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First photo of Princess Kate since surgery released on Britain's Mother's Day, but questions swirl

Rumors swirl over Princess Kate's whereabouts
Rumors swirling over Princess Kate's whereabouts after months without public appearance 06:47

The first official photograph of Kate, the Princess of Wales, since she underwent abdominal surgery about two months ago was released Sunday. It showed Kate, or Catherine, as she is formally known, posing and smiling with she and her husband Prince William's three children, 10-year-old George, 8-year-old Charlotte and 5-year-old Louis. 

The image gave photography credit to William and was posted early Sunday morning on the official social media accounts belonging to the royal couple. However, several of the world's biggest news photo agencies, including The Associated Press, Reuters and AFP, later removed the photo from distribution to news organizations worldwide, saying it appeared to have been altered in violation of their standards.

The AP reported that it 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."

Many online commenters noted blurring around one of Charlotte's sleeves, while others pointed out what seemed to be photo edits around the children's hair and hands. 

On Monday, Britain's national Press Association news agency — often the first outlet to obtain and report information and imagery from the royal family — said it too was dropping the image from its service. PA said it had requested clarification from Kensington Palace about the image, but  "in the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service."

There was no immediate response from Kensington Palace, the official home of William and Kate, to the speculation over the photo alterations.

The social media post included Kate's first message to the public since her surgery in January. It acknowledged Mother's Day in the United Kingdom, which this year is being celebrated on March 10.

"Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day. C," read the message from the princess.

Questions have swirled online since Kensington Palace announced on Jan. 17 that she had been hospitalized for a planned abdominal surgery and would remain for 10 to 14 days at the private London clinic where she'd had the procedure. In that statement, the palace said she would then continue her recovery at home in Windsor for the next couple of months. She was not expected to return to her royal duties until after Easter, on March 31.

The palace did not share details about the nature of the princess' surgery but stressed that it was not cancer-related. Its initial statement about the procedure said Kate "hopes the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private."

Amid ongoing speculation that ensued about her health, a spokesperson for Kensington Palace said in a statement released late last month that she was "doing well."

"Kensington Palace made it clear in January the timelines of the princess' recovery and we'd only be providing significant updates. That guidance stands," the spokesperson said.

King Charles III admitted to hospital for scheduled surgery 02:33

Kate's recovery from surgery and related absence from the public eye has coincided with another health scare for the royal family. Shortly after her procedure, in early February, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles III had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. The king said in a statement issued around that time by the royal family that he would like "to express my most heartfelt thanks for the many messages of support and good wishes I have received in recent days."

"As all those who have been affected by cancer will know, such kind thoughts are the greatest comfort and encouragement," he said.

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