Nobody would want their children to grow up pursued by men hiding in bushes, camped out in cars and holed up in the woods around their home.
And, if one’s mother had been killed in the course of a high-speed pursuit by photographers, one can certainly understand that the paparazzi may not be one’s favorite people.
However, Kate and William’s bizarre decision to publish yesterday what effectively amounts to a ‘poor us’ letter begging for their kids to be left alone was treated with derision by the paparazzi photographers whose activities the palace is seeking to curtail, and the stonehearted British press pack who make a living from writing about the royals seemed equally unmoved.
American magazine editors were also unimpressed, predicting that the self-pitying comments—which bewailed the possibility that Charlotte and George risk growing up “behind palace gates and in walled gardens” (I know, poor them, right?)—would not affect the appetite for snatched pics of the Royal prince and princess.
The letter—signed by Will and Kate’s new PR honcho, American Jason Knauf—also embarked on a high risk strategy of effectively trying to bypass the editors of magazines by appealing directly to consumers. Although it did not directly call for a boycott of magazines which feature pap shots of George, the letter almost went that far, saying, “We are aware that many people who read and enjoy the publications that fuel the market for unauthorized photos of children do not know about the unacceptable circumstances behind what are often lovely images. We feel readers deserve to understand the tactics deployed to obtain these pictures.”
It is true that many of the situations described in the letter sound alarming at first sight.
For example, the palace says, in one recent case a man “rented a car and parked in a discreet location outside a children’s play area.
“Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince George. Police discovered him lying down in the boot of the vehicle attempting to shoot photos with a long lens through a small gap in his hide.”
Take away the dramatic mood music, and what are we actually left with here? Hiding in a car might be considered a strange way to pass one’s time, but, you know what, it’s a free country.
And when you break it down, really, what did this guy do that was so terrible? He put some sheets up in a car? Did he really, “create a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance,” or did he just buy some snacks at the garage on his way to a job?
If this is as bad as it gets, in return for a ten-bedroom house in London, a twelve bedroom house in Norfolk, a blanket exemption from inheritance tax and untold millions in private earnings from vast landholdings across the UK, well, many people would accept the deal.
One prominent paparazzi photographer laughed off the palace’s letter, telling the Daily Beast, “Their bark is bigger than their bite. As long as pictures are taken legally I can’t see how they can stop it.”
The palace team are appealing to a sense of decency and fair play, and trying to make the act of looking at the pictures about morality.
The photographers say morality is irrelevant, it’s a question of legality and paying the mortgage (something, as previously noted, the Royals are not acquainted with).
The magazine editors in America (and be sure, the American supermarket tabs and websites are whom Knauf has in his sights) could care less.
They just want clicks.
As one commentator told the Royalist, “Frankly no English media organizations publish those pictures and the people who do don’t care what they think, so they need to calm down a bit.”
One well-connected, senior royal journalist told the Daily Beast: “There was a way to write such a letter with some dignity. This wasn’t it. The tone is all wrong; self-pitying rather reasonable. You can tell it wasn’t written—or edited—by an English person, it is so over the top. They don’t understand how spoiled they sound, and how much they give the impression they resent their position, which is unattractive, given its immense importance in British life.”
Jo Piazza, a former gossip columnist and author of Celebrity Inc, said, “It will be interesting to see if this public shaming strategy will work. Unfortunately as long as demand exists for these photos, paparazzi are going to continue to find creative ways to take pictures of the prince and princess.
“Celebrities, and make no mistake, that is what Will and Kate are, have long tried to shame the photographers into not taking pictures of their kids. It has worked in that large publications no longer publish unauthorized photos. But other outlets do, so the pictures will continue to be taken. It is a question of supply and demand. It is by no means right or moral, but at the end of the day, the demand is there and there is a market for these kinds of pictures.”
Piazza adds, “The market for celebrity baby pictures generally has decreased. We aren’t as excited by most American celebrity babies these days, not since the Brangelina brood got past that adorable stage. George and Charlotte are the most popular babies in the world, by far. They are really the only babies the public will truly clamor for photos of.”
The truth is, this letter has a snowball’s chance in hell of making any difference to the way photographers operate.
So why publish it?
The intriguing possibility is that this is not actually an appeal to the better nature of tabloid magazine editors, but a warning shot. In other words, if any magazine does choose to publish unauthorized photos of George, the palace might at long last test its bite, and see whether life could be made difficult for the outlets in a court of law. An easy way to jump on any picture, for example, is to make the case it was taken on or from private property.
This presumably is what Knauf means when he threatens, “Rest assured, we continue to take legal steps to manage these incidents as they occur.”
The long era of the palace saying nothing and doing nothing might be coming to an end.
After all, there’s nothing newspapers, photographers and websites hate like a lawsuit.