If the Palace Doesn’t Release the Unedited Mother’s Day Photo of Princess Kate, “The Integrity of Our Future King and Queen Is at Stake,” Royal Expert Claims

The consequences of Kensington Palace’s reluctance towards transparency could be disastrous.

Prince William Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The main point of contention when it comes to Princess Kate’s Mother’s Day photo scandal? It’s not necessarily the fact that the photo was edited—though that doesn’t necessarily look good for the believability of the Palace—but that Kensington Palace refuses to release the original, unedited version of the photo. The snap in question, of course, is of Kate with her three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—apparently taken by her husband, Prince William, at their home, Adelaide Cottage, last Friday—released on social media on Sunday (which doubled as Mother’s Day in the U.K.), likely with hopes of stopping the rampant and endless chatter and gossip about Kate’s health condition on the internet and social media.

After multiple news agencies pulled the photo off of servers Sunday night citing digital manipulation, and after Kate confessed to editing the photo on Monday morning, the public called for the Palace to release the untouched version of the photo, which it heretofore has refused to do. Royal expert Dr. Tessa Dunlop said this isn’t a minor refusal, and that the integrity of the future of the Crown rests on what the Palace does next.

Dunlop said the Photogate saga has taken “us back to square one,” she said, per The Mirror. “You know it’s gone horribly wrong when the Princess of Wales pops up on X to apologize. But then the apology doesn’t stack up.”

She added “We have long known that Kate is the royal family’s photographer—a canny ruse for them to hold on to a vestige of control—but apparently it was William who took this photograph, so why is she the one modifying it? And if the princess only indulged in a bit of light editing, why on earth doesn’t the Palace release the original photograph?”

Princess Kate apology

Kate's apology flew in the face of the adage "Never complain, never explain"

(Image credit: Courtesy of the Prince and Princess of Wales / Instagram)

To smooth over the controversy—which has gone about as viral as viral can go—Dunlop said she believes releasing the unedited photo is the only move the royal family can make to put the fire out. 

“Even at first glance on Mothering Sunday morning, that picture looked too good to be true,” she said. “Anyone with three children knows just how hard it is to get a photograph of everyone at their best, smiling and looking towards the camera at the same time. And yet the royal brood were all beaming like there was no tomorrow. William appeared to be both future King and genius photographer until some eagle-eyed royal watchers noticed Princess Charlotte’s dodgy sleeve. Photoshop is one thing, but as a fellow historian put it, this looks like a ‘composite, probably AI-generated, of more than one picture rather than a single candid snap.’ And there is that crucial little word—‘candid.’ This has blown up into a major media storm because people feel the royal family—who also double up as an institution of state—are not being honest with them. And if you can’t trust Kensington Palace, then who can you trust?”

Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis

Mother's Day photos of Kate and the kids are typically taken by professional photographers, not William, as was the case this year

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

Speaking of the Palace, is it looking out for the Prince and Princess of Wales the best it could? Maybe not, author Phil Dampier said, per The Mirror. “It is ironic that it is the first time William has taken a picture that they have released publicly, and this has happened,” he said. “It seems he has sent this to Kensington Palace’s press office, and they have not picked up on it—and just sent it out without asking any questions.”

Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams, speaking to The Daily Express, said “It must be an embarrassing mistake. It made the episode, since the happy image was meant to calm our fears about her health and since trolls were making bizarre claims on social media, somewhat farcical.” He added “The Waleses’ public relations team must become more aware. Over two months is too long for us to wait for information about her condition, she has been seriously ill, and the vast majority who were concerned about her welfare wish her well.”

The solution to the Mother’s Day photo crisis, Dunlap doubled down, is, at least on its face, pretty simple, but has enormous ramifications: “The Palace need[s] to release the original picture,” she said. “The integrity of our future King and Queen is at stake.”

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.