Princess Kate Feels “Awful” and Is “Deeply Upset” That An “Innocent Family Photograph” Has Turned So Nightmarish

The brouhaha over her Mother’s Day photo edits—done for a pretty relatable reason, actually—made for “a bad day at the office for the Palace” yesterday.

Kate Middleton tersely smiles at an engagement
(Image credit: Getty)

Sometimes, when we look at Princess Kate, we only see the princess and fail to see Kate, the human being. The wife, mom, employee (okay, yes, her job is a bit—how shall we say?—different from the rest of ours) who is just trying to do her best. While questions still remain unanswered that, quite frankly, deserve answers, humanity is quickly being erased from the Photogate (as it’s now becoming colloquially known) controversy. Here’s a reminder that we’re dealing with an actual human being here: Kate is reportedly “deeply upset” over the Mother’s Day photo scandal, and the editing done was to make the picture the “best it could be” so her kids “looked good,” Tatler reports.

The outlet reports that Kate feels “awful” about editing the photograph featuring herself flanked by Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, a photo reportedly taken by Prince William at their home at Adelaide Cottage. In what was essentially an erasure of “Never complain, never explain”—the royal family’s long-held mantra—Kate apologized yesterday, admitting she had edited the family photo released to the public on Sunday to mark Mother’s Day in the U.K. The photo was taken “in a 40-minute window on Friday, before Kate edited it on Photoshop and sent it to her team on Saturday,” The Times reports. A source said that she was “thinking of her own children when editing the picture, hoping that they looked good for their own sakes.”

A Palace source told The Telegraph that Kate just tried to make the picture the “best it could be”; The Mirror quoted a friend of Kate’s as saying she was “deeply upset” over the firestorm caused by what was supposed to be an “innocent family photograph.” The photo, released Sunday, was by that evening pulled off of major news agencies’ servers over claims of digital manipulation; Kate’s apology the next morning—highly unprecedented for the royal family—was reportedly because she felt honesty was the best policy

Kate Middleton in winter white at "Together at Christmas" 2023

Kate, seen here last December, hasn't undertaken a royal engagement in 2024 amidst ongoing health concerns

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Per The Daily Mail, a source said that yesterday was “a bad day at the office for the Palace, and something which will no doubt be reflected on in the future.” Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams weighed in on the matter, adding “William and Catherine are under tremendous pressure, which is particularly horrible if one has been seriously ill, as she has,” he said. “However, the mistake of editing the photograph, though extremely embarrassing, is not a major calamity. What it shows is that she looks well again and that her children look very happy. However, their current handling of public relations is potentially perilous.”

The decision to release the photo Sunday—likely meant to quell rampant rumors and speculation swirling on the internet about Kate’s health following her surgery in January—have only heightened said social media conspiracy theories and has taken the situation from bad to worse. It’s obvious that Kate is at least somewhat aware of the internet chatter—and that it is affecting her, U.S. associate editor Charlie Lankston told Access Hollywood

Kate Middleton, 2020

Kate is expected to return to royal duty next month at the earliest 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I think the fact that Kate chose to edit the image suggests that some of the talk and some of the conspiracy theorizing may be getting to her slightly,” she said. “I think a lot of us edit images or tweak images because we want them to look their very best, and it’s no surprise that Kate was worried about the scrutiny that this image would come under.”

It’s a bigger issue than just a simple Photoshop fail, Lankston said: “I don’t think the editing is the crime here,” she said. “I think it’s what that says to the British public and the fact that it was allowed to get to this stage makes the public feel a distrust with the royal family, because all they’ve wanted is proof that Kate is okay. I think another issue is then presented in the fact that the Palace is refusing to release the original version, so, once again, you just have more questions than you do answers.”

The Palace’s refusal to release the original, unedited version of the Mother’s Day photo is a sticking point across the board. “The Palace will be under increasing pressure today to explain the situation,” a source said, per OK. “On one hand it [Kensington Palace] has made a public statement about the ‘madness of social media’ and on the other, they have added to the issue by directly issuing what appears to be an edited image.” 

Wales family Christmas card 2023

The Wales family Christmas card from 2023 also received ample Photoshop accusations

(Image credit: Josh Shinner/The Prince and Princess of Wales)

An unsolicited piece of advice regarding Kate (and Meghan Markle, and every other celebrity that has felt the heat of the public firestorm): next week, the collective body will move on to another “scandal” or “controversy” and forget that we ever floated the (often ridiculous, sometimes demeaning) conspiracy theories about Kate that it did. But Kate won’t forget. She’s a princess, sure, but she’s a human, too. New rule? The only people allowed to mercilessly lambast celebrities who make mistakes are those among us who have never made a mistake themselves. Hear that noise? Yep, as predicted, the silence is deafening.

William and Kate were photographed together publicly for the first time in 2024 yesterday, riding in a car leaving Windsor, William headed to the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey and Kate headed to a private appointment. “It is ridiculous and deeply unfair when she is trying to recover from major surgery,” royal expert Ingrid Seward said of Kate, per The Mirror. “She has been posing for pictures all her royal life, so just give her a break.”

Kate Middleton at a royal engagement

She'll be back soon enough, everyone

(Image credit: 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.