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[Update] Paparazzi Pictures Are the Sign of a Vibrant Monarchy

Monday, April 21, 2014

There has been much discussion about these recent paparazzi photos, and I thought a refresher on my policy about these kinds of pictures might be good. I do encourage you to read the original post I wrote on this topic several years ago, because this post is not complete without points that are made in that post.

Britiain, like most of the major monarchies left today, is a constitutional monarchy and for all intents and purposes holds no actual governing authority. The Royal Family's power lies in its popularity. Their work is charity work and the more popularity they have the more attention and awareness they bring to those charities. So, public interest and popularity = power.

The only reason paparazzi shots are taken is because the time and effort to stake out candid spots to snag these photos is well worth the money papers are willing to pay for a single photo. I don't remember the exact sum, but when dating William, a single paparazzi shot of Kate could go for over $10,000, and I think it was closer to $20,000. One photo. Imagine a set... Why do papers pay so much for these photos? Because there is sky-high interest! Newpapers sell magazines and websites drive traffic if they have these shots.

Consider now how many paparazzi shots you see on the front page of your local grocery store of say...Princess Letizia? (Do you know who she is? She is the wife of the heir to the Spanish throne.) I don't see that, ever. Maybe in Spain you do, but she does not have worldwide notoriety.  (Although, she is completely gorgeous. I love her. Spain, you lucky country!) Kate graces the cover of People or any number of other check-out stand tabloid with regularity.

The royals have to stay relevant and to stay relevant they have to be popular. The more popular the better. So, long lens shots will always be taken as long as they are popular. When the shots aren't taken it will be an indication of dwindling popularity and of a dying monarchy. The question only remains, will you yourself look at paparazzi photos. I know some disagree with me, but I simply do not have a problem with these photos. Anything I would Google and look at I also put on the blog in case someone here wants to see them, too. It would feel hypocritical to me if I were to enjoy them, but refuse to share them. That has always been the policy on this blog.

It is important to note distinctions where the line is actually crossed. Photos taken at an invasively close proximity, shouting, or mobs of photographers surrounding and inhibiting the subject are all forms of harassment and something that was, unfortunately, all too common in the Diana days. Kate also suffered a certain amount of paparazzi scrutiny and although she was almost always smiling and happy, even she had her days when she wasn't up for anymore. I think everyone has learned their lesson since then, and aside from the occasional bar departure, we don't see that now. Kate has protection officers and the photographers are by and large quite respectful. 

If this has been an issue that upset you, I again encourage you to read this post I wrote in 2011.  Although it is a few years old, my position remains unchanged. The royals give up so, so much privacy in exchange for the privilege of their stature. In turn, I believe the royals can and should vacation whenever they want or need to. Fair is fair. They don't have the privacy of a normal person, nor do they have the restrictions on vacation time of a normal person. They should take advantage of that. 

Now, we move to another question. Were these recent photos staged? No. I do not think so. For many reasons, but most importantly because there isn't a reasonable answer to the question, why?

When proposing the theory, there needs to be a motive. Here, there is nothing to be gained by the royals in staging these shots. This is exactly what William and Kate do not want. William and Kate want to keep a barrier between their personal lives and their public lives as royals. In their minds, they just gave us a lovely family photo-call at the zoo. Photos of them dressed down tossing George and taking pictures of him, etc is not a part of their lives to which we are supposed to be privy. The more we see of this the more we feel like we are part of their lives and the more we think we are owed or deserve personal information. Not something the royals want to encourage. As I mentioned earlier, this is a game of eternal maneuvering. The press and public push and gain ground here and there and then the royals push back and regain a little in their area. It is a never ending skirmish. So, nothing to be gained for them, this was a win for the people. ;)

Now, you may or may not recall July of 2009 when the Sun caught video (and you can hear on the video the still shots clicking) of brief, but let's just call is serious, kiss in the car park of a pub.  Some people think this was staged.  What would be the motive? Remember Uncle Gary? Uncle Gary has just been busted for drugs and prostitution, and had made same embarrassing comments about his intimacy with royalty thanks to his niece's relationship to Prince William. It was not his finest moment and certainly the cause of not a few blushes for the Middletons and for Kate in particular. (although, we all have those relatives, right?) Of course, the gossip mill got working and people were once again arguing that Kate was unsuitable as a potential bride for the heir to the throne. Some people suggest that this kiss was deliberately flaunted in front of this camera so that everyone would understand, with no mistakes, that William and Kate were stronger and more committed than ever.

