I hardly need to say what this is about. Poor Kate. She must have been hoping that it would be different for her. Not like it was for William's Mum.
But no. Simply because she is now a Royal, the rules and agreements can be cast aside. Sneaky little men with cameras can train their long lenses at her. Sleazy magazine editors can do their sums and decide that the game is worth it: lots of publicity; a jump in readership; and enough made out of it to cover any fine. And all over Europe, nasty sweaty little men with prurient minds can gawp at her breasts, and get off in some kind of fantasy. It's so sordid. It's such a mockery of the real person, who has become the target of such attention. It doesn't matter that Kate is a Royal. She is a woman. And no woman would want this.
This post is a development of a comment I made on another blog about this very subject. This is what I wrote:
Well, I'd object to my breasts - dainty though they are - being
photographed with a long lens so that some magazine can make money. It
would [be] the combination of disrespect and cynical commercial exploitation,
and it's really in the same area as the Millie Dowler affair.
And supposing I attended a summer party - in a respectable Suffolk town,
say - and it was appropriate to be topless, and a fellow-guest took
snaps of the girls, me included, then later posted them all on Facebook,
or worse, sold them to some rag, then I too (along with the other
girls) would be incandescent.
There is indeed a certain amount of Royal Huffiness here, but you don't
need a monster ego to feel offended and insulted. It's not a compliment
to female attractiveness, it's offering goods for sale that will satisfy
an unhealthy curiosity. Kate isn't being prim if she resents her
privacy being invaded, or being turned into a tacky commodity. And she
and her husband can afford to slug it out in the courts, and get the
issue properly aired. I can't.
I never hear about topless photos of our present elderly Queen. Now I wonder why that is?
Miss Dowler's name was actually Milly: my apologies to her parents. But then this just shows what a great reporter I'd make, not making quite sure of my facts before going into print.
Do you think I was over the top in speaking of Milly and Kate in one breath? I don't think so. I'm saying that both intrusions were deplorable breaches of privacy and ordinary human decency. The differences are only a matter of degree. One was more ghastly than the other; one involved an ordinary teenager, the other a grown-up woman who happened to marry a Prince.
Do you think that the Press (and media reporting generally) should have carte blanche to report the events and personalities of the world just as they wish? Why? There is this myth of the Freedom of the Press, but there is no such thing as a 'free press'. Every popular publication in the Western World is tied to the wishes of its shareholders. What they say goes. And they want to see large profits, so that they can have a good return on the money they paid for their shares. The directors must see to it that the content of this or that popular paper or magazine attracts a large readership. And what stories or articles do this? Well, guess what. Anything that lets the reader sit back and enjoy the indiscretions, misbehaviour and misfortunes of someone very different from them, someone remote from them, especially if that someone is in a superior position. Such as a cabinet minister who has an affair. Or a homosexual bishop. Or a Royal.
The Press will say this:
We print what our readers clearly want to read.
We publish photographs that people clearly want to look at.
We are an alternative voice, so that you don't have to accept everything the government says.
We speak for the ordinary man in the street, and reflect ordinary values.
We are valiant for truth.
We expose deceit and cant and wrongdoing.
Remember Watergate, and how the Press brought down a lying President. Who else could have?
In the eyes of the press, the first two points justify the hounding of celebrities of every type; and the last point justifies the Investigative Reporter, and any measure that will expose the Big Story.
Getting back to Kate's breasts, I heard a female magazine executive say that there should be no fuss, because you could see bare breasts on most Mediterranean beaches. To which I say: women on Mediterranean beaches may expose their breasts to the sun, and to the men they especially want to ravish them, but not for every Tom, Dick and Harry to lick their lips at. And this applies to Kate the same as any woman. She does not deserve to be trivialised and dehumanised, and her picture wanked over.
There is also this perennial argument that Royals are super-privileged people, and should stop complaining. Sorry, I don't get that one. While the privileges may be sweet, there is no actual power. And there are many duties and restrictions and boredoms to contend with. Royals cannot spend all their time as they might wish. It is arranged for them. It's a public life. And Senior Royals have ambassadorial roles, and a relentless round of engagements that most of us would tire of pretty damn quickly. Certainly, they are well looked after. That means servants and secretaries, beautiful apartments to live in, the best food, the best hospitals at the drop of a hat, a very long and comfortable life. It also means discreet bodyguards at all times, no real solitude, and never the fun of sneaking away on your own. I wouldn't want their 'jobs' for any salary.
As for shutting up, and not complaining, this is such a mistaken demand. Royals are in the same boat as all the rich and powerful. Envy them or despise them, they are, as a group, the only kind of people who can afford to take on the Press. If they are to be muzzled by protocol or populist prohibition then who else is going to stand up to the excesses of the Press? You? Me? Can't afford it, guv.
For certain, the government isn't going to restrict the Free Press, the Crusading Press, the Honest Press, very much. Do you really think that the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry will be made law? I'm afraid not.
So if you, or me, or any ordinary person happens to attract the attention of the Press, we are in desperate danger of unwanted and misleading publicity, character assassination, and the stirring-up of mindless prejudice from our local community. With no hope of stopping it. But if Kate and William can achieve something, it will be a little better for us all.