Kate Middleton’s Mother’s Day Photo Is Pulled from Multiple News Agencies Over Fears of Digital Manipulation

Were her engagement ring and wedding band taken off with AI? The saga keeps getting weirder.

Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty)

Just when we thought news coming out of the royal family couldn’t get stranger—we were proven wrong. Today’s “stranger than fiction” tale? Multiple news agencies have pulled the photo of Princess Kate and her three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—released today in honor of U.K.’s Mother’s Day—because of fears over digital manipulation.

Agencies like Reuters, Getty, AP, and AFP have withdrawn the photo from their respective systems amidst an outcry that the photo has been doctored. The photo, officially issued by Kensington Palace, has prompted (even more) online conspiracy theories to swirl today, specifically about Kate’s lack of an engagement ring or wedding band on her left finger. Though the news outlets didn’t specify what exactly had been digitally manipulated, the missing piece of sapphire and diamond jewelry—once worn by her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, during Diana’s marriage to then-Prince Charles and given to Kate by Prince William upon their 2010 engagement—has made ample headlines today.

AP issued an alert that the photo be “killed” from its system, writing “At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image.” For its part, AFP added “Mandatory kill. Due to an editorial issue, this photo by the Prince of Wales has been withdrawn…and may no longer by [sic] used in any manner. Please immediately remove it from all your online services, stop using it in any other fashion, and delete it from your servers.” Reuters said that the photo was being removed from circulation “following a post-publication review.”

“There is huge concern in the news industry currently about the manipulation of photographs using AI technology, although it is not clear whether that happened in this case,” The Daily Mail reported. 

Wales family Christmas card 2023

The 2023 Wales family Christmas card photo also attracted negative attention for a perceived "Photoshop fail"

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

In addition to the lack of engagement ring on the princess, “Some royal watchers pointed out that Princess Charlotte’s wrist and sleeve of her jumper appeared to have been digitally altered,” The Daily Mail continued. “There also appeared to be an issue with the heel of Charlotte’s boot and with the paving behind the family.”

This comes about three months after the Wales’ family Christmas card was scrutinized for what appeared to be a “Photoshop fail” that made one of Louis’ fingers appear to be missing; it was apparently just bent back.

Today's photo was certainly intended to quell rampant rumors and speculation that have gone viral in the last couple of weeks surrounding Kate’s health. After undergoing abdominal surgery in January, Kate hadn’t been seen until this past Monday, March 4, when she and her mother, Carole Middleton, were seen driving in an Audi around Windsor, apparently taking part in the school run for George, Charlotte, and Louis. Prior to this paparazzi photo being snapped, Kate hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas Day, when she and the rest of the royal family attended the traditional church service at St. Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham

Prince Louis and Kate Middleton

The family attended the traditional Christmas Day church service at Sandringham, the last time Kate was photographed publicly not by paparazzi since

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The day after her surgery on January 16, Kensington Palace announced that the surgery had taken place and that Kate would be off royal duty until after Easter, which this year falls on March 31. The Palace’s explanation seemed to be acceptable until around the time William pulled out of a planned appearance at King Constantine of Greece’s memorial service on February 27 because of undisclosed personal reasons; since then, speculation and conspiracy theories reached fever pitch. It’s unknown if the March 4 citing was a planned one or not, but it was certainly convenient to show that the princess is okay.

Now, this. The accompanying words alongside the photo on social media were the first words directly from Kate in the public forum since Christmas Day; whenever posts from the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media accounts are signed with a “C” (signifying Catherine, which she goes by formally), they are directly from the Princess of Wales herself. “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” she wrote. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C.”

Kate Middleton Braid

A couple of weeks after this photo was taken, Kate had abdominal surgery on January 16

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While in previous years William and Kate have issued pictures taken by professional photographers—and, if not a professional photographer, Kate herself—this photo is believed to have been taken by William earlier in the week at their home in Windsor, Adelaide Cottage, to further protect Kate’s privacy as she recovers. Only the closest of family members have been permitted to visit, The Daily Mail reported.

In the photo, Kate wears jeans, a casual jacket and jumper, and Chloe walking boots. In the image, she sits with her arms around Charlotte and Louis, and George stands behind her with his arms draped around her neck. “All four are clearly roaring with laughter, either at their father or something behind the camera,” The Daily Mail wrote.

The photo was originally posted directly by Kensington Palace onto their social media channels, and then sent to global picture agencies thereafter. It “is understood to have been sent on to the Palace press office on Saturday directly by the couple,” The Daily Mail reported. 

As ever, we’ll keep you abreast as we learn more.

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.