As the French magazine ‘Closer’ faces legal action for the publication of offensive and intrusive pictures of Kate Middleton – rather untimely considering the recent nude photo scandal involving Prince Harry – it’s time to reconsider our rights as royal subjects. Do we consider ourselves entitled to more information about the private life of Royals than we should do? Are we taking our interest in the young Royal Family too far?
One needn’t look too far into the history of the monarchy to gather that they fascinate their subjects to the point of frenzy – in fact, we only need to cast our minds back one year, to that glorious April weekend when 26.3 million UK viewers gazed rapturously at their television sets, awaiting the union of one very special couple.
In the months building up to the wedding, the media became obsessive to the point of ludicrosity – what did Kate wear today? Kate Middleton seen walking in public! What is Catherine Middleton’s favourite flavour of ice-cream? And the public loved it; we gobbled up the press stories on the most trivial of details, clamoured for pictures and videos and interviews, and seized any newspaper that plastered its front page with that familiar smile. We were hooked by this fairytale wedding, and we relished the idea of a Prince marrying a ‘commoner’, ‘one of us’ (although really, how many of us have been educated at an independent boarding school in Wiltshire?) For those who witnessed the marriage of Charles and Diana in 1981, the paparazzi’s fixation with the young, beautiful Princess-to-be will no doubt have evoked haunting memories of the consequences of allowing intrusive media representatives to hound the Royal family.
But although we may have passed off this flurry of affection for British monarchy as simply an excuse to forget about financial and political struggles fronting the papers, and to enjoy the bank holiday by watching a happy young couple begin their lives together, the lingering attention they attract is a cause for concern. Possessing commemorative mugs or eating your roast dinner from plates bearing William and Kate’s decapitated heads is one thing, but spying on a young woman as she – privately – relaxes in the sun with her partner is something else entirely. These pictures are not in the ‘public interest’, they are undoubtedly violations of ‘bodily intimacy’.
Though the photographs of Prince Harry are marginally less condemnable, given that he was fully aware of them being taken, this does not mean that the media has a right to publish them; the public should not consider these photos their property, or for their eyes. The excitement instigated one year ago provided a saccharine mask for the media’s invasive behaviour, but without the marital trappings and glow of fevered anticipation, their actions are not at all justified. Is this the fault of the public, for considering the private lives of the Royal Family their property? Or is this the nature of the international media, accustomed to employing shameless tactics to obtain the shots that reel us in?