It’s been literally everywhere. A German tabloid, Bild, now famously decided to publish, on May 27, a controversial picture of the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) from the royal tour in Australia. Taken as she and William are walking away, privately and off duty, the picture show a very clear view on the duchess’ bum, as her skirt blew up because of the strong wind. This has been highly claimed as a breach of their privacy. Quite understandable, as her derriere is kind of private, isn’t it? But the question arises, once again, as Kate Middleton seems to suffer a lot from those Marilyn Monroe’s moments: why is it always such a big deal?
It’s not the first scandal, if I may call it like it, implying Kate Middleton’s bare bottom or even her breast. You’ll probably remember the pictures, taken as she and William were privately vacationing in France, of the duchess sunbathing topless near a pool. They were published by Closer, a French magazine, while the royal couple was on an official tour in Asia in 2012. They had to release a statement, full of ‘’anger and disbelief’’ about what they had called a ‘’grotesque’’ invasion of their privacy and, the following days, had taken legal actions against the magazine. They had sued Closer for an invasion of their privacy and won their case. It was the first time a senior royal took legal actions of that extent. Closer had to stop printing the magazine, promise not to sell the picture to any other country and give the controversial pictures to Buckingham Palace the next day. It was a very big win for the Royal family, and surely, it was also meant to be a warning for the international press. But as we can now see, it probably wasn’t threatening enough to stop Bild. We will probably know in the next few days if they will receive the same kind of legal actions from the Royal family.
Since Lady Di’s death, Prince William has had a violent disdain of the press, which, to a certain extent, is very comprehensible. When he went to Scotland to study at the University of St Andrews, the Palace had to come up with a privacy agreement with the press, which was for most of it a success (some pictures were leaked, from time to time, like one of Prince William walking with his former girlfriend, a certain Kate Middleton…!). But the British press had respected its agreement, and they still do. The Chairman of the Press complaints had said, at the time, that the agreement was ‘’was important for self regulation, for the industry – and, most important of all, for those young men (Princes William and Harry).’’
We learned quite recently that one British newspaper, though, didn’t really respect their privacy. It was revealed that, although without any surprise, the late News of the World had spied on the Royal family, but mostly on Kate Middleton. Her phone had been hacked 155 times, admitted Clive Goodman, the former royal editor of the newspaper, in May 2014. The royal family has always been treated like celebrities, and this is a real and tangible proof of it. They were spied on like other celebs, such as Sienna Miller and Gary Lineker, to try to get some dirty details of their love lives.
It’s no secret, Britain loves its yellow, scandalous press. But the respect towards the Royal family is immense and proven over and over again. In fact, that’s a reason why the German tabloid decided to publish this picture, to kind of mock the British press. If it was any other celebrity, they would publish a similar picture without any hesitation. So why not the Royals? It is true indeed that, since Lady Di’s death, the public has also been kinder to the Royal family. Maybe do they feel a bit guilty for wanting so many details of their lives? Nevertheless, explicable or not, the respect of their privacy in England is spectacular. People don’t harass Kate Middleton when she takes a stroll in Hyde Park with the little Prince George, or when she goes shopping. They let her be a normal mom, and admire her from afar.
But, as we reflect about the relationship between the Royals and the press, it is fair to ask ourselves why the Duchess of Cambridge has refused to give any interview (to fashion magazines, for instance), unlike her late mother-in-law had done. Is Prince William behind all of this? Because they’ll have to admit it, they are like super stars. Everything she wears sold out in hour, if not minutes. Everywhere they go, they are met by thousands of well-wishers. When they went to New Zealand, searches for flights to the country went up from 200%. Many fashion magazines are desperately trying to get an interview and a cover with the Duchess of Cambridge, but it has always been declined. That shows all the complexity of the relationship, which is not give-and-take between the Royal family and the press.
From now on, to avoid such other scandal of bare bottom, the Duchess of Cambridge will probably think twice before choosing her clothes on a windy day. She could always take some advices from the Queen herself, who, to avoid such incidents, has her personal fashion team sew on weights into the hems of her dresses. Some tabloids have said that if Kate Middleton didn’t care doing it, she had to live with the consequences of it. But does she really? That is definitely to be continued, no doubt.
‘’There will be four winners from that. One winner will, of course, be Prince William – who will continue to benefit from the protection of the editors’ Code and therefore be able to complete his education without unnecessary intrusion.
One will be newspapers and magazines – because by continuing to respect his privacy, they will again be demonstrating to the public that the media can act responsibly and sensitively and that self regulation really works.
One will be the public – which has consistently made clear, as the results of an opinion poll last week underlined, that they want to see Prince William grow up with as much privacy as possible.
And the final one will be the institution of the Monarchy itself. I have always believed that – after many years in which the relationship between press and Palaces was fraught and tense – the way that newspapers have respected the privacy of Prince William and Prince Harry has pointed a new, better way forward for the next generation. From that the Monarchy itself is bound to benefit.‘’
–from the speech by the Rt Hon Lord Wakeham, Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, delivered at St Bride’s Institute, Fleet Street on Wednesday 28th June 2000.