Bizarre new theory in Kate Middleton photo editing scandal

A bizarre new theory has emerged in the Kate Middleton photo editing scandal about whether an old photo of the Princess of Wales has been used.

It comes after a photo of Middleton posing with her three children was withdrawn by news agencies The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters among others amid claims it has been photoshopped.

The picture was released officially in the UK on Sunday (local time) as speculation continues about her health following surgery in January.

In a 'kill notification' to clients, AP stated: "At closer inspection, it appears the source has manipulated the image. No replacement photo will be sent."

On Tuesday morning (NZ time), the Princess issued an apology on social media.

"Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing," the message on X said, signed with a "C" meaning it was sent by Kate.

"I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused."

But as speculation continues to spread on social media, a new theory has come to light.

Ruby Naldrett, who works at the UK newspaper the Daily Mirror, believes an old Vogue cover from 2016 was used in the photo.

"My analysis of the Kate Middleton photo saga is that they took her face from the Vogue cover she did years ago and edited it in," Ruby wrote on X alongside comparisons.

We spoke to Newshub's graphics department who aren't convinced about the theory. The team don't believe it is the same photo due to the different lighting and positioning and the colour of her hair is different.

Visual media and communication expert at RMIT University TJ Thomson agrees the Vogue theory isn't 100 percent.

"I overlaid the Vogue cover on top of the Instagram image and think there are some similarities, but it's not, in my estimation, an exact match. Perhaps something like an 80-90 percent overlap?" Thomson told Yahoo.

He said there is little that can be done to determine when the viral photo was actually taken.

"It's probably more or less real, there could be a little bit of airbrushing, a little bit of smoothing, teeth whitening - that kind of thing, I think the basic components probably are accurate. But it's just a matter of if they are all accurate at the same point in time, at that same location that the photo is claiming it is."

The photo was the first official photo released by the Palace following Kate's abdominal surgery in January. However, a grainy photo of Middleton sitting in a car with her mother has emerged on social media.

She had also been photographed leaving Windsor Castle with Prince William hours after apologising for editing the family photo.