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Reported Princess Kate sightings fail to quell speculation about her health after photo editing scandal

London — British tabloids reported Sunday that Catherine, the Princess of Wales, was spotted in public for the first time since she disappeared more than two months ago for what Kensington Palace said was an unspecified abdominal surgery and recovery. The unconfirmed sighting comes amid ongoing controversy over Kate’s well-being and whereabouts.

The Sun tabloid newspaper said Kate was seen at a farm shop near her family’s home in Windsor, west of London, on Saturday, quoting onlookers as saying she appeared “happy, relaxed and healthy.” On Sunday, The Sun also reported Kate and her husband Wiliam, the Prince of Wales, watched their three children play sports.

On Monday, the celebrity site TMZ posted a short video clip that appeared to show the couple walking into the farm shop.

Speculation over Kate’s health persists

In January, Kensington Palace said Kate would be undergoing planned abdominal surgery and taking time to recover in private. It said there would be no updates on her health as she recuperated, but then on Britain’s Mother’s Day in March, the couple released an image of Kate and her children that had clearly been doctored.

Manipulated royal photo draws global scrutiny


International photo agencies withdrew the image from their platforms, some even removing Kensington Palace from their list of trusted sources. Kate admitted “editing” the photo in a subsequent social media post, but Kensington Palace said it would not be releasing anything further amid numerous calls for an original image to be provided.

“Anybody that tells you that their media operation is flawless would be kidding you,” Julian Payne, an expert in crisis public relations who used to be a spokesperson for King Charles III and Queen Camilla, told CBS News on Monday. “Of course mistakes get made.”

Payne said he believed the scandal over the publication of the edited photo of the Princess of Wales and her children was unlikely to change how the palace handles providing updates about her health.

“This is a Mother’s Day image. It was taken by the Prince of Wales, that was then edited by the Princess of Wales and then given to her press team. It’s not surprising that the team simply said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and shared that photo,” Payne said. “I think that the media operation were very clear that the Princess of Wales was not going to provide a running commentary on her health. She’s cleared up that one issue around the photograph. Now, it’s for other people to decide whether that’s enough information, but it is not, because the institution is sitting there not knowing what to do. You talk to those people who are doing those jobs; They have taken a position. They’re holding that position.”

“It’s the institution where the focus should be”

While the public may view members of the royal family like Hollywood celebrities, Payne said the royals feel very differently about their roles, and this affects how they choose to share information about their lives with the public.

“When we think about ‘Hollywood celebrities’, they understand that they are the brands. They need the media attention in order to be as successful as they can be,” Payne told CBS News. “That doesn’t translate into the royal family, where their view as the individual members of the family is: It’s the institution where the focus should be. They contribute to that work, but they should also be able to protect a little bit of their own private lives at the end of the day as well.”

Payne said rather than responding to questions about Kate’s health, her team at Kensington Palace will most likely hold their course and refuse to provide any updates until she resumes her public duties.

Then, “people will begin to replace what we have now, which is a huge amount of speculation, with the reality of a working Princess of Wales once more,” Payne said.

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