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Princess of Wales pictured leaving Windsor with Prince William hours after apology over edited family photo

Princess of Wales pictured leaving Windsor with Prince William hours after apology over edited family photo

The Princess of Wales was pictured leaving Windsor Castle with Prince William on Monday - hours after apologising for digitally altering a photograph released by Kensington Palace.

The palace had come under mounting pressure to reveal the truth behind the image after international picture agencies withdrew it over claims it had been digitally manipulated.

Kate was pictured leaving the royal residence in a blue Range Rover alongside the Prince of Wales, who later appeared alongside senior royals at Westminster Abbey for the Commonwealth Day service.

Prince William leaves Windsor Castle with Kate on Monday (Bruce Bennett)
Prince William leaves Windsor Castle with Kate on Monday (Bruce Bennett)

The Princess of Wales did not attend the event. She was understood to have a private appointment, according to reports.

In a statement released on social media, Kate said on Monday morning: “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. C”.

The photograph of Kate and her children, taken by the Prince of Wales, was the first to be issued since the princess’s abdominal surgery and was released by the Palace to mark Mother’s Day.

It is understood William and Kate wanted to offer an informal picture of the family together for Mother’s Day, with the princess making “minor adjustments”.

It was withdrawn with a “Kill” notice by picture agencies last night - and the UK’s PA news agency on Monday morning - because of suspicions it had been manipulated.

The controversy - and the Palace’s initial reluctance to comment - served to fuel online speculation about Kate which have swirled on the internet since her abdominal surgery.

Details of the princess’s condition have not been disclosed but Kensington Palace previously said it was not cancer-related and that Kate wished her personal medical information to remain private.

The image of Kate and her children, reportedly taken by the Prince of Wales at their Windsor home, was posted on their social media account and shared with newspapers and broadcasters on Sunday. But it was withdrawn by international picture agencies later the same day amid concerns that it had been manipulated.

There was no immediate response from the palace, which only served to fuel online speculation about Kate since her operation. Details of the princess’s condition have not been disclosed but Kensington Palace previously said it was not cancer-related and that she wished her personal medical information to remain private.

The Mothering Sunday photo was intended as a gesture of gratitude to the public. In the social media post, Kate thanked the public “for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months”.

Kate with her three children George, Louis and Charlotte (AP)
Kate with her three children George, Louis and Charlotte (AP)

The picture shows her sitting in a chair with her arms around Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, with Prince George standing behind.

But there was speculation that edits had been made to the left sleeve of Princess Charlotte’s cardigan, and other areas of the picture also raised concerns about possible manipulation.

On Sunday night the Associated Press issued a “kill notification” — an industry term used to make a retraction. It said: “At closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement photo will be sent.”

Reuters then said it too had withdrawn the image “following a post-publication review”. They were followed by AFP and Getty Images.

Missing: Part of Princess Charlotte’s sleeve (@KensingtonRoyal)
Missing: Part of Princess Charlotte’s sleeve (@KensingtonRoyal)

On Monday morning the UK’s PA news agency also said it would be withdrawing the image.

A spokesman said: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace.

“In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.” Before being posted online, the photo would have gone through the social media team at Kensington Palace.

Despite calls for the original to be published, Kensington Palace later said it would not be reissuing the unedited photograph of Kate and her children.

That decision was criticised by public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski, who said: "It's plausible she's at home playing with the computer and using an AI tool, but if they're really going to regain any sort of trust they should release the unedited photo, it can't be that bad if they just made a few tweaks.

A hand appears to be blurry (@KensingtonRoyal)
A hand appears to be blurry (@KensingtonRoyal)

"I find they have risen to the challenge, provided the statement as an explanation - the question is with all the conspiracy theories running around, is whether people believe it and I'm not sure that they will."

He said the Mother's Day photo had exposed a public relations problem for the monarchy: "That's the issue, there doesn't seem to be that much joined up strategic thinking at the heart of the royal family at the moment, which leads to these problems where it's a very difficult organisation to manage in terms of PR."

He added: "It's a nightmare, even the softer stories of Edward turning 60 this week haven't really resonated at all because no one's interested in them, they're interested in the stars they're not interested in the supporting cast and that is a problem at the moment.

"They are under pressure, massively under pressure, this is a massive own goal."

Royal commentator Peter Hunt said that the way the palace had handled the picture was “damaging for the royals”.

He said: “They knew there would be intense interest in any picture they released of Kate. Their challenge is that people will now question whether they can be trusted and believed when they next issue a health update.”

However, Kate’s uncle Gary Goldsmith described the picture as “beautiful” and “really genuine”. Speaking to Good Morning Britain after becoming the first housemate to be evicted from the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother, he said: “The smiles on faces said it all for me. I thought it was beautiful.

“Obviously the family wouldn’t be the ones to do any touch-ups, so if that’s gone through some filter before it’s gone out to the broader world, but they wouldn’t be doing Photoshopping themselves... And this whole ‘sleevegate’ thing, just leave it alone.”

The image was the first to be released of Kate since she was admitted to the London Clinic, the private hospital where the King underwent treatment for an enlarged prostate, for a planned operation on January 16.

She left the hospital on January 29 but is not expected to return to official duties until after Easter. William, 41, was on Monday set to accompany the Queen at events to mark Commonwealth Day. The Westminster Abbey service was to include a video message from the King, who is receiving cancer treatment.