The US magazine Newsweek generated significant controversy this week after it used a picture of "Princess Diana at 50" on its front cover.

The photograph, doctored to imagine what Diana may have looked like today, shows her walking side-by-side with Kate Middleton. The issue was published on the eve of Prince William and Kate Middleton's first official visit to North America.

Reaction to the picture and accompanying story -- which suggests that Diana would have remarried twice, moved to New York and used Botox -- has been overwhelmingly negative. The Los Angeles Times described the image as "shocking", and one writer on the New York Magazine website said, "This is beyond tacky".

Newsweek editor in chief Tina Brown wrote the piece ahead of Diana's 50th birthday, which would have been celebrated today.

Brown, who wrote a controversial biography of the late Princess in 2007, defended the magazine's actions.

"I think it's a very intriguing package to show what she would have been like today," Brown told Joe Scarborough on 'Morning Joe'.

Brown's article imagines that if Diana had not died in a 1997 Paris car crash she would have continued to be involved in humanitarian causes.

"I saw Diana as being this global, mover-shaker, kind of woman...she loved the limelight but she really would have professionalised the humanitarian side. She was actually one of the first to do that," Brown added.

But it is the digitally manipulated front cover that has generated the most controversy. The image shows Diana, still fashionable, slim and only slightly wrinkled, walking confidently alongside her smiling, would-be, daughter-in-law.

"Ugh this is SO tasteless... let the poor woman RIP... if i were any of her family members i'd be so offended and upset by this," wrote one woman on the Newsweek comments page. Some others said they were cancelling their subscriptions to the weekly news magazine.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic Wire suggests Brown's version of Diana at 50 sounds a little one-dimensional. The magazine's editor glosses the whole piece with a layer of self-indulgence, framing the whole piece in the context of a socialite magazine editor's glamorous life hanging out in "the London über-swirl of fashion and society and media?" said Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice.

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