Kensington Palace has remained silent over claims the Princess of Wales’ Mother’s Day photo was "manipulated".

It was the first official photo of Kate Middleton that has been released since she underwent abdominal surgery in January this year at the London Clinic.

The photo of Kate and her three children published on social media by the palace is said to have been taken by the Prince of Wales in Windsor earlier last week and was posted to mark Mother’s Day (March 10).

In the post, she said: “Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months.

“Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C.”

The picture shows Kate sitting in a chair with her arms around Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, who are on either side of her, with Prince George standing behind, as all four smile at the camera.

Kate Middleton's Mother's Day photo removed by international picture agencies

But after the image was shared with the media on Sunday, it was withdrawn by some international picture agencies including Getty Images, AFP, Reuters and Associated Press later the same day because of concerns that the image had been “manipulated.”

This was due to speculation that edits had been made to the left sleeve of Princess Charlotte’s cardigan, and other areas of the picture also raised concerns about possible alteration.

Associated Press, issued a "kill notification" - an industry term used to make a retraction.

According to the BBC, the Associated Press said: "At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement photo will be sent."

However, Kensington Palace has declined to comment, according to the PA news agency.

A spokesperson for the PA news agency said it had not “killed” the picture on its service, but was seeking urgent clarification from Kensington Palace about the concerns raised about “manipulation”.

Confusion over the picture has fuelled further online conspiracies about Kate’s whereabouts which have been swirling on the internet since her surgery.

Details of the princess’s condition have not been disclosed but Kensington Palace previously said it was not cancer-related and that Kate wished her personal medical information to remain private.

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The 42-year-old future Queen was last pictured in public during a Christmas Day walk in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Kate is not expected to return to official duties until after Easter, and William had temporarily stepped back from his royal role to juggle caring for her and their children.

He carried out his first public engagements since her surgery in early February.