The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s deft handling of the media is certainly a legacy of Prince William’s memories of what happened to his mother.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
Who has best learned the lessons of the 1980s, when Prince William was a baby and his mother was subject to an unrelenting media-feeding frenzy – the press or the palace?
The straightforward answer is that the palace long ago took that experience on board and has handled its PR with greater professionalism ever since.
Even when it wobbled in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, it managed to turn matters around within a week.
The popular press, resistant to any restraint, may lay claim to having learned from its past misbehaviour, but a leopard would change its spots before tabloid editors mended their ways.
Editorial ambitions are largely irrelevant, however, because it is the change of the royal cast, and the differences in their characters, that count more. The Duchess of Cambridge has not made the mistakes of her late mother-in-law. Discretion has been her watchword.
In the years since she and her husband met at university, the couple has avoided the media elephant traps set for them. They will surely do so again now that they have become parents.
They will protect their baby just as they have done so successfully for themselves over the past couple of years. To keep media attention to a minimum, they have used all the security advantages provided by the palace and, on the rare occasions of intrusions into their privacy, have been swift to act.
The duchess has sought help from the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to deal with prying photographers and, when she was snapped topless while sunbathing in a French villa, the palace called in the lawyers.
They have kept journalists at arm’s length by merely fulfilling the minimum of official press conferences and photocalls. Neither she nor her husband have stooped to briefing the press and give no hint of doing so in future.
Their reticence appears to be part of their personalities, but their deft handling of the media is certainly a legacy of Prince William’s memories of what happened to his mother.
Diana was the object of intense press and public fascination from the moment her relationship with Prince Charles emerged. Though she kept her distance from reporters and photographers during their engagement and the early stages of their marriage, the newspapers soon found that she was as much a Princess of Sales as a Princess of Wales.
So a royal ratpack, partly monarchist and adulatory, wholly commercial and cynical, exploited every opportunity to obtain circulation-winning material about Diana.
It began when she was pregnant with William. She was pictured in a bikini on a beach on an obscure Caribbean island. The Press Council – forerunner of the PCC – censured the two papers responsible for publishing the pictures, The Sun and Daily Star, but the die was cast.
Princess Diana became public property. And her sons’ early lives were blighted by intrusion too. The Sunday People went so far as to publish a picture of William answering a call of nature under the headline “The royal wee”.
As the Wales’s marriage disintegrated, it was transformed into a royal soap opera recorded in daily updates in papers and magazines. The paparazzi tormented Diana by following her every move, but she went on to compound the problem by indulging in covert briefings of favoured journalists.
William and his brother, Harry, were able to enjoy a measure of privacy because the palace secured agreements with the press, largely brokered by the then PCC director, Guy Black (now Lord Black, a Telegraph group executive and chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance that oversees the PCC).
Even so, as a schoolboy William could not be other than aware that the press was always looking for ways to evade the agreement. Meanwhile, he must have noted the negative effects of a compromised private life on his mother’s status.
One key difference between the media of his youth and that of today is the obsessive use of social media. Everyone is a journalist now in the sense that people can observe, snap photographs and then publish them in the blink of an eye.
But people need to get close up to take pictures with smartphones, and aside from formal engagements, the couple do not appear in public. So there is no opportunity for candid shots.
Thus far, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have not been troubled by the rise of the new media landscape. Though pictures of the duchess attending official visits have appeared on Twitter, nothing remotely intrusive has been posted.
It is impossible to predict with any certainty that the latest addition to the Windsors will enjoy a life entirely free from intrusion, but the signs surely point in that direction. This new prince is bound to start off with a relatively quiet infancy.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010