So was it staged? Hard to know for certain. If William had been tipped off that a paparazzo was lurking, than it may well have been deliberate. Or, it may have been a lucky break for The Sun. In any event, I like the message that was there for all to see: despite family hiccups, William and Kate were more in love than ever!

[Update] Many thanks to Stephanie for this video. George crawling is the best!

The royal couple are leaving George at Government House and flying four hours to Ayers Rock. I will be back later with today's coverage!


  1. It's a complex theme but I agree with you so far

    Gabriella, italy

    1. It is, you are absolutely right. It is a delicate topic, for sure. Glad we agree, though. :)

  2. Hi Jane, I'm an Aussie reader and just wanted to firstly say how much I LOVE your blog!! You do an amazing job. Truly outstanding!!
    In regards to these recent paparazzi shots, I totally agree with you and thank you for having a balanced view on this topic. I've been to this area where they where photographed and it is reasonably open. My guess is that William & Kate would have been aware that there was a *chance* they'd be photographed but they didn't care. These photos are very, very different to their French holiday snaps which were clearly and undoubtedly an invasion of privacy. Being in the wide open gardens at Government House and knowing the intense media interest, I'm sure they were told that there would be photographers all around and some simple vantage points. I don't think these were staged at all, but I think the royal couple wouldn't be surprised to see these pics coming out (in the same way that Kate walks with George and Lupo in Kensington Gardens). Also FYI, there was a news story last night here in Australia and it offers excellent footage and insight. It's on YouTube titled "Royals relax in Canberra" and was uploaded by Be@Now. Look it up :) It was done by a reputable Current Affairs journalist who I'm sure wouldn't condone the images/footage if they were an invasion of privacy. 4 minutes in length too! :)
    Keep up the amazing work!!

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! Very happy for your feedback and the tipoff! I will update the post here!

      I was distraught over the Closer photos and certainly did not share them! I was happy to see several months later that some of those editors who published them lost their jobs over the whole thing. I didn't discuss it on the blog just because I didn't want to revisit old wounds, but I was very pleased by that outcome.

      Also, I agree they knew the likelihood was high. But, you have to live your life, right? Which, they did and frankly pictures can't take away from their happy memories with George in the garden.

      Anyway, thanks again for your kind comments! I do very much appreciate them! So happy you read the blog! :) ~Jane

    2. Very excited to see my name in your post!! :) Glad you liked the video! I will be attempting to see Kate & William in my hometown Adelaide tomorrow. I caught a glimpse and got a couple of good photos of them in Sydney (coincidentally, I was visiting family in Sydney when they were there!) but will be making a full day of it tomorrow!! Getting there extra early and taking 'supplies' in preparation for lots of sun, lots of sitting around, and a huge amount of people!! My friend and I are also taking a dog toy for Lupo which we will hopefully, hopefully, hopefullyyyy pass onto them!!! :D But I don't know where, exactly, they will do their walk-about. Will let you know if I have any success!!! Stephanie :)

    3. Theresa, from ParisApril 22, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Stephanie's comment on the wide open grounds was really interesting, thank you... As you said, they probably were made aware of the risk.

      You expressed your opinion perfectly, Jane, and I agree with your point of view :)

  3. there is too the tendency for the 'interest' to turn into an "unhealthy obssesion" . There are a lot of celebs that have their lives played out on the reality tv shows fand i think this plays a role in the subconsious of people that think it's normal, to be "allowed/welcomed" into personal lives. it's a scary/slippery slpe

    1. I agree with that, Bonnie. The royals will never welcome cameras or the public into their personal lives again, which is good. That would be very weird, indeed. I think this balance of the occasional paparazzi shot will always sort of be the case. They will complain when they feel it is judicial and try to hold certain papers' feet to the fire on publishing vacation shots. They have the right to complain, the paparazzi will continue to get the occasional shot and the delicate balance will be maintained. The topless photos from France were grossly, grossly inappropriate and I believe unethical and I was very pleased at the public outcry on those. People lost their jobs, too, which I was also happy to see. That was a serious infraction and the palace responded with appropriate anger. What happened yesterday is a pretty average norm.

