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The 'Katespiracy' is officially getting out of control

Kwan Wei Kevin Tan   

The 'Katespiracy' is officially getting out of control
  • Kensington Palace's attempt to quell speculation about Kate Middleton may have backfired spectacularly.
  • Several photo agencies removed a newly-issued photo of Kate over concerns that it was doctored.

Kensington Palace's move to publish a photo of Kate Middleton to quell speculation about her whereabouts hasn't landed well — and now it's safe to say that the "Katespiracy" is spiraling out of control.

The image, which was released on Sunday, was removed by several photo agencies, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse. The portrait was the first official photo of Kate since her last public appearance in December.

In its kill notification, the AP said that on "closer inspection it appears that the source has manipulated the image."

In a statement released a day after the photo was published, Kate said: "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."

The removal of the photo and Kate's statement has only fueled speculation about her health and whereabouts.

Now some people on X, formerly Twitter, have coined a catchall term for all the Kate-related conspiracy theories that have been swirling online — "Katespiracy."

Dissecting the 'Katespiracy'

Some eagle-eyed X users have taken pains to dissect the photo, pointing out what they say are suspicious details like blurred spots, or what they believe to be a missing sweater cuff on Princess Charlotte.

"I've never been much of a conspiracy theorist but if AP, AFP, Reuters and other picture agencies are concerned enough to remove it and ask clients to delete it, there are serious questions for Kensington Palace - which was the source of the photo," ITV News' royal editor Chris Ship wrote on X on Sunday.

Some people on X have joined in on the "Katespiracy" talk by making memes that poke fun at the palace's attempt to dispel rumors.

"I started the KateSpiracy as a joke but now I'm a full card-carrying subscription-paying member," an X user wrote on Sunday.

In the age of 'Taylor Swift, CIA mole,' it's no surprise that the 'Katespiracy' is getting out of hand

That the "Katespiracy" is morphing into something far more complex and nefarious than it ever needed to be is unsurprising — considering how online communities have gone down endless rabbit holes in search of what they believe to be the truth.

Take "Pizzagate," for instance, where people on 4chan and Reddit made unsubstantiated claims that former First Lady Hillary Clinton and her staffers were using a pizzeria as a base for child trafficking.

And there's no shortage of conspiracy theories swirling around celebrities' lives.

Pop-rock star Avril Lavigne has long been the subject of a conspiracy theory claiming that the real Lavigne has been dead for years, and was replaced by a doppelgänger.

More recently, Taylor Swift was embroiled this year in a wild right-wing conspiracy theory, where people baselessly accused her of faking a relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, and being part of a sprawling CIA plot to clinch the 2024 election for the Democratic Party.

Releasing a photo should've made all the speculation go away

Besides Sunday's photo, Kate has not been spotted at any events. The only other recent photo of her was a paparazzi photo published by TMZ on March 4.

The lack of public appearances has only fueled the rumor mill and spawned unfounded theories on social media. Some people have wondered aloud if Kate is still alive, or if her marriage to Prince William is on the rocks.

None of these conspiracy theories, which range from mildly plausible to completely outlandish, have been definitively proven.

The palace's most recent photo of Kate was likely intended to stifle the rumors once and for all. Instead, it only added to the public's growing suspicions, according to royal experts.

Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator, told BI that the situation is "embarrassing" and "unprecedented."

Fitzwilliams said photo was clearly intended to be "charming" and with a "personal touch" since it was credited to Prince William. Instead, it will make history for all the wrong reasons, he said.

"The way it has been handled, and the agencies say it has been manipulated, it's obviously embarrassing and has fueled speculation it set out to avoid," Fitzwilliams said.

"It's undesirable and affects their credibility," he added.

Jack Royston, a royal commentator and podcast host, told BI that the "palace will now lose the respect and trust of a very sizeable portion of Britain."

"That means they will have to work overtime to regain any legitimacy here," he said.

Royston said that the palace has "blown up" its own defense over its silence on Kate's health, which was that it was a private matter.

"Releasing a doctored image speaks to public interest issues, such as fake news and the reliability of photographic 'evidence,' over which they cannot claim privacy," he said.

On January 17, the palace said in a statement that Kate had been admitted to the hospital for "planned abdominal surgery." The palace said in a subsequent statement on January 29 that Kate had returned home to Windsor to continue with her recovery.

As speculation mounted, the palace broke its silence on February 29, saying in a terse statement to the media that they'd been clear on Kate's recovery timeline.

"As we have been clear since our initial statement in January, we shall not be providing a running commentary or providing daily updates," the statement read.

Royal commentators previously told BI that they found it odd that the palace was being so secretive about Kate's health and whereabouts.

"The weird thing is, the palace could make it all go away with one single photo of Kate, but they seem to not want to do that," Royston told BI on March 1.

Kensington Palace did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.

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