A manipulated photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has currently stirred up controversy online. The image, displaying Kate with an elongated neck and altered facial features, ignited discussions about the potential involvement of artificial intelligence (AI) in its creation. However, experts remain doubtful about AI’s role.

The photo emerged on various social media platforms and rapidly spread across the internet. Depicting Kate Middleton in an uncanny and distorted manner, it prompted speculations regarding the utilization of advanced AI algorithms for the alterations. Many speculated that an AI tool might have been employed to manipulate the image.

This photograph, issued on Sunday, March 10, 2024, by Kensington Palace shows Kate, Princess of Wales, with her children, Prince Louis, left, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The circled areas appear to show evidence of potential manipulation. Credit: Kensington Palace

The photograph was initially released by Kensington Palace on the couple’s official Instagram account to commemorate Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom. Following standard protocol for official UK royal photographs, it was simultaneously distributed to news and photo agencies.

The picture featured Kate surrounded by her children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, appearing relaxed and joyful. It’s suggested that Prince William, credited with taking the photo, might have contributed to the laughter captured in the image.


The release of the photograph sparked further controversy rather than quelling rumors. Several global news agencies retracted the image from circulation hours later, citing concerns of manipulation.

The situation exacerbated existing public concerns following Kate’s surgery in January. Despite the palace’s announcement of a two to three-month recovery period, uncertainties surrounding Kate’s medical condition fueled speculation on social media, ranging from the insensitive to the outlandish.

Questions about the authenticity of the Mother’s Day image surfaced on social media platforms, with eagle-eyed observers scrutinizing every detail. The Associated Press retracted the image, suggesting potential manipulation by the source, prompting similar actions from other international news agencies.

This area on the jacket of the Princess of Wales appears to show a misaligned break along the zipper. Credit: Kensington Palace

A closer examination of the photo revealed discrepancies, such as inconsistencies in Princess Charlotte’s sleeve cuff and misalignment in the zipper on Kate’s jacket. These findings raised doubts about the photo’s authenticity.

The controversy surrounding the altered image has strained the relationship between the palace and media organizations. Transparency regarding the photo’s adjustments was lacking, damaging trust between the two parties.

Why AI is Unlikely

  • Artifacts and Inconsistencies: Digital forensics experts have analyzed the photo and identified several inconsistencies that are unlikely to result from AI. These include pixel artifacts, irregularities in lighting, and distortions that do not align with typical AI-generated images.
  • Complexity of AI Algorithms: While AI has made significant strides in image manipulation, creating a convincing and consistent distortion like the one seen in the Kate photo would require sophisticated algorithms and extensive training data. The sudden appearance of this image without any prior examples raises doubts about its AI origin.
  • Human Expertise: Human photo editors and artists have long been adept at creating surreal and fantastical images. The techniques used in the Kate photo align more closely with traditional editing methods than with AI-generated content.

While the royal consort issued a personal apology, attributing the alterations to her experimentation with editing as an amateur photographer, skepticism remains widespread. And the incident has cast a shadow over the royal family’s annual Commonwealth Day celebration, further complicating matters for the monarchy.

Today, it’s harder to tell what’s real and what’s not in digital spaces as AI is gradually getting better and smarter. We know AI has become capable of altering pictures, so it’s important not to believe everything you see without proper verification.

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