William, Harry speak at Diana awards

LONDON — If Britain’s royal family thought the saga over Kate, the Princess of Wales, was going away, there was little sign of salvation Friday after a leading news agency compared the family to North Korea and another monarch offered gentle public ridicule.

Meanwhile, Prince William and Prince Harry both spoke Thursday evening at an awards ceremony in honor of their late mother, Princess Diana — an event somewhat overshadowed by the brothers’ ongoing feud when William left before Harry even started his video-link address.

The crisis over Kate’s health and edited photo has rocked the British royal family, but another of Europe’s sovereigns managed to find the funny side. At an event in the Dutch city of Zutphen on Thursday, the country’s King Willem-Alexander was told by a young girl that she had a photograph of him and his family.

“At least I didn’t photoshop it!” he said to laughter from the children’s parents.

That belies just how serious this crisis has become for the British family’s reputation.

It emerged Thursday that Agence France-Presse, one of the news agencies that issued a “kill notice” for Kate’s picture, no longer considers Kensington Palace a “trusted source.”

“Making a doctored photo available for distribution to the world’s media is a serious breach of trust,” news director Phil Chetwynd told NBC News in an email. “The palace was a known and trusted source for handout pictures” but “we cannot say they are a trusted source for handout pictures” following this week’s events, he added.

He said the news agency “still require further explanations” about what happened to the image and “we would hope we could rebuild this trust over time.”

The four agencies, AFP, The Associated Press, Reuters and Getty, all distribute photographs and stories to media companies worldwide.

Chetwynd said that “kill notices” were rare, and usually made for propaganda from “the North Korean news agency or the Iranian news agency, just to give you some background or context,” he said in another interview with the BBC.

Once the agencies realized “there were a lot of problems with the photo,” they worked together and asked the palace for the original, but decided to kill the picture after not receiving a response, he said.

A ‘kill notice’ issued by the French news agency AFP after the Kensington Palace photo was found to be manipulated.Prince of Wales / Kensington Palace / AFP – Getty Images

In a statement posted to social media Monday, Kate said that “like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing” and gave her “apologies for any confusion.” There has been no further explanation for how or why the picture was altered, and the palace has confirmed to NBC News that the original picture will not be released.

“Understanding how badly Kensington Palace dealt with this does give us an understanding of why it subsequently turned into such a big deal,” NBC News royal commentator Daisy McAndrew said. “To have completely lost control of the public image of Catherine and William really is quite catastrophic.”

For some, the outrage is overblown. But the reason why it has caused such fallout is that it speaks to fundamental tensions between the palace, press and the public.

Even many royal supporters do so as part of an unwritten pact: The taxpayer funds the monarchy and in return the royals perform various public roles. These range from international soft-power ambassadors, participants in the occasional lavish wedding to lift the national mood, and fodder for the fashion and gossip pages.

The late Queen Elizabeth II understood this tacit agreement better than most, famously saying, “I have to be seen to be believed,” according to biographer Sally Bedell Smith. In short: Without its public presence, the royal family risks losing legitimacy.

King Charles III appears to be following this maxim, releasing regular photo updates through his recent cancer diagnosis. But Kate has not been seen in public since Christmas Day, and the edited photo has been the only sighting, save a few unclear, grainy shots of her inside cars.

No further details were offered Thursday night at the Diana Legacy Award at London’s Science Museum. William mentioned his wife in passing, saying that his mother’s legacy “is something that both Catherine and I have sought to focus on through our work.”

He left before Harry’s speech, delivered virtually from California.

The brothers have been mired in a high-profile falling-out following Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, leaving their lives as front-line royals for America while accusing the family of callous treatment.

“What should have been a really uplifting event,” McAndrew said, “actually turned into a story about the fact that Harry and William don’t speak to each other and no longer have a relationship.”

Also on Thursday, Meghan launched a new brand on Instagram, American Riviera Orchard, marking her return to the platform after deleting her social media accounts in 2018 before marrying Harry.

Back in Britain, William made a comment that, knowingly or otherwise, hinted at the maelstrom over his wife’s penchant for visual creativity.

“It’s really not that impressive,” he told children as he decorated biscuits while visiting a youth group in west London. “My wife is the arty one.”