Turns out they didn't. The cover photo is a fake -- or, as Marie Claire writer Marisa Crous insists, "a fan art tribute."
Related: The cost of Kate Middleton's beauty routine
"We were so inspired by her fairytale wedding and her life as a modern-day princess, which is why we elected Kate Middleton as our cover star for the August issue," Crous writes. "But upon closer inspection, the cover is -- much like her life -- more fantasy than reality. The cover is actually a hyper-real illustration of Kate, meant to be a fan art tribute to fashion's new royal icon."
But the duchess has been clear about not wanting to be seen as simply a fashion icon. "The duchess will not be doing anything with U.S. Vogue, or any other publications for the foreseeable future," one royal aide said last year. Another royal representative told E! News: "Both William and Kate feel it would be wrong for Kate to promote herself as a fashion or style icon. That's not what they are about and they take their royal duties far too seriously to, in one sense, trivialize them."
This is the third time this month that the duchess's face has been digitally tampered with in print. Marie Claire went out of its way to be flattering, but New Republic magazine Photoshopped a set of decaying teeth into the princess' pretty smile to go with a story headlined "Something's Rotten: The last days of Britain," and the Daily Mail recently gave her an unsolicited digital makeover, complete with garish green eyeshadow.
Some Marie Claire readers feel duped by the cut-and-paste job. "She didn't actually pose for the cover?" asks one reader on the magazine's website. "How is that a good thing? Aren't you cheating your readers as well as your cover subject?"
"I'm not really a fan of this idea," another reader commented. "Will not be buying this magazine!"
Though true fans may note that the Marie Claire cover photo seems a bit off (the dress doesn't look like something Kate would normally wear, for one thing, and her hand-on-one-hip pose seems more runway than royal), the only real indication that her face was digitally added to someone else's body is a tiny asterisk at the end of a headline.
"Fashion's new royal icon wears SA's best local designs*," it reads. And, at the bottom of the cover, in barely readable letters: "Of course she doesn't. But she should."
Granted, the editors did write "Fan Art Tribute" above Middleton's maiden name, but it's not clear who the fan is, the duchess or the designers. Still, editor Aspasia Karras isn't apologizing for the cover photo, or for the other "hyper-real" images of her inside the issue.
"We have honoured her with a fan-art tribute, dressing her up in clothes by South African designers and placing her in all sorts of fun, everyday situations," she writes. The issue went on sale today.
What do you think? "Fan art," or false advertising?