First photo of Princess of Wales since surgery retracted because image appears manipulated

First photo of Princess of Wales since surgery retracted because image appears manipulated
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LONDON (AP) — The first photo of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since her abdominal surgery nearly two months ago was issued Sunday after weeks of speculation about her whereabouts.

But the photo was later removed by The Associated Press and other news agencies because it appeared to be manipulated, fueling more conjecture.

The photo of Kate in a chair surrounded by her three children was credited to her husband, William, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, and was said to have been taken earlier in the week in Windsor.

Princess Kate leaves London hospital after abdominal surgery

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” Kate said on social media. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.”

AP initially published the photo, which was issued by Kensington Palace. But AP later retracted the image because at closer inspection, it appeared the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet AP’s photo standards. The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.

The Kensington Palace media office is not open on weekends and a voicemail left for a spokesperson was not immediately returned.

The release of the photo followed weeks of gossip on social media about what had happened to Kate since she left a hospital Jan. 29 after a nearly two-week stay following planned surgery. She hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas Day.

The royal family has been under more scrutiny than usual in recent weeks, because both Kate and King Charles III can’t carry out their usual public duties due to health problems.

Palace says Kate hospitalized for abdominal surgery. King Charles III to have prostate treatment

Royal officials say Charles is undergoing treatment for an unspecified form of cancer, which was discovered during treatment for an enlarged prostate. The monarch has canceled all his public engagements while he receives treatment, though he has been photographed walking to church and meeting privately with government officials and dignitaries.

Kate, 42, underwent surgery Jan. 16 and her condition and the reason for the surgery have not been revealed, though Kensington Palace, Prince William and Kate’s office said it was not cancer-related.

Although the palace initially said that it would only provide significant updates and that she would not return to royal duties before Easter — March 31 this year — it followed up with a statement last month amid the rumors and conspiracy theories by saying she was doing well and reiterating its previous statement.

“Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess’ recovery and we’d only be providing significant updates,” the palace said Feb. 29. “That guidance stands.”

At the time, royal aides told The Sun newspaper: “We’ve seen the madness of social media and that is not going to change our strategy. There has been much on social media but the Princess has a right to privacy and asks the public to respect that.”

Further questions were raised last week when the British military appeared to jump the gun in announcing Kate would attend a Trooping the Color ceremony in June, apparently without consulting palace officials.

The appearance would have been her first major official duty since the surgery, but Kensington Palace didn’t confirm any scheduled public events for Kate. It’s up to palace officials, not government departments, to announce and confirm the royals’ attendance at events.

The army later removed the reference to her attendance.

British media reported that the army did not seek approval from Kensington Palace before publishing details about Kate’s appearance in June, and announced the event based on the expectation that Kate, in her role as Colonel of the Irish Guards, would inspect the troops this year at the annual military ceremony.

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