Kate's photo: The Princess of Wales was spotted after she said she had edited a Mother's Day photo

  • Written by Emma Harrison and Sean Coughlan
  • BBC News

Image source, Kelvin Bruce/Jim Bennett

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On Monday afternoon, the Princess of Wales was seen in public with William, as the couple left Windsor in a car

The Princess of Wales has apologized “for any confusion” after she said she edited a photo of herself and her children to mark Mother's Day.

Her statement was posted on social media at Kensington Palace after five agencies retracted it over editorial concerns.

“Like many amateur photographers, I sometimes experiment with editing,” Catherine said.

The photo, taken by the Prince of Wales, was the first published of Catherine since her surgery in January.

PA, Getty Images, AFP, Associated Press (AP) and Reuters have removed the image. The AP noted “inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte's left hand.”

On Monday, the Princess of Wales was seen leaving Windsor in a car with Prince William as he traveled to attend the Commonwealth Day Mass, which she did not attend.

Video explanation,

Watch: BBC Verify examines royal Mother's Day photo

In her statement on X, previously Twitter, Katherine said: “I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion caused by the family photo we shared yesterday. I hope everyone celebrating Mother's Day is very happy. C.”

The apology posted on social media comes from the official account of the Prince and Princess of Wales, but is personally marked with the letter “C” for Catherine.

She takes responsibility for the changes to the photo, rather than her husband Prince William, who took the photo, or any of the wider team surrounding the royal couple.

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A closer look at the photo reveals: (1) part of Princess Charlotte's sleeve is missing, (2) Catherine's hand is blurred compared to Louis' jacket, (3) a misaligned zipper, (4) incorrect background alignment and (5) blurred knee Princess Charlotte

According to royal sources, there were “minor adjustments” made by the Princess of Wales to the photo posted online by Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace said it would not reissue the original, unedited photo of Catherine and her children.

We know that the photo has been edited, but some basic information about the photo remains unknown – such as exactly when it was taken, what has been changed or whether it is a composite of a number of photos.

The photo shows the princess sitting, surrounded by Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and Prince George, with the latter wrapping his arms around her.

This was the first official photo of the Princess of Wales since her abdominal surgery two months ago. Since then she has remained out of the public eye.

She posted the photo with a message from Katherine that said: “Thank you for your well wishes and continued support over the past two months.

“I wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

Royal sources say the photo was only intended to be an “amateur family photo” released on the occasion of Mother’s Day.

The implication is that this was not a piece of professional manipulation, but rather some arrangement of a photo capturing a family moment.

However, this was not just a personal photo, it was to be shared with the world, in what was inevitably seen as an attempt to stop speculation and conspiracy theories about Catherine, while she recovered from surgery.

“Raise more questions”

Instead of providing an answer to such rumours, it inadvertently ended up raising more questions.

The photo will also lead to discussions about how the media uses photos or social media clips that are produced without the involvement of any independent journalists.

Although most public royal events will feature professional photographers and press representatives, this moment was seen as a private one, captured by the family themselves, while the princess recovered.

The only previous photo of the princess since her operation was a paparazzi snapshot, and British news agencies did not use it due to concerns about invasion of privacy.

There have been previous examples of Kensington Palace releasing video footage without any outside journalists present, including a visit by the Princess of Wales to a “baby bank” to help disadvantaged families.

The Mother's Day image was featured on the front pages of many national newspapers and websites, including BBC News, and used in television news bulletins – again including the BBC.

In order to use the new image as quickly as possible, the BBC took the image that Kensington Palace in London used on its social media accounts.

Image source, Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace, London

Five photography agencies withdrew the photo due to fears of “tampering”. The Associated Press issued a “kill notice” — an industry term for a pushback — late Sunday, saying: “Upon closer examination, it appears the source has doctored the image. No replacement image will be sent.”

Reuters said it had also retracted the image “following post-publication review,” and AFP also issued a “mandatory kill notice.”

Getty Images became the fourth organization to pull the image. The PA said later on Monday that it had also withdrawn the image, based on a lack of clarification from Kensington Palace.

Most news organizations follow their own strict guidelines on the use of manipulated images, and only use them when accompanied by an explanation that the image has been altered from the original.

That's why news agencies, like the Associated Press, commit to their clients that their images are accurate and not digitally manipulated.

AP rules only allow for “minor adjustments” in certain circumstances, including cropping, toning and color operations, as well as removing dust from the camera's sensors. Changes in density, contrast, color and saturation levels that “dramatically alter the original scene” are unacceptable, she says.

On Monday, the Princess of Wales was seen in public with William, as the couple left Windsor in a car.

Kensington Palace said the Prince of Wales was taken to the Commonwealth Day Mass at Westminster Abbey in London.

Catherine did not attend the service but was understood to have a private appointment.

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Queen Camilla and the Prince of Wales led the royal family at a Commonwealth Day Mass

William appeared alongside Queen Camilla at the ceremony celebrating the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth of Nations is made up of some 56 countries – this year celebrating its 75th anniversary – the majority of which are territories of the former British Empire. In 14 of these countries, in addition to the United Kingdom, the king holds the position of head of state.

On Monday evening, Prince William spoke at a ceremony in central London to mark the Earthshot Awards.

He asked investors and philanthropists to “join us in our mission” to help eco-innovators scale their projects through the new online Launchpad platform.

“The ideas and ambitions to put our planet on a healthier path already exist,” William said.

“But this is urgent,” he added. “We are in the critical decade now.”

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The Earthshot Prize aims to raise more than £400 million for new projects.

Catherine, 42, spent 13 nights at the London Clinic, near Regent's Park in central London, after the surgery.

Prince William came to see his wife during her stay and the King also visited before receiving his own treatment there.

The palace shared few details about her condition, which sparked significant speculation on social media, but said it was not linked to cancer.

The team supporting the Princess during her recovery is small and limited to those close to her.

At the time of her stay, the palace said the princess wanted her personal medical information to remain private, adding that she wanted to “preserve as much normalcy as possible for her children.”

The palace said it would only provide updates on her recovery when there was important new information to share.

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