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Princess of Wales apologizes for editing Mother’s Day photograph

By Rob Picheta, CNN

(CNN) — Catherine, Princess of Wales has taken responsibility and apologized for an edited official photograph that was recalled by a number of international news agencies over concerns it had been manipulated.

Kate said she was sorry for “any confusion” caused by the image, after her “experiment” with photo editing caused scrutiny for Kensington Palace and increased confusion over Kate’s extended absence from the public eye.

The photograph, released Sunday to mark Mother’s Day in the UK, was the first official picture of Kate since she underwent abdominal surgery in January.

But hours after it was released by Kensington Palace, four major photo agencies issued “kill notices,” expressing concerns it had been edited.

An initial CNN review of the image identified at least two areas that appear to show some evidence of potential manipulation, including Princess Charlotte’s sleeve cuff, and a zipper on the lefthand side on the jacket of the Princess of Wales.

Catherine wrote on X: “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.”

She was later photographed alongside her husband, William, Prince of Wales, in a car departing Windsor Castle. Kensington Palace told CNN that she had a private appointment on Monday.

The brief statement is unlikely to put questions over Sunday’s photograph to rest. The palace did not provide any further details on what aspects of the image Catherine was attempting to edit, or whether the picture released was a composite that combined multiple photographs from the same shoot.

Overlaying multiple images to create a composite is not an uncommon practice, but photo agencies – which distribute pictures to news outlets around the world – have strict guidelines on edits and typically only allow very minor tweaks to be made to photographs.

Royals under mounting pressure

The family traditionally releases a family photo on Mother’s Day, but this year’s image came amid a backdrop of intrigue and confusion over Kate’s extended absence following her January operation.

Those questions were briefly dispelled on Sunday by the release of the image, which Kensington Palace said was taken by Prince William.

But the subsequent controversy only intensified the saga. Late on Sunday evening, several leading photo agencies sent out “kill notices,” advising clients to stop using the image. It had appeared on the front pages of several British newspapers and international news websites, including CNN, before concerns about it were identified.

The Associated Press noted that “at closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image.” Agence France-Presse said it had withdrawn the photo due to “an editorial issue.”

In a note to clients the agency wrote: “It has come to light that this handout photo… issued by Kensington Palace today of the Princess of Wales and her kids had been altered and therefore it was withdrawn from AFP systems.” 

PA Images and Getty Images also “killed” the photo.

The palace has faced mounting public pressure to share more information about the future Queen in recent weeks, but it has taken a firm line on protecting her privacy.

Amid a flurry of social media conspiracy theories about Kate’s whereabouts, Kensington Palace reiterated late last month that it had “made it clear in January the timelines of the princess’ recovery” and “that guidance stands.” Separately, a royal source had told CNN that she “continues to be doing well.”

She is not scheduled to make any official appearances until after Easter.

Following the controversy, a royal source told CNN Monday that the Prince and Princess of Wales wanted to share an “informal” family picture for Mother’s Day. The photo was an “amateur, family photograph” that the Princess made “minor adjustments” to, the source said, echoing the statement put out by Catherine.

The royal source didn’t explain why the royals weren’t transparent about the edits when they shared the image with news media and picture agencies.

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CNN’s Max Foster contributed reporting

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