Saturday, 15 September 2012

Royal breasts

 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.


  1. If I were a royal. where would I walk, lazy around topless, yes away from all the eyes of the world. But in a lovely two piece yes I would be only seen, sorry but she them the royals should know better, but I do think its wrong the weird press folk do this stuff, there life is much different Lucy, Shame on all of them,

  2. Well written and argued, though I hope you don't think that all heterosexual men sweatily salivate over female breasts.
    Or that some 'straight' ladies don't like to see good looking, tanned, topless men, with, er, 'six packs'.
    I know I, in my miniscule, ultra-low-circulation way added to the publicity by publishing a cynically ironic blog post about it, which you replied to -
    But, really, female breasts are nothing to be ashamed of, we all know how European papparazi operate, and in my opinion they should put it down to experience and forget it.
    I think we all(myself included) need to move on from this, except maybe that it raises some interesting issues about attitudes to the female body.

  3. If men couldn't ever get excited by women, where would we all be? It's really all about how it's done. As I said, Royals live a public life, and must expect plenty of attention. But nobody should endure degrading behaviour from the Press and the professionals who supply it. The sleaze and the profit motive spoil it all.

    Kate and William are right to feel annoyed, and would do well to meet the challenge early on, and not wait till it gets much worse. Ignoring this incident will simply lead to sequels.


    1. Except that there'll not be sequels of the same thing if HRH Middleton vows to from now on cover up whenever she could potentially be within sight of zoom lenses.
      A nuisance for sure, but she didn't have to marry into the most famous family on our planet !
      Sometimes it's pragmatic to place pragmatism above idealism ?
      In any case I'm happy to agree to disagree, and it's nice to know you as an online friend.

  4. Ah the ways of the world and the seedy attitude of some. I think that anyone who is in the public eye and who does not wish to taint the public's view of them, whether rightly or wrongly, should not place themselves or present themselves in such a way to compromise that. Having said that, everyone has a right to privacy. The so called paparazzi must have really gone out of their way to secure their photographs which to me is tantamount to spying and consequently should be an accountable offence. From a personal point of view though I think it isn't right to expose one's self if there is half a chance that others might see and from that you may conclude that I am against such behaviour in a public place like a beach for instance. However what people do in the privacy of their own home (or other private place) is their own affair.

    Shirley Anne x

  5. Thanks, Martin! And thanks, Shirley Anne!

    I'm not personally shocked by nudity, although I would myself be very careful about displaying my bits and pieces to anyone except a trusted friend. Or husband, which I imagine is what Kate thought she was doing. 'William,' (or Billy-Bob, or Swibbles, or Badger, or whatever she calls him in private) she might have said, 'How glorious it is to sunbathe like this, deep in the woodland of Provence, atop this secluded villa, with nary a cameraman or reporter in sight.' To which the prince would have replied, 'Kate,' (or Sweeticles, or Gorgeous One, or Squirrel, or whatever he calls her in private) 'You're dashed right. Why don't you let The Girls have some fresh air? Nobody can see us here.' To which she would have responded, 'Right-ho, my adorable husband,' and duly discarded the bikini top. (I apologise for recreating their intimate exchanges so uncannily - I assure you, I wasn't there) Not knowing, of course, that all the time a man with a lens that cost him $11,000 was lurking half a mile away, waiting for this very moment. Alas, their confidence was misplaced.

    Clearly all Royals (and indeed all the rest of us) should stay indoors, or remain locked in our underground bunkers.

    But the real answer is to stop buying publications that seek out pictures and stories of this kind.


    1. Wow ! I hail thee as the new Shakespeare.
      I enjoyed reading your account of your visits to the National Trust properties too.


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