulated last week on the celebrity gossip site TMZ, this was the first official photograph of the princess since her hospitalization in January.

The A.P. reported that the photo “shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.” The photo depicted Catherine flanked by Charlotte, her daughter, and younger son, Louis. George, her elder son, is standing behind her.

The A.P. and other agencies have strict rules against manipulating photographs. In its statement of news values and principles, the A.P. says: “The content of a photograph must not be altered in Photoshop or by any other means. No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph.”

News agencies permit minimal editing of photos, including cropping, as well as adjusting the color and toning. But in this case, the agency reported, “the source had manipulated the image in a way that does not meet A.P.’s photo standards.”

Catherine’s prolonged absence from the public eye, and the lack of information about her medical condition or recovery, has whipped up a storm of rumors and conspiracy theories about her condition on social media.

The questions mounted after William abruptly canceled his participation in a memorial service, citing a personal matter. Last week, the British Army was forced to withdraw an announcement on its website that Catherine would take part in a military ceremony in June to mark the birthday of King Charles III.

The photograph, timed to mark Mother’s Day in Britain, was meant to dampen that speculation somewhat. But even before the agencies sent out their advisories, questions about the photo began to circulate on social media. Town & Country, Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines took note of the fact that Catherine does not appear to be wearing her wedding or engagement rings in the photograph.

“This is damaging for the royals,” Peter Hunt, a former royal correspondent for the BBC, said on X. “They knew there would be intense interest in any picture they released of Kate. Their challenge is that people will now question whether they can be trusted and believed when they next issue a health update.”



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