Reality’s privacy settings


If Kate Middleton’s privacy can be violated at will, where does that leave the rest of us?

With the recent publication by Closer magazine in France of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, the debate of royal privacy in light of aggressive paparazzi tactics has once again been lit.

The pictures were taken while Kate and William were on private holiday in the south of France. While at the Chateau of a royal relative, Kate was seen sunbathing topless on the Chateau’s balcony. These images, described by the Duke and Duchess as “grotesque”, are exactly that.

While some may argue that, as a public figure and royalty at that, the Duchess should expect this type of scrutiny. I would disagree. If, simply by the nature of their public life, the royal couple is not allowed a private sphere within the confines of a private property, this begs the question of where that leaves the common man or woman.

This is where this story takes a twist and becomes disturbing. Unlike Hollywood celebrities who are often seen sunbathing, topless or otherwise, at public beaches or engaging in other interesting behaviour in public places, the Duchess was within the confines of a private property. She was not at a public beach or in a public setting in any way. While the editor of Closer argues that the royal couple was “visible from the street”, this makes the taking of the photographs no less of a violation of the privacy afforded to all people. In fact, it makes the photographer who took the images a peeping-tom acting in a disgusting manner while engaging in the reckless pursuit of money.

Even more incredulous is that the editor, Ms. Pieau, considers the condemnation of the magazine’s actions “a little disproportionate” since the Duchess is “a princess of the 21st Century.” Is the implication here that in the 21st Century, privacy takes a backseat to the voyeuristic cravings of a world obsessed with degrading reality television, profit, and gossip? If so, the condemnation of Closer has not gone far enough. After all, Kate did not take these photos of herself and then subsequently post them publicly on Facebook or Pinterest. As such, she should be afforded the privacy any one of us would expect for ourselves if we were sunbathing on a private property.

Much to the credit of the British tabloid press, which is well known for its willingness to print anything that bleeds, it has refused all offers to buy the images. While this will not placate a furious Royal Family, it does show that the British tabloids have evolved since the days of Lady Diana. William is very protective of Kate’s privacy, something that is very understandable since, in his view, the excesses of press and paparazzi hounding was a significant contributing factor in his mother’s death.

While it will be interesting to see how the Royal Palace will deal with this newest paparazzi problem in the coming days and weeks, what is already clear is that Kate has shown utmost poise thus far. While expressing her personal disgust with this violation of her privacy, she has nonetheless remained composed while on the royal tour of South East Asia as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. It’s unfortunate that the paparazzi cannot display anything approaching a similar level of grace.

Sebastian Prost

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