Can You Imagine the Queen Going Topless?

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No man would be comfortable with his wife’s naked breasts being plastered across the news stands and the internet. Well, not unless he’s married to a Page 3 girl.

So Prince William’s furious reaction to the publication of paparazzo pictures of Kate topless in French, Irish and Italian newspapers and magazines is entirely understandable.

The British Press has rightly taken the view that the princess had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was sunbathing beside a pool at Lord Linley’s chateau in the South of France.

Even if any editor did ponder the wisdom of bringing the photographs to a British audience, the prospect of a Leveson-inspired lynch mob would quickly concentrate the mind.

Opportunist politicians would seize on the offending pictures to impose statutory and wide-ranging restrictions on the Press in this country.

Commercial considerations will also have played a part in the calculations as even papers which feature acres of female flesh daily have shied away from the prospect of a Twitter-generated boycott.

In this case, self-regulation has been tested and proven effective. But as the snapshots are also readily available to anyone with access to the internet, it has highlighted the futility of trying to control one traditional section of the media while the World Wide Web remains a lawless frontier town.

My guess is that many of those tut-tutting into their morning newspapers have already sought out the pictures on their laptops – purely in the interests of research, of course.

There’s something faintly ridiculous about the fit of morality which has greeted the publication of these photographs.

More to the point, the decision of Prince William to seek criminal charges against the snapper responsible is sinister in the extreme.

Not that I’m defending the excesses of the predatory paparazzi, who pursue their prey like packs of wild dogs. Their behaviour plays into the hands of those self-interested politicians and police chiefs who are gagging to introduce draconian controls on a free press.

Any sympathy I may have had for William went out of the window when he resorted to the criminal law. Attempting to put professional photographers in prison for taking pictures of a woman whose job is to have her photo taken is outrageous.

It doesn’t matter how inconvenient or intrusive those photos may have been. They were taken with a long-distance lens from a public road.

Part of me rather admires the French and Italian editors for sticking to their guns, refusing to apologise and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Unlike some sections of the Press and public in this country, they are not in thrall to the notion of a fairytale monarchy. One of the less appetising aspects of this Jubilee year in Britain has been the re-emergence of forelock tugging.

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