KENSINGTON Palace must explain a “dystopian” photo of Kate Middleton with her children that has apparently been manipulated, campaigners have insisted.

The picture released on Mother’s Day of the Princess of Wales with her three children has been pulled by several picture agencies over concerns it was tampered with before being put on social media.

Kensington Palace had declined to comment on the allegations, until The Princess of Wales personally apologised on Monday morning for confusion over the family photograph issued by Kensington Palace saying: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.”

Republic CEO Graham Smith said the episode could do “serious damage” to the monarchy, adding it could be deemed as an example of “dystopian behaviour” by the royals.

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He said: “If the Palace can't offer a simple, innocent explanation then 'Kategate' is going to cause the monarchy serious damage.

"The manipulation of an image that the palace says was taken by William is extraordinary. It true it is a deliberate attempt to deceive the public.

"This kind of dystopian behaviour you might expect from Soviet Russia, not modern Britain.

“The monarchy has always sought to manipulate and manage its image, but if they have tried to fake a photograph to silence online conspiracy theories, that is disgraceful.

"For Kensington Palace to simply decline to comment is unacceptable. The public are entitled to know what's going on.”

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Republic rejected the apology from the royals on Twitter/X saying: "It’s not an explanation, it’s a press office attempt to say as little as possible."

The photo was the first official one released since the princess underwent abdominal surgery two months ago. Since then she has stayed out of the public eye.

Kate, 42, spent 13 nights at the London Clinic following the surgery.

There have been some concerns over the health of the princess since as William also temporarily stepped back from royal duties to care for her and his children.

The Palace has shared few details about her condition but has said it is not cancer-related.

This picture was presumably designed to reassure the public but seems to have backfired entirely after agencies including Getty, Associated Press, AFP and Reuters pulled the photo on Sunday evening noting “inconsistencies in alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand”.

There is also speculation online there could be other discrepancies in the image.

The PA news agency has now said it would also be withdrawing the image from its picture service after receiving no clarification from the Palace.

A spokesperson for PA said: “Like other news agencies, PA Media issued the handout image provided by Kensington Palace of the Princess of Wales and her children in good faith yesterday.

“We became aware of concerns about the image and we carried a report about it last night, and made clear that we were seeking urgent clarification about the image from Kensington Palace. In the absence of that clarification, we are killing the image from our picture service.”

It comes after a poll last week showed more people under-45 want an elected head of state as opposed to a monarchy.

Smith added: “To damage any trust the royals may still enjoy is going to weaken their support event further.”

Republic campaigners will be protesting at the Commonwealth Service on Monday in Westminster as Commonwealth Day is marked.