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Madonna secretly shared first photo of adopted twins six months ago

Gemma Strong

It was announced on Tuesday that Madonna has been granted permission to adopt four-year-old twins Stella and Esther from Malawi. And it has now been revealed that the star actually shared a snapshot of the little girls on her Instagram account last year, six months before their adoption was finalised. The photo, which was shared in July 2016, shows Madonna's daughter Lourdes cuddling Stella and Esther during a visit to the Home of Hope orphanage. "3 Beauties," the 58-year-old singer captioned the snapshot. "Lola spends time with twins, Stella and Esther at Home of Hope Orphanage."

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Madonna shared this photo of Lourdes with twins Esther and Stella on Instagram in July

A court in Lilongwe this week granted Madonna permission to adopt Stella and Esther, whose mother died in childbirth and whose father was reportedly in court to witness the proceedings. In her ruling, Judge Fiona Mwale said the singer would provide a loving home for the children in a "luxurious, spacious and comfortable abode in an affluent neighbourhood" of America, the Daily Mail reports. She added that while Madonna was "above the age normally considered within the ranges of parenting", the star had submitted a medical report to prove her good health.

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"Her charity work brings her into contact with orphanages," Judge Mwale continued. "And it was as a result of this contact that she felt compelled to fill a gap in their lives and open up her home to them. The petitioner satisfied me that this adoption is motivated by her desire to offer a home, love, protection and guidance to the infants. She would like to share what she has with those who are less privileged."

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Madonna with her four children: Lourdes, Rocco, David and Mercy

Madonna has previously adopted two children from Malawi – David Banda in 2006, and Mercy James in 2009. The Like a Prayer singer is also a mother to two biological children – Lourdes Leon, her 20-year-old daughter from her relationship with Carlos Leon, and Rocco Ritchie, her 16-year-old son from her marriage to Guy Ritchie. News of the twins' adoption came as a shock to fans; just last month, Madonna categorical denied she was involved in an adoption application in Malawi. "I am in Malawi to check on the children's hospital in Blantyre and my other work with Raising Malawi, and then heading home," she insisted. "The rumours of an adoption process are untrue."