Tumbling down a rabbit hole into a Katespiracy on manipulated Royal photo row

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If there was an award for PR disaster of 2024, then the judges would surely halt the competition now and just hand it to the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Quite how an inoffensive, twee Mother’s Day photo could end up sparking a social media meltdown and have every conspiracy nutjob gulping for air as they surfaced so giddy with excitement they were clinging on to their tinfoil hats is something students and scholars will be debating for years to come.

Three of the world’s biggest photo agencies pulled the image amid concerns it had been manipulated, sparking what has been dubbed a Katespiracy.

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The fact the princess hasn’t been seen in public since undergoing abdominal surgery has already fired up the internet with theories ranging from the wild to the weird. When her Mother’s Day photo started to fall apart as it was analysed pixel by pixel and so many inconsistencies circled, it looked as though a child had doodled all over someone’s picture frame.

The photo - and the flak: Pics: Kensington Palace/Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty ImagesThe photo - and the flak: Pics: Kensington Palace/Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images
The photo - and the flak: Pics: Kensington Palace/Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Spare a thought for the poor comms team at Kensington Palace who clocked off thinking everyone would ooh and ahh over their family photo, and then went on to Twitter to discover a bin fire raging so badly out of control it’d take an entire fire brigade to bring fully under control.

Cue the explanation direct from the Princess: “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. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day.”

So, bottom line, they took a bunch of pics and used some swanky smart phone to tweak them to make everyone look happy and shiny for us peasants to fawn over.

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I take as little interest in the royals as is humanly possibly, but this was one rabbit hole we all plunged down like kids flying down a chute.

While we all edit, tweak and manipulate pics - the technology is so gobsmackingly good it can create something completely different from the image you actually took seconds earlier - this one was a gift that kept on giving as amateur sleuths poured over every strand of hair, every weirdly shaped digit and came up with a thousand different theories over what was really going on. The answer is, of course a) who knows and b) who cares?

On Twitter - sorry, calling it ‘X’ is just stupid - there is even a clock counting up the days since the Princess was last seen in public, adding to the katespiracy hysteria.

Amid the gossip, there is a much more serious issue as we enter a worrying, potentially disturbing era of AI, which can alter everything, and we do need to ask ourselves why on earth we feel the need to manipulate photos before they go on social media. Who are we trying to kid that our lives are perfectly photogenic?

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Maybe the old days were better. Back in the day your photos had to be handed into Boots to be developed, and it took a fortnight before you got them back, opened them up to see if there were anyone so fuzzy they came complete with wee orange stickers. Real ones. Not fake ones either.


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