Kate Middleton photo withdrawn from news agencies amid claims it's been manipulated

A photo of the Princess of Wales has been withdrawn by news agencies The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters among others amid claims it has been photoshopped.

The picture of Kate Middleton posing with her three children 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."

"Please remove it from all platforms, including social, where it may still be visible."

Kensington Palace, the photo's source, has not commented on its authenticity since it was removed from the news agencies.

Newshub published a Reuters article on the photo's release on Monday morning but has since removed it to comply with the agency's withdrawal.

Kate Middleton photo withdrawn from news agencies amid claims it's been manipulated

The photo, said by the Palace to have been taken by Prince William, showed Kate with their children Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte. "Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day," states the caption, said to be written by Kate herself.

Despite the image being removed from news agencies, it remains published on the official Kensington Palace Twitter account.

Prominent UK broadcaster Piers Morgan called the AP notice about the photo being doctored "astounding".

"If... the Palace manipulated that Kate photo to quash all the wild conspiracy theories about her, then they'll have just made things 100 times worse," he said in a tweet.

The release of the photo comes less than two weeks after Kensington Palace issued a statement saying the princess was "doing well".

She had not been seen in public since her abdominal surgery in January. In February, William abruptly pulled out of a public event due to an undisclosed "personal matter", which was followed by rampant speculation something had happened to Kate and the public hadn't been told, including claims she was in a coma. 

The full extent and reason for her surgery has not been disclosed.

The Kensington Palace statement from early March reiterated an earlier message that Kate would not be performing public duties again until after Easter.

Also in early March, paparazzi photos published on TMZ purported to document the first time Kate had been seen in public since her surgery.