Another royal family photo flagged by news agency for being ‘digitally enhanced’

(NEXSTAR) — The royal family is facing backlash again for what appears to be another manipulated photo, this time of Queen Elizabeth II and her grandchildren.

Earlier this month, the family released what was believed to be the first photo of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since she underwent abdominal surgery. It seemed like an innocent photo of Kate, 42, in a chair surrounded by her three children at Windsor.

Video above: The Prince and Princess of Wales take their children to school in 2022

However, shortly after it was released, several news agencies that published the photo withdrew it over concerns about digital manipulation. Users across multiple social media platforms quickly pointed to apparent edits made in the image, including an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand with the sleeve of her sweater. The Associated Press notes there was no suggestion the photo was fake.

Kate apologized the next day for the "confusion" caused by her own editing of the photo, writing on social media that “like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.”

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The photo is still available on the official X account of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

News agencies, including Getty, have since flagged another photo for being "digitally enhanced at source." This image, which is also still posted on the couple's official account, was released in April 2023 and reportedly captured by Kate the previous summer at Balmoral.

The photo shows Queen Elizabeth II sitting on a couch surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At a quick glance, you may notice inconsistencies around the right side of the couch, around the hair of Savannah Phillips (sitting next to the right armest), the touching arms of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and a line stretching from Prince George's pinky down toward the bottom of the photo. CBS also pointed to apparent edits around Prince Louis' ear and areas on the couch.

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In a statement to CBS, a spokesperson for Getty said the agency is "undertaking a review of handout images and in accordance with its editorial policy is placing an editor's note on images where the source has suggested they could be digitally enhanced."

It's unclear if any other images from the royal family have been edited.

The "digitally enhanced" photos come at a time when the royal family rumor mill is running rampant.

Why is the royal family under so much scrutiny recently?

It largely stems from the absence of Kate, who had not been seen publicly since Christmas Day. She underwent surgery in mid-January, but her condition and the reason for the surgery have not been revealed. Kensington Palace, Prince William and Kate’s office said it was not cancer-related. The palace previously said Kate would not return to royal duties before Easter this year.

“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.”

A video released earlier this week appeared to show Kate and Prince William at a farm shop near their Windsor home. However, armchair experts claim there are inconsistencies in that video, with some arguing it may not even be Kate. Kensington Palace did not comment on the video.

Some of the scrutiny has also been tied to King Charles III. He 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’s been photographed walking to church and meeting privately with government officials and dignitaries.

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“The potency and legitimacy of monarchy comes from visibility,” said Anna Whitelock, professor of history of the monarchy at London's City University. “Visibility is the ‘contract’ between a monarch and their people.”

Experts who study conspiracy theories say the snowballing conjecture surrounding Kate isn't so different from how dozens of other “nonstandard beliefs” gain momentum.

“The moment there's an information gap, people will fill it. And they can fill that space quite quickly ... when we have such a fast-moving mediascape," said Simeon Yates, a professor of digital culture at the University of Liverpool.

The palace and the British government have tried to ignore the conjecture but occasionally have had to respond. The British Embassy in Kyiv released a statement saying Monday “news about King Charles III death is fake,” after Russian outlets falsely reported the monarch’s demise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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