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Photo Agencies Refuse to Run Kate Middleton Image, Citing Digital Manipulation

Kensington Palace released a photo Sunday that it described as a new photo of the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, in honor of Mother’s Day, showing her with her three children: Princes George, Louis and Princess Charlotte. Within hours of its release, photo agencies including the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse had issued kill notices on the image and banned their online services from sharing the royal photogrpah.

The photo caused a stir online, coming as Kate Middleton’s health and whereabouts have been the subject of intense scrutiny since January when she underwent surgery. The photo appears to show signs of digital manipulation.

ITV News royals editor Chris Ship tweeted of the situation, “No comment from Kensington Palace tonight after at least 3 international pictures agencies refuse to distribute this morning’s photo of Kate and her children. Some of them (@AP) have claimed ‘the source [the palace] has manipulated the image’.”

He soon added, “And now this from @AFP. ‘MANDATORY KILL-DUE TO AN EDITORIAL ISSUE THIS PHOTO NUMBER 000_34L82NW BRITAIN-ROYALS BY PRINCE OF WALES HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN FROM AFP SYSTEMS AND MAY NO LONGER BE USED IN ANY MANNER. PLEASE IMMEDIATELY REMOVE IT FROM ALL YOUR ONLINE SERVICES, STOP USING.'”

Ship also noted that the kill notice will likely result in more people seeing the photo.

The photo’s release fanned the flames of conspiracy theories that have run rampant for weeks. On Jan. 17, Kensington Palace explained that Middleton underwent a “planned abdominal surgery” the day before and added, “The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for 10 to 14 days, before returning home to continue her recovery.”

“Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.”

“The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate. She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private. Kensington Palace will, therefore, only provide updates on Her Royal Highness’ progress when there is significant new information to share.”

Since then, royalists have questioned Middleton’s prolonged absence from the public eye, the lack of photos of anyone in her family visiting her at the hospital and the nature of the surgery she underwent. But after Prince William unexpectedly canceled a planned appearance at a memorial service for his godfather, speculation about his wife surged.

At the same time, King Charles announced his own health battle and underwent surgery for prostate cancer at the beginning of February. Unlike his daughter-in-law, Charles was photographed after the procedure and has largely resumed royal duties, such as welcoming foreign dignitaries to Buckingham Palace.

On Monday, TMZ published a grainy photo that appeared to show Middleton and her mother, Carole, driving together. While many British photo agencies didn’t publish the photo, American agencies did, which prompted plenty of people to wonder if her sister, Pippa, was playing body double — and noting her likeness in the photo to Katie Holmes.

Responses to the photo released Sunday have ranged from acceptance to full incredulity to obsession. One person tweeted, “can we postpone the oscars pls i can’t do outfit appreciation rn i’m busy with kate middleton conspiracy theories.”

A second person added, “I’m not generally into conspiracy theories but this Kate Middleton photo has got me feeling like a flat earther.”

As a third person put it, things didn’t have to get so complicated. They wrote, “I was just rolling with the Kate Middleton conspiracy theories for jokes but shit is actually very weird. Body double car ride, photoshopped pictures.. like this was very easy to clear up and they keep making it weirder?”

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