Kate Middleton Photoshop Fail Mania Has Everyone Gripped

Photography by Getty Images

Have we forgotten there’s a real person involved in this?

The Royal family is in hot water again, and this time it’s over a Photoshop fail. On March 10, the Prince and Princess of Wales released a photo of Kate Middleton and her children to celebrate Mother’s Day. The photo was reportedly taken by the Prince of Wales. The image, which featured the future Queen along with her three kids, Charlotte, George, and Louis, came after months of speculation over Middleton’s whereabouts and the status of her health.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” the caption read. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C.”

While the post was no doubt meant to quell worries that the royal wasn’t doing well — she’s smiling! she’s surrounded by her kids! she’s wearing jeans!) — it did the complete opposite after speculation that the photo had been digitally altered was confirmed. As can be expected, the internet went off. But as jokes and memes over Middleton’s health continue to surge, we can’t help but feel a little icky. Because one vital thing missing from this convo about the Princess of Wales? The fact that Kate Middleton is a person at all.

What’s the latest update on Kate Middleton?

Since Kensington Palace first announced that Middleton had undergone abdominal surgery on January 17, updates have been scant, aside from a sassy statement responding to speculation and a grainy photo of the royal reportedly in a car with her mom. But that all changed on March 10 when the Prince and Princess of Wales shared the aforementioned Instagram post showing a smiling Middleton, seated and surrounded by her three children, all looking happy and healthy.

Why is this Kate Middleton photo being considered a Photoshop fail?

While from afar, it seems like a lovely photo of a young family, people online *immediately* felt like something was off with the image. Many called out the fact that Middleton was seated (does this mean she’s so ill she can’t stand?), that the royal wasn’t wearing her wedding ring (are Will and Kate divorcing?) and the fact that there’s greenery on the trees in the background of the image (it’s March in the U.K. — isn’t it grey there right now?).

Even more ambitious internet sleuths alleged that the entire photo of Middleton was Photoshopped, positing that her face is *actually* taken from her 2016 British Vogue cover; which would mean the image was fully manufactured.

While this is all internet speculation, the real issue came once the photo was picked up by international media. Shortly after the photo was sent to media outlets, photo agencies Getty Images, The Associated Press (AP), Reuters, and Agence France-Presse requested that outlets remove the photo from their coverage. The reason? The image, issued directly from Kensington Palace, didn’t meet their photo standards due to concerns it was digitally altered. In a statement to Sky News, AP said the photo features an “inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.” Reuters, who also withdrew the photo, said the agency is “reviewing the matter.”

For those outside of the media world, this is a pretty big deal. As many online noted, a “kill notification” in the PR industry means something big is amiss.

How did the palace respond to the Kate Middleton Photoshop fail?

In response to the image being pulled by AP et al., Kate Middleton apologized for editing the image. Taking to social media, the royal wrote: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing. I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

And only hours after issuing the apology, a new (and very blurry) photo of Middleton leaving Windsor Palace emerged. This too has been dissected online.

What has the response to the Photoshop fail been from the public?

To put it lightly: A field day. Since the photo was released on March 10, the internet has been on one, with social media users dissecting the image for hidden clues with the same gusto Taylor Swift fans do her song lyrics. Which is so say, they’re tearing it apart.

The most unbelievable part of this all, according to many, is the preposterous idea that Middleton — the Princess of Wales, married to the heir to the throne — would be sitting in her office desk chair experimenting with Adobe Photoshop. And the recent updates have only exacerbated the already bonkers theories circulating about Middleton’s whereabouts, with people theorizing everything from Middleton recovering from a bad haircut (maybe she tried a new fringe!), to the royal couple getting a divorce, to the extremely morbid theory that the Princess of Wales is deceased and the Palace refuses to announce it.

But it’s all fun and games, right?

Not really. While some of the jokes and memes are momentarily funny (I don’t know about you, but my group chats are buzzing with zingers), joking about seriously morbid things (like Middleton being dead) isn’t. If anything, the online furor around Middleton’s disappearance from the public eye overlooks one very important thing: the person at the centre of this, and the fact that there is one at all.

For many online, tracking Middleton’s health has become something of a spectator sport. As many have said, this “scandal” is giving them life, compared to the thrill many viewers felt watching and dissecting celebrity controversies like the train wreck that was 2023’s Don’t Worry Darling press tour. We love some schadenfreude.

But here’s the thing: This isn’t about an unhinged press tour for a big budget film starring actors who can clock out at the end of the day. This is about Kate Middleton’s real life.

At the end of the day, I don’t know that most spectators really care about her health — or the truth — at all, because that’s not the point. Like the alleged feud between Olivia Wilde and Florence Pugh, a rumour we never found out the truth about, whatever wild theories we’re able to drum up are inarguably more entertaining. And isn’t that what everyone’s actually looking for in this? As Glamour U.K. writer Elle Turner noted in a recent article about the ongoing and quickly devolving missteps from the royals, releasing edited and grainy photos doesn’t necessarily feel nefarious, instead “they feel more like an act of desperation than manipulation to me,” Turner wrote.

Which is quite plausibly what Middleton is feeling: Desperate, after asking for privacy around her health to be respected and having that repeatedly questioned.

When Middleton comes back into the public eye (because she eventually will, of course), there sure will be a lot of tweets to delete.

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