The Scoop: Princess Catherine apologizes after doctored photo is removed from wire services

Plus: Boeing’s woes mount; “I’m Just Ken” steals the Oscars.

The royal family faces a controversy around an edited photo of Princess Catherine and her children.

What started as a family photo shared to commemorate Mother’s Day has become a controversy that fans the flames of what many see as a larger Royal mystery.

Kensington Palace, the entity that handles the press for the Prince and Princess of Wales, shared an innocuous seeming photo with wire services Sunday. In it, Princess Catherine is seen smiling with her three children. It was also shared on Instagram with a caption marking Mother’s Day, which was observed Sunday in the U.K.



But hours later, news outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse sent advisories urging news outlets to remove the photos, as they appeared to have been doctored.

“At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement image will be sent,” the AP wrote in its “kill notification, the New York Times reported, including a note to “Please remove it from all platforms, including social, where it may still be visible.”


Specifically, Princess Charlotte’s hand appeared to have been moved, among other minor inconsistencies. While minor editing, such as cropping and photo correction, is generally allowed in wire service photos, this was a bridge too far.

The kill notification set social media aflame. Middleton has been largely out of the public eye since she had abdominal surgery in January. The photo, intended to show Catherine well and happy, was now a source of mystery.

Hours later, the princess posted an apology on X. “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.” The post is signed with “C,” which signifies that the message was authored by the princess herself.

Why it matters: Anything the royal family does will be intensely scrutinized, both in the U.K. and around the world. A miscommunication occurred between the family and their press office around what standards are acceptable for Instagram versus what will fly with international wire services. At a time when Princess Catherine has been kept out of the public eye, with wild speculation swirling, it all adds to a public relations fire. The palace’s failure to properly vet the photo, along with its slow response, allowed those flames to grow even higher.

Was this an innocent mistake from a frazzled mum recovering from surgery and trying to make her family look their best? An intentional move to conceal or hide something from the public? We don’t know, but everyone will speculate.

Let this be a reminder to work closely with your principals and clients on what standards work for the press and what’s OK for social media. If they submit a photograph, ensure you’re asking questions about who took it, how it was altered and if there’s anything else you need to know.

Editor’s Top Picks:

  • It was another bad week for Boeing, with a bevy of incidents once again pulling the aircraft manufacturer’s name into controversy. Al Jazeera lists a number of problems with Boeing craft over the last week, including a “technical event” on a flight from Australia to New Zealand that led to a “strong movement” and resulted in dozens of injuries; an emergency landing necessitated after an engine sucked in bubble wrap; another emergency landing due to fumes in the cabin; and a tire falling off a plane in San Francisco, destroying a car. Some of these incidents are unlikely to be caused by any fault of Boeing’s, but it all contributes to a larger narrative of Boeing planes having problems. It undermines confidence and perpetuates a damaging narrative at a time when Boeing is looking to move forward.
  • The breakout moment of last night’s Oscars ceremony was a rockstar-caliber performance of “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie.” Dressed in a pink, sparkling suit, Ryan Gosling delivered a splashy performance that included his fellow Kens from the film, guitarist Slash and “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie. While “Barbie” was mostly shut out of the awards (it took home Best Original Song, not for “I’m Just Ken” but for the ballad “What Was I Made For?”), this performance ensured the film will stay a hot topic of conversation, likely even equaling winning darling “Oppenheimer.” It’s a show of what can happen when you stay true to yourself, your vision and a sense of overwhelming fun.
  • The hottest new accessory is a $2.99 canvas bag from Trade Joe’s. CNN reports that the branded totes are being sold on Ebay for hundreds of dollars, though it’s unclear if anyone is buying them at that rate. Still, there’s no question that shoppers are clamoring for the simple gear, drawing comparisons to the Stanley cup in the intensity of its hype. There’s no bigger marketing win than when customers wear your name with pride. Is there an opportunity in your organization for your own branded swag moment?

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.


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