A Royal Violation of Public Privacy
On the whole, the British people were outraged at the revelation that topless pictures of Kate Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge had been taken from a great distance with the aid of a long range camera lens, something like a sniper rifle. No British publication would touch the images, in a display of national solidarity and respect. Even with the morality element of newspaper and magazine editors is subtracted, it would be likely that such a publication would simply not sell in the UK. The British may love a scandal, but they also appeared genuinely upset on Kate’s behalf, as if people could identify with her as their own sister, daughter or friend. The sense of afrontation was almost personal and this is where we see a kind of ownership that the British feel towards their Royal family.
It is fantastic that the British are so fond of their Royal Family- in fact, it could be argued that the only reason that they have one at all is because the monarchy have managed to remain in favor. This is no mean feat, it is never too late to go the way of the Tsar, the Kaiser or Louis XVI and this is not a secret within Clarence House, in order to sustain an amicable relationship with the British public, the Royal Family must be constantly on the winning side of a great PR battle to guarantee their existence for future generations. The importance of maintaining this good relationship cannot be taken for granted, there have been several points over the last century where enchantment with the Royal Family has worn thin giving rise to popularity of republican ideas. If there was not substantial evidence to suggest that the collective revenue of the Windsors and co. created by tourism, charitable endorsements and even merchandising outweighed the tax payer contribution, it is certainly not out with the bounds of the imagination to suggest that the position on the monarchy would have been jeopardized a long time ago.
It is funny how traditionally the people
were the humble lowly subjects of the King, Queen, Princes, Princesses and so on- in the modern era the roles have almost been reversed. The Royal family are no longer ruling figure heads, rather they exist for our amusement, the are trotted out for photo opportunities with youth groups and community projects, the most intimate details of their lives are fair game and media fodder. They are obliged to pull their children into the bright lights and to pile pressure on to them to act and behave, and dress and smile in a fitting manor. Carla Sarkozy said she would not allow the media access to photos to her and her husband Nicolas Sarkozy’s new baby while Sarkozy was still president. If a pair of senior Royals were to become parents and refuse official pictures to be released of their child, there would be outrage, outrage like Kate’s topless situation because, we feel some sort of ownership over that new baby, we would feel like it was our right to see pictures of the child, just as we might feel a form of entitlement to pictures of a new nice, nephew, cousin or a friend’s child. Just as we would feel insulted if we were denied pictures of the children of someone we actually know and are close to, we would feel insulted if the parents of the future King or Queen wished to maintain privacy. The parents have little choice, this new baby has been born into unimaginable wealth, power and privilege at our discretion, they have won the lottery of life, but it has come at a cost, they are condemned to a life of public entertainment. They will never be able to go to a party and relax without criticism, they will never date or talk to members of the opposite sex without speculation, they will always wonder about the intentions of their peers, they will never go to university or school without scrutiny, from the moment of conception they will be like a cell under a microscope. Possibly a good 95% of us would trade everything we have to be a prince or princess
given the choice. But you can’t help but wonder what goes through Prince Williams mind when topless pictures of his wife are circulating, his brother is a prime target in a war zone, he has to walk around his university town under cover of a baseball cap while security float near by and when cameras are being thrust in his face as he tries to grieve for his dead mother. He never had a choice and he understands that if he went to further efforts to increase privacy and to withdraw from the public eye, no charity appearances, no foreign tours, no public wedding; his popularity would plummet and there would be a negative reflection upon the entire family. Prince William did not have a choice, but by choosing to enter into a marriage with the future King, his wife did. She certainly did not specifically chose to be ogled in magazines across the world and her anger and disappointment is understandable, we can only sympathise with her, but her legal position is precarious. Her privacy may have been invaded, but when her only job and role is to be a public figure the argument can be made during the legal processes over just how much privacy she is entitled to.
We British love tradition, we’re happy to bow and curtsey and declare our adoration of the Queen in our national anthem, but in reality, it’s all a bit of a veneer, tradition for tradition’s sake, we are not the Queen’s loyal subjects, rather she is ours.