Kate Middleton Admits to Editing Family Photo

Kate Middleton had seemingly broken her silence after undergoing surgery in January with a picture and message shared on social media in honor of Mothering Sunday in the UK, but within just a few hours, news wire agencies including the Associated Press and Reuters retracted the photograph over suspicions of manipulation—fueling further speculation about Middleton’s health status and whereabouts, which have recently appeared shrouded in secrecy and misdirection.

Read More: The Royal PR Team Is Out of Its Depth

On March 10, the Prince and Princess of Wales’ X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram accounts posted a picture of the future queen, 42, with her three children—George, 10, Charlotte, 8, and Louis, 5. The photo is dated 2024 and credited to her husband, Prince William, 41 .

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C,” the caption for the post read, signing off with the first letter of her full name, Catherine.

The royal couple often post family pictures to mark holidays and special occasions, frequently opting to take their own pictures instead of hiring a professional photographer, which has traditionally been the custom for the royal family.

Several news wire agencies originally published the photo, as provided by Kensington Palace, but later removed it. “On closer inspection, it appears the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards,” the Associated Press said after issuing a “kill notification,” an industry term flagging the withdrawal to its partner publishers. “The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.”

Reuters said it also pulled the photo “following a post-publication review,” citing its picture editors who found that “part of the sleeve of Kate’s daughter’s cardigan did not line up properly, suggesting that the image had been altered. Reuters could not immediately establish how, why or by whom the alteration had been made.”

Agence France-Presse (AFP) also issued a “kill” notice to its partner publishers, saying the photo had been recalled “due to an editorial issue.”

Getty Images said in a statement to media outlets that it, too, had “identified a problematic image provided to Getty Images by Kensington Palace” and that it removed it from its site “in accordance with our editorial policy.”

PA Media, the large UK news agency through which the Royal Family often releases information, told TIME in a statement on Monday: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday. We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

CNN on Monday said it is continuing to publish the original photo “appropriately captioned, in the context of the debate around its alleged manipulation” but that it is also “now reviewing all handout photos previously provided by Kensington Palace.”

Read More: A Forensics Expert on Kate’s Photo Edit—and How Credentialing Technology Can Help Build Trust in a World of Increasing Uncertainty

The Kensington Palace press office is not open during weekends and could not be immediately reached for comment. The social media posts remained up as of Sunday night.

On Monday morning, the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media accounts shared an explanation from Middleton: “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,” once again signed C.

Middleton spent two weeks in the London Clinic hospital in January after a “planned abdominal surgery,” and Kensington Palace announced she would recover in private until after Easter, which is on March 31. However, the unknown reason for the surgery and time out of the public eye has spurred questions and even conspiracy theories.

Middleton was first reportedly publicly spotted in a paparazzi photo on March 4 in a car with her mother, Carole, near Windsor Castle. Her maternal uncle, Gary Goldsmith, who appeared on the reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother from March 4 to March 8, speaking about his niece, saying she was “getting the best care in the world.”

Middleton’s surgery preceded her father-in-law King Charles III’s diagnosis with an undisclosed type of cancer in February that has also seen him postpone public engagements while he undergoes treatment.