President Biden extends Ramadan prayers to Muslim community amid ‘uncommitted’ protest over war in Gaza

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Catherine, Princess of Wales, on Monday apologized and admitted to editing an official portrait of her released by the palace that prompted AFP and other agencies to withdraw the image.

Kate, 42, has not been seen in public since attending a Christmas Day church service, and underwent abdominal surgery in January, fueling speculation about her health.

Her Kensington Palace office on Sunday sought to dispel rumors by distributing an official photograph said to have been taken by her husband Prince William of his wife with their three children.

But questions quickly emerged about the Mother’s Day portrait of a smiling Kate, casually dressed and seated in a garden chair, surrounded by Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

They included several inconsistencies such as the zip of Kate’s jacket being misaligned in one place, while part of Princess Charlotte’s sleeve is missing.

The eight-year-old princess’s hair also ends abruptly on her shoulder.

The photo released by the Kensington Palace on March 10, 2024, shows Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, posing for a photo with her three kids. (Photo courtesy: Kensington Palace) 

Responding to the growing controversy on Monday, the palace issued a statement on X (formerly Twitter), signed by “C” for Catherine.

“Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing,” it stated.

“I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused.”

Royal sources told several British media outlets that Kate had made “minor adjustments” to the picture. Kensington Palace, however, said it would not republish the original, unedited photo.

AFP, Getty, the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters all have policies about distributing manipulated images. They initially published the photo but pulled it late Sunday.

They decided after consultation that the modifications were “in violation of the ethical standards of the profession,” said AFP’s deputy news director in charge of photo, Eric Baradat.

“AFP felt compelled to remove the photo to preserve the trust of its subscribers and maintain transparency to the public, especially in a society where manipulated images are prevalent,” he added.

By late morning Monday, the Press Association — a central UK media industry agency with close links to the palace — had also withdrawn the image.

Many commentators suggested the furor cast fresh doubt on royal reassurances about Kate’s health and recuperation.

Peter Hunt, a former BBC royal correspondent, said the situation was “damaging” for the family. “They knew there would be intense interest in any picture they released of Kate,” he said.

“Their challenge is that people will now question whether they can be trusted and believed when they next issue a health update.”

Graham Smith, who heads the Republic pressure group calling for an elected head of state, added: “It’s quite simple. Don’t use their own photos. It’s PR, not news.”

William, 41, and other senior royals are expected to attend annual Commonwealth Day celebrations in central London later on Monday.

King Charles III’s elder son, he is heir to the throne, intensifying public interest in Kate who would be queen.

According to Kensington Palace, she was admitted to hospital on January 16 for planned surgery, then left on January 29, to recuperate at home until at least Easter on March 31.

Royal officials have not specified the nature of her operation but have said it was not cancer-related.

The contentious photograph, published on all royal social media channels and widely picked up in Britain and across the world, was accompanied by a message signed by Kate.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months. Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day,” it read.

Earlier this month, a snatched photograph said to have been of Kate wearing sunglasses while being driven by her mother were published on the celebrity news site TMZ.

The sighting, said to have been near William and Kate’s Windsor home west of London, also failed to dampen conspiracy theories on social media about her absence from the spotlight.

The announcement about her hospital admission came just before Buckingham Palace revealed her father-in-law’s treatment for a benign enlarged prostate.

It then announced he had been diagnosed with an unrelated — but so far unspecified — cancer, which has forced him to cancel public engagements, barring some official meetings.

Charles, 75, has only been king and British head of state since the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.

His wife, Queen Camilla, 76, has since stepped up to take the lead as the royals’ most senior figure at public events.

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