Another photo from Kate Middleton which included Queen Elizabeth was digitally doctored, agency says

Another official photograph involving Catherine, Princess of Wales was digitally manipulated, according to a leading photo agency, sparking a second royal retouching controversy just as Kate was spotted in public for the first time in months.

Getty Images said the photograph of Queen Elizabeth with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, taken by Kate and released by Kensington Palace last year, has been "digitally enhanced," and a CNN analysis found signs of alteration in as many as 19 places.

It follows a similar saga over a Mother's Day photograph of Catherine and her children, said to have been taken by Prince William, which was also retouched. Seeking to quell the uproar that followed the first edited photo, Kate apologised and claimed last Monday she liked to "experiment" with editing images.

The newly unearthed inconsistencies in a second royal picture puts Kate at the centre of yet more questions, and threatens to wreck the royals' relationships with leading news and photography agencies.

It is a controversy that the Waleses will not welcome, coming amid a period of intense scrutiny over the health and status of the princess.

On Saturday, Prince William and Kate were spotted and photographed at a farm shop near their home, easing questions over her health.

The princess was also photographed earlier this month inside her private car departing Windsor Castle, as she attended a private appointment on March 11, Kensington Palace previously told CNN.

She had not otherwise been seen in public since the palace said she had abdominal surgery in January.

The newest controversy focuses on a picture published in April 2023, which shows the Queen – who had died the previous September – surrounded by 10 of her young relatives.

The palace said it had been taken by Kate at Balmoral Castle in Scotland in the months before the Queen's death, but the corrections have led to confusion over whether the image was in fact stitched together from various different shots.

The photo with the highlighted areas of concern.
The photo with the highlighted areas of concern. Photo credit: CNN

The inconsistencies in the Balmoral photo include a misalignment on the Queen's skirt and blanket, and the sofa she is sitting on. Strands of Princess Charlotte's hair appear to have been cloned, while the edge of Prince Louis' shoulder is blurred and seems to overlap the background. The lighting on several royals in the photo also does not match the overall lighting of the picture.

Getty said in an editor's note that the image "has been digitally enhanced at source." CNN has contacted the agency; Kensington Palace declined to comment when contacted Tuesday.

In a statement to CNN, the company said: "Getty Images is undertaking a review of handout images and in accordance with its editorial policy is placing an editor's note on images where the source has suggested they could be digitally enhanced."

In Kate's brief apology over the Mother's Day picture, she did not explain why she alters her photographs, nor why Kensington Palace didn't disclose their changes to photo agencies.

The rebuke from Getty and others is more than merely an embarrassment for the royals.

The family, like countless governments and institutions around the world, relies on agencies to distribute their images to news outlets. But these companies have strict rules on allowing only minimal editing; by secretly manipulating their pictures in various places, the royals have painted themselves as potential distributors of misinformation.

Getty in particular has long had a close relationship with Kensington Palace; they have often been invited to conduct shoots of royals, and have sponsored royal events.

Kate has been taking a break from public duties as she recovers from her surgery, a prolonged absence that gave rise to a host of conspiracy theories online and questions about her health in British media. King Charles III has meanwhile been taking on lighter duties after announcing his cancer diagnosis in February.