Does Princess Kate’s Mother’s Day Photo Controversy Mean We Won’t Be Getting Personal Photos from the Wales Family Anymore?

It has become a cherished tradition over the years.

Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis
(Image credit: Getty/The Prince and Princess of Wales/Matt Porteous)

One of the most cherished royal traditions over the past decade has become photos of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—and sometimes all three of them together, occasionally alongside one or both of their parents. These photos have often been taken by the Princess of Wales, a longtime keen amateur photographer, and photos are typically released for each child’s birthday, as well as Father’s Day and, infamously now, Mother’s Day. The public also typically gets a Christmas card photo from the family of five, and sometimes from milestone events for the kids, like their first day of school.

Prince George sitting on steps in November 2014

A photo of Prince George from November 2014

(Image credit: Kensington Palace)

Sometimes these photos are taken by a professional photographer—Matt Porteous and Millie Pilkington have been go-to choices as of late—but oftentimes, Kate herself will take them, not only because she enjoys photography, but because little kids (and not just royal ones) are more comfortable when they know the person behind the camera.

Prince Louis

Mum was behind the camera for this shot for Louis' fourth birthday in April 2022

(Image credit: The Princess of Wales via Getty)

But after Sunday’s firestorm—now cemented as “Photogate”—will Kate end this cherished tradition after the rampant backlash she’s faced for editing a photo of herself and her three kids? (Per The Mirror, the edits were only “minor adjustments,” and Marie Claire reported yesterday that they were done in the hope of helping the kids look the best they could.)

“It’s become something of a tradition for Kate to offer informal family snaps that have been taken by her to mark the likes of her children’s birthdays,” The Mirror reports. But, according to royal biographer and Majesty Magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward, this very well may never happen again. 

“Perhaps William and Kate will decide it is just not worth the trouble of taking their own pictures and releasing them to the media?” Seward said. “It might be a wise precaution.”

Of the Prince of Wales’ childhood back in the 1980s, “When Prince William was a toddler, Charles and Diana allowed a few photographers and a TV camera into their walled garden at Kensington Palace,” Seward said. “The pressmen duly photographed little Wills and the pictures were distributed to newspapers, agencies, and TV channels. It worked well.”

She added “Then Diana began using her favorite photographer, Tim Graham, to take her ‘private' photographs. His pictures were distributed to everyone who wanted them. No problem. They only ever released one of their own photographs, which was a snapshot of baby Prince Harry onboard HMY Britannia.”

Up to the present day now, “The recent controversy has caused Kate and William considerable stress and upset,” Seward said. “The Princess of Wales shouldn’t have had to apologize for providing us all with a beautiful photograph, albeit taken by her husband.” (Not much is sure in this world anymore, but this writer would be willing to bet her entire paycheck that William will never be asked to do that job again.)

Prince William poses with kids Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis for Father's Day

Father's Day photos like this one have become an annual staple

(Image credit: Getty)

Prince William Prince George Princess Charlotte Prince Louis

This was reportedly taken on a family vacation to Jordan

(Image credit: Kensington Palace via Getty Images)

Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis

A Mother's Day photo from a less dramatic year

(Image credit: Matt Porteous/Prince and Princess of Wales)

Seward believes Kate should have been better protected amid the controversy, which stemmed from Sunday night after multiple news agencies removed the photo, released by Kensington Palace, from its servers citing digital manipulation. Kate acknowledged this and apologized for it Monday morning, writing on social media “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.”

Princess Charlotte

Some photos were taken by professional photographers, but most were taken by Kate herself

(Image credit: The Duchess of Cambridge)

Prince George's tenth birthday portrait

Photos of the kids on their birthdays are all but expected at this point, like this portrait of George from his 10th birthday last July

(Image credit: Kensington Palace)

“With social media jumping all over the story of Kate’s long recuperation, the photograph released took on massive significance,” Seward said. "It should certainly have been checked before its release on Mother’s Day to protect Kate. Of course, photographs are airbrushed. But this picture has massive significance. It was to prove to the world that Kate was recovering well. She was happy to be pictured in the Adelaide Cottage garden with her children. But once it was revealed the snap had been altered by her Photoshop, its authenticity was called into question.”

Prince Louis, Kate Middleton

These photos offer rare glimpses inside the private Wales family life

(Image credit: Prince and Princess of Wales)

Princess Charlotte smiling widely in a hammock

We don't want to say goodbye to this tradition

(Image credit: Princess of Wales)

Prince Louis

A smile only mum could elicit

(Image credit: The Duchess of Cambridge via Getty Images)

Seward added, somewhat heartbreakingly, “The whole idea was ruined. Just what Kate didn’t need when she was recovering from an operation. She has had huge sympathy, but she must wish she had never agreed to the idea. Sadly, she may not again.”

Prince George

The smile you give when your mum is behind the lens

(Image credit: The Duchess of Cambridge via Getty Images)
Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.