    2. Hi Bonnie,

      I agree with you 110%, we have to look no further than the current over-sharing of the Kardashian clan. Since Kim posts pictures of her bottom on an almost daily basis people have come to expect that sort of exposure from anyone in the public eye. I pity her daughter having to see that when she is old enough to access a computer, which will probably be when she's 3.

      One things I have always admired about the BRF is their discretion and reserve. They seem to understand the public fascination towards them but work very hard to maintain a barrier (if that's the correct word) around their private lives. In this age of "letting it all hang out" and "keeping it real", they do neither of those things, they try to set an example of how one can be in the public arena but not be consumed by it.

      Now, I admit seeing photos of Will and Kate going about their normal, everyday lives is kind of exciting, because it is so rare. But sometimes I do struggle with my desire to see them and their need to be able to go about their lives without always having to worry about being photographed. I think it would be so difficult not to become slightly paranoid about doing anything for fear that it will be headlines in tomorrow's paper. In this instance I think Will and Kate were probably aware that photographers might be around but decided that spending some time together was worth the risk. And to that I say "Good on you".

      Jane, thanks for highlighting this issue again.

  4. I don't know where Americans get off with the saying our monarchy has to stay "relevant" to be popular rubbish. We are a constitutional monarchy. We have a traditional parliamentary government with a monarch as head. It works extremely well and is much admired for it's stability and continuity and as a living embodiment of our values, laws heritage and history.

    I can't understand why Americans spend so much time and energy trying to trash our monarchy when all the time your media follows it as if it was your royal family. It just shows how hypocritical your country is.... There is a whole hysterical jealous rancid American industry dedicated to trashing kate Middleton the Duchess, so called "royal watchers" from American bitchy websites not even seen over here in Britain. You follow our royal family more than we do. Why...??? They don't need to stay "relevant" to us, because their already part of us and the secret is it has nothing at all to do with politics. That's the beauty of it. Other countries wish they had the same

    Our royal family serves and parliament governs that's it...!!!

    1. Anonymous,

      As an American I take offense to your generalization about Americans being "dedicated to trashing Kate Middleton..." and our "bitchy websites". I have happened to read comments made in the British newspapers about the BRF, Kate in particular, and they are all hardly glowing, in fact they can take bitchiness to a whole new level. It seems that some Britians would like nothing better than to do away with the monarchy all together and the issue of the relevancy of the monarchy is one that has been raised many time in the British press

      Jane raises these issues here on her blog-site to open up a respectful dialogue among those with differing opinions. If the discussions Jane raises here in her blog offend you so much, why are you reading it? If you are wanting to voice your opinion feel free to do so, but please leave the generalizations out of it.

    2. Excuse me? No one is trashing Kate here. This is a blog that was born from and continues to focus on how wonderful she is. Let me immediately correct you, though. The monarchy doesn't have to stay relevant to be popular, it must stay popular to be relevant. Right off the bat, it seems you have misunderstood the entire argument I presented.

      I am happy to deduce from your impassioned comments that you are pro-monarchy. That's great. I think the British Monarchy is a wonderful institution, too. I believe in the tradition and history that the British Monarchy embodies. Nevertheless, if you have not been attuned to certain movements within your nation, let me bring you up-to-date from across the pond. Not everyone believes there should be a royal family. They hold no actual governing authority and plenty of British citizens see them as obsolete. The RF must FIGHT to maintain their position.

