The Duchess of Cambridge, formerly Kate Middleton, has not sued Hello! magazine for publishing paparazzi photos of her getting off a plane with Prince George on her hip; raising the question, is she more concerned with her image control than with her privacy?
The stance is at odds with previous instances where she has gone after the press. Notably, there is inconsistency with what she has previously described as “private” photographs taken in public places, and this case. The pictures are the first ever paparazzi shots of Prince George and were spread across eight pages in the gossip magazine. The little prince is also featured on the front cover in a blue romper suit and a sun hat. However, Kensington Palace has said they were taken without “harassment or pursuit” and in a “public place” and they would not object to them.
This was not the attitude when pictures of Kate playing tennis on holiday in Cornwall, taken from a nearby footpath, were published back in 2010. She pushed for an apology and a damages claim from Rex Features who syndicated them. She and William are also still embroiled in a legal battle in France over the topless photos that were taken of her at a private villa there from a public road.
Last year, photos of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, appeared of her pregnant on the beach in Mustique appeared. She was only dressed in a bikini. Again, she called it a breach on her rights to privacy and got an apology.
A royal aide has commented that they would, of course, prefer that the Prince George pictures had not been published, but onlookers are getting confused by the mixed messages. There is speculation growing that the Cambridge’s will only take action if they don’t like the pictures. This was indicated again last week when papers were asked not to print photos of William getting off a train and looking like he was in a bad mood. He is currently attending a course at Cambridge University in agricultural management.
Lawyers warn that accusations of image control could damage the couple. It would also make it much harder for the media to determine what is considered invasive and what is not. A consistent approach is better all round.
The head of intellectual property and media at legal firm Taylor Wessing remarked that the young royals had set up companies specifically to protect rights to their images. Niri Shan said this showed the value they placed on those assets. Yet if they brought privacy cases in the future, this could be used against them. The suggestion could be that they were more interested in controlling those images than in protecting their private lives.
Another legal expert, Chris Hutchings, agrees. He notes what an uncertain aspect of the law privacy is, and how it has changed specifically over the past decade. What is vital, he feels, is consistency on the part of complainants. Permitting some things, not others, indicates a more blasé attitude and “image control.”
The Duchess of Cambridge is well-groomed and smiling in these pictures, although she was oblivious to them being taken. She was getting off a British Airways flight on a holiday to the Caribbean. The trip was to celebrate her mother Carole’s 59th birthday. She and her son were about to embark on a smaller plane to make the transition over to the island of Mustique. They were taken with a long lens by a freelance photographer.
Editor of Majesty magazine, Ingrid Stewart, said paparazzi photographs of Prince George would be a feature of his entire lifetime and he might as well get used to them. It would appear the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have taken the same decision, but at the risk of being accused of image control over genuine concern for their privacy.
By Kate Henderson