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Keen amateur photographer Kate’s image ‘experiment’ goes rogue

Ordinary people alter and enhance personal family snapshots all the time – but the Princess of Wales’ admission that she ‘edited’ an image of herself with her children raises some serious questions

Respected international news agencies including AFP issued a mandatory kill notice for the image released by Kensington Palace on March 10, showing Catherine, Princess of Wales, with her children, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, after it was determined that the picture had been altered. Picture: AFP Photo/Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace
Respected international news agencies including AFP issued a mandatory kill notice for the image released by Kensington Palace on March 10, showing Catherine, Princess of Wales, with her children, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, after it was determined that the picture had been altered. Picture: AFP Photo/Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace

READING LEVEL: GREEN

The Princess of Wales has released a statement acknowledging that she was responsible for the “manipulation*” of a family photo released to mark Mother’s Day in the UK.

Controversy* erupted over the snap – the first Princess Catherine had released since her abdominal* surgery – when multiple respected international photo agencies took the extraordinary step of withdrawing it from circulation.

The Associated Press, AFP, Getty Images and Reuters, which had all distributed the family photo from Kensington Palace, pulled it from their systems on Monday, with AP explaining “at closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image”.

Picture agency Getty Images was among those that issued the mandatory photo kill for “editorial reasons”. Picture: Getty Images/handout/Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace via Getty Images
Picture agency Getty Images was among those that issued the mandatory photo kill for “editorial reasons”. Picture: Getty Images/handout/Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace via Getty Images

An AP spokesman told The Telegraph: “The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment* of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.”

AFP cited an “editorial issue” as the reason for withdrawing the photo from its systems, while Getty Images did the same for “editorial reasons”. Reuters also pulled the photo “following a post-publication review”.

It is standard practice for picture agencies to withdraw edited images.

A selection of UK newspapers' front pages were splayed with the doctored image. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A selection of UK newspapers' front pages were splayed with the doctored image. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The British press yesterday reported Kensington Palace had refused to comment.

On Monday morning British time, however, Kate released an unexpected statement taking responsibility for the confusion.

“Like many amateur* photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” she said.

“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.”

Catherine, the Princess of Wales, apologised “for any confusion” caused by the doctored image. Picture: Instagram
Catherine, the Princess of Wales, apologised “for any confusion” caused by the doctored image. Picture: Instagram

The photo, taken by Prince William, marked the first time Kate had spoken out publicly, or released a photo of herself, since her planned operation in January.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day,” Kate wrote in the caption of the photo.

The photo remains on the Prince and Princess of Wales’ official Instagram page.

Later on Monday, Kate was seen leaving Windsor Castle in a vehicle with William, who was on his way to Westminster Abbey in London for an annual Commonwealth Day service.

Queen Camilla attended the 2024 Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey on March 11 as she continues to represent the King at official functions during his treatment. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Queen Camilla attended the 2024 Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey on March 11 as she continues to represent the King at official functions during his treatment. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Other senior royals also attended the service, including Queen Camilla and Princess Anne. Kate was not there – The Daily Mail reported she was going to a private appointment.

After a two-month disappearance from the public eye, Kate was seen for the first time in public last week, as photographers spotted her in the passenger seat as her mum Carole drove her near Windsor Castle.

Guests watched King Charles, currently receiving cancer treatment, deliver his recorded message during an annual Commonwealth Day service ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, on March 11 with Prince William in attendance. Picture: Henry Nicholls/Pool/AFP
Guests watched King Charles, currently receiving cancer treatment, deliver his recorded message during an annual Commonwealth Day service ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, on March 11 with Prince William in attendance. Picture: Henry Nicholls/Pool/AFP

Before that, the last time the Princess had been seen in public was on Christmas Day last year, when she and William took their three children to a church service.

Upon being posted on Instagram, the Mother’s Day photo from the Princess of Wales was flooded with comments suggesting it had been digitally altered.

Inconsistencies were identified, including a missing part on Princess Charlotte's sleeve, Charlotte's hair ending abruptly on her shoulder and the zip on the Princess of Wales being lighter than the rest of it Picture: AFP Photo/ Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace
Inconsistencies were identified, including a missing part on Princess Charlotte's sleeve, Charlotte's hair ending abruptly on her shoulder and the zip on the Princess of Wales being lighter than the rest of it Picture: AFP Photo/ Prince of Wales/Kensington Palace

Questions included where Kate’s wedding ring was, why the tree in the background of the image did not look like it was from the right time of year, and the unusual appearance of her daughter, Princess Charlotte’s, sleeve.

For once, the conspiracy theorists* actually had a point.

Princess Catherine apologises for editing family photo

POLL

GLOSSARY

  • manipulation: to deliberately control or influence something with some skill
  • controversy: a lot of disagreement or argument about something
  • abdominal: lower part of a person’s or animal’s body, containing the stomach, bowels and other organs
  • alignment: the state of being arranged in a line or in proper position
  • amateur: a person who does an unpaid activity because they like it, not because it’s their job
  • conspiracy theorists: people who believe an event or set of circumstances is the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What special day in the UK was the family photo of Kate with her kids intended to mark?
  2. Which international news agencies withdrew the family photo from circulation and why?
  3. Where was Prince William going when he was spotted leaving Windsor Castle with Kate on Monday?
  4. When and where was the last time Kate was seen in public with her family?
  5. What were three elements in the image that sparked questions about its authenticity?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Editing images
Looking at the picture released by the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, circle where the press picked up parts of the image that were edited and could’ve been tampered with.

Some of the suggested possible edits that could’ve been made that you need to study carefully in the photograph include:

  • Princess Charlotte’s cardigan sleeve not lined up
  • Princess Catherine’s skirt edge
  • Position of Princess Catherine’s zip
  • Alterations to the sweaters of Prince Louis and Prince George
  • Princess Catherine not appearing to be wearing her wedding ring
  • Prince Louis’ fingers in an usual position
  • Background trees in full bloom at start of spring
  • Wonky white skirting boards in the bottom background of picture

Can you see anything else of interest?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
The “kill order” that the international press agencies put on this photo (meaning the image was to be taken down and not circulated as genuine), adds a level of protection to the royal family and other well-known people, to stop professionals manipulating and editing photos without permission and transparency.

Why is this a valuable ethical lesson for people to learn?

Should Princess Catherine not be able to edit her own photographs?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
I spy nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article?

Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.