      You have significantly overstated the American public's interest in the BRF. Americans don't spend any time trashing your monarchy. There are two kinds of Americans. Those who think the monarchy is cool and follow as fans, and those who could not care less. Those who could not care less spend exactly zero minutes of their day trashing your traditional institution. Why should they? We don't pay for it, it doesn't effect us--it is entirely unimportant to the average American. Nationality aside, you either like and follow the royals or you don't. Some Americans love the RF more than native brits and vice versa. I am sure that I am more excited about the royal family than many a crusty British pro-Republican.

      You have offended my readers, Americans and Brits alike by your polarizing, misguided and frankly downright rude remarks. I would ask that should you ever again comment on this blog you do so in my more polite fashion. You shame your fellow countrymen, whom I have always experienced as gracious and reasonable, with your gauche and ignorant tirade.

    3. Wow, these are some strong biased accusations being thrown about here. I agree with Lauri from Ca. If the royals do something wrong the Britsh are all over it like honey on toast. Its being highly hypocritical to knock back Americans in this way. If anything, I believe that American's mistakenly attach celebrity aspects to them being Royalty, which you cannot. At any point, the fundamental aspect to Royalty is to be relevant or they will be left behind in the pages of history. It is nice to see other countries outside of the Commonwealth and UK being interested in the British royalty. It means they are doing something right.

      Kiwi Nic

    4. I've never seen a British website dedicated to trashing the royal family, like the American websites.. They call it "royal watching"., I believe.. And they use words like "parasites" this and they steal our "taxes" to fund their so called lavish lifestyle that etc,etc. Unfortunately some Brits have taken up the mantra because they have fallen on hard times It's annoying hearing Americans getting completely wrong about our culture and having to listen to the stuff from their media. Queen of Engand, when there has never been a Queen of England in 300 yrs etc, nor do we pay taxes to the royal family etc etc etc, the list is long with ignorance. The commonwealth summation is u posted is completely wrong, but there u go. U would fail in a exam I think..

  5. I really love how Will and kate are so in love with each other. William in particular seems so happy..... Gosh even his hair is growing back :-).. William and Harry grew up with so much stress and such a weight of responsibility around them, it came out in a delayed shock and resulting hair loss in William and bad behaviour and rebellion in Harry.. But kate has gives William comfort, happiness and beautiful baby boy and a loving family, and most importantly she let's him be himself . William is by nature a gentleman. He will be a great king. Strong as a Lion and yet gentle as a Lamb.......... As they say in Africa..

    Actually I like the idea of keeping a little bit of mystery about them, so as to not lose the little bit of magic. Media sometimes is too intrusive and to be honest, i don't take much notice of the tabloid paps stuff, because they look for bad hair days, and that to me is cheap journalism .Its better to go to the respectful pictures and u get better info and good pics, The Getty pictures are amazing and also they become over time iconic. I tend to more look at them to be honest than the paparazzi stuff.

    All the best Jane


  6. Thanks for this Jane. For me, the line with respect to pictures needs to be drawn in one of two circumstances: First, where, as you mention, the photographer(s) are being in some form harassing- yelling, crowding, chasing etc. This has definitely happened to both Kate and Diana and non-royals like poor Suri Cruise. This type of behavior is unacceptable and those photos shouldn't be published or posted as that would reward those photographers for that unacceptable behavior. Second, I think that where the subject of the photo has a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as those photos where Kate was in a private residence in France) any photos taken should not be published. There is a difference between snapping a photo of someone walking down a public street/ park etc and taking one with a telephoto lens from miles away to spy on someone in a private residence. The latter in my opinion is unacceptable. I would be able to sue to block any photos taken of little old me under such circumstances and I think it was great that French law protected the Duchess as well.

    Thanks for all the time you spend on your blog!

  7. One thing that's really stood out to me is how much weight she lost right before the wedding! She is at least two sizes smaller!

  8. Jane this post was brilliant! I read the 2011 post you linked and I could not believe the amount of paparazzi and close they were to kate on her birthday. I did not know it was that bad , how terrifying. I bet William was furious.

