Is This Shady Kate Middleton Photo A.I.-Generated or a Photoshop Fail?

Theories have abounded over the princess's long absence from the public realm. This photo is making matters worse.

Kensington Palace posted this photo, supposedly showing Kate Middleton and her children, for Mother's Day. Via the family's official X account.

Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, has contributed to conspiracy theories that have been swirling around her for weeks, when she was only trying to quell the “Katespiracy.” A seemingly faked photo, posted to royal social media accounts for Mother’s Day in the U.K., has been picked apart by millions of observers, feeding the sense that something fishy is going on at Kensington Palace.

Middleton went to London Hospital for abdominal surgery on January 16 and has disappeared from public view ever since, leading to wild speculation and the generation of countless memes on social media concerning where she might be. Though she is normally frequently in the public eye, her last appearance had been on December 25, when she went to church with her husband, Prince William, and their three kids. In announcing the surgery, Kensington Palace said she would likely be out of the public eye ”until after Easter,” meaning she would be behind closed doors for over three months. 

Kate’s extended absence from the public realm drove royal-watchers wild. In one case, they memed the princess into photos of the disastrous Willy Wonka experience 400 miles north, in GlasgowEarly this month, TMZ distributed a paparazzi photo that many found unconvincing, leading to another wave of speculation and jokes. 

The plot thickened yesterday, when Kensington Palace released the first official photo of Kate since Christmas, showing her with her arms around her younger children Louis and Charlotte, while George stood behind her. 

The press release accompanying the photo read, “A new picture of The Princess of Wales, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis was posted on our social media channels today to mark Mother’s Day. The image was taken in Windsor earlier this week by the Prince of Wales.”

Among the red flags were a misalignment in the step behind Prince Louis’s leg; some distortion at Princess Charlotte’s left wrist, with a portion of her sleeve breaking free; leaves on a tree in the background though it’s mid-March; blurring at the knee of Charlotte’s tights; distortion in Prince George’s right fingers, a body part that A.I. notoriously has trouble rendering; and, perhaps the biggest of all, the fact that Kate wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

Photo agencies including Agence France-Presse, AP and Reuters pulled the photo over concerns it might be “manipulated.”

Now, Middleton has apologized and given a not-quite-credible explanation on Twitter, saying that she, like many, sometimes enjoys editing photos:

The royals, they really are just like us! 

But if the photo the Palace distributed was merely edited, British television personality Piers Morgan pointed out, the authorities should release the original photo or the speculation will only get worse:

Or, as another X user puts it, turning to the 1989 film Weekend at Bernie’s, in which a dead Bernie is propped up to make public appearances, “nothing to see here.”

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