    I think that royals have to expect this level of interest in their lives, and when they are out and about they should expect to be seen and photographed. This is the age of social media and smartphones, where a photo can be taken and instantly sent around the world. So perhaps kate is facing scrutiny even more intense then Diana. I think William has a love /hate relationship with the press he knows he needs them for his causes and to promote issues he cares about, but I think he loathes all types of media. I'm not sure if your aware Jane but I think last year I'm England there was a documentary where prince Harry was interviewed about his role in Afghanistan. He was asked about some if his infamous escapades, and he talked about the paparazzi. The interviewer said "how far back do you think your mistrust of the press goes"? And Harry said "I think it's pretty obvious how far back it goes". He was obviously referring to the death of his mother and how even to the very end she was hounded by the media. Sometimes I have felt William has been quite harsh in his dislike of the press, however when I think of his mother and her death I am reminded why , and I think I would loathe the press too.
    This was a brilliant post Jane, I love these comment pieces you do , in amongst the craziness of the tour! Hope your well:)

  9. I also just remembered that there was an author of a book about the monarchy, (I'm sorry I can't remember his name), who said he doubts if prince George will be king. The author said he may have some kind of public role but he doubted that he would be king. So here we have debates going on about the monarchy and thier sustainability even in the very near future. I am currently studying sociology at university and one of the main topics we debate about is class and inherited wealth. These are sensitive issues in the current social and economic climate of austerity in England, and there has been a backlash against anyone who belongs to this group.

    So more than ever the monarchy need to prove they are relevant, and nesscary, as well as being important to our sense of nationhood. I completely agree with you jane that they need to stay popular to stay relevant, and at the moment that means alot of public interest and therefore photos and videos, and hopefully more engagements when they get back to England.

  10. As I read your words about Kate, and the necessity of Royal popularity to sustain the Monarchy, I was saddened to think that if the Royal Family had understood this 30 years ago, when Diana became so wildly popular, things would have been so different for everyone. She would have been a happy princess if her husband had been proud of her and not been so jealous of her. But, above all, she was a fantastic mother to her boys and William has become her greatest legacy. He protects his wife from harsh scrutiny and lets the world know he loves her. He was there first hand to experience what happened to his parents and I don't think he would ever "stage" anything for the benefit of the paparazzi. I still blame them for causing his mother's death. Yes, the driver was drunk, but would he have been traveling at such great speeds through the tunnel if he hadn't been surrounded by the paps? If Charles & Co. had not taken away Diana's "HRH" she would have had a proper royal protection officer. Once they told her she was no longer royal and even her young sons outranked her, she ditched the offer of protection from a family set on collecting information on her. Who could blame her? William is, fortunately, the kind of hands on royal his mother was. He learned much from her during their brief years together. He is now teaching Kate and together they are a force - just as Charles and Diana should have been.

    The do need to stay relevant for sure. I kind of agree that it's too far out to be sure if George will ever be a king. I know the Queen's ideal wouldn't be to skip Charles for William but, in all honesty, Charles has far less support than William does and Camilla will forever be known to an entire generation of people as "the Rottweiler" - the "other woman" - the "ruination of the fairy-tale marriage." King Charles and Queen Camilla could be the take down of the British Monarchy whereas, King William and Queen Catherine could be it's salvation. All of that being said - long lens photos of them on private vacations, on private property (such as the topless ones) should be banned. And then they wonder why William is a bit snippy with them sometimes.

    1. How stupid are the Americans when they talk about the monarchy. It not a popularity contest. There is a succession continuity and stability, King Charles III will be the most trained, most qualified head of state in history simply because he's watched the Queen all these years The Queen herself had no experience when she came to the throne she was a young woman of 25. Fortunately Winston Churchill the biggest statesman in world history guided her in affairs of state. Charles will guide William and so forth. That's what its all about. Stability, continuity first. Your seeing the monarchy with an American celebrity mined and not really understanding the monarchy. Charles will be the king and Camilla will be consort, then William and Catherine. We have moved on from Diana but it seems u Americans haven't, because if you've paid attention u will notice Camilla is becoming popular. She's faced her critics and stood the test of time. The monarchy is not a cheap American reality show.

      All that will happen is William and Catherine will become a modern king and Queen to the 22nd century.


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