News Analysis

Friday 22 August 2014

Aisling O'Connor: Wills and Kate give the Facebook generation snaps – on their terms

Aisling O'Connor

Published 21/08/2013 | 05:00

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William, Kate and George in Kate's family home in Bucklebury

POINT and click – talk about keeping it simple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first official family pictures, after emerging from London's St Mary's Hospital a month ago, are a far cry from the stiff portraiture that until now has been the royal standard.

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Buckingham Palace has shocked the world with the release of warm and fuzzy homemade images of Kate, and her two future kings. One look at the posed-and-placed shots taken by Antony Armstrong Jones of an infant William with parents Charles and Diana over 30 years ago confirms the Cambridges are doing it their own way.

The relaxed shots were taken not by a professional society snapper in a snazzy studio, but by grandpa Michael Middleton in his garden. On the surface, these pictures tread lightly, but the magnitude of the normalcy depicted should not be underestimated.

William and Kate are in many ways like any other pair of proud new parents. They look deliriously happy and a little sleep-deprived as they capture early memories. If it weren't for the media spotlight and the fact that one of them, and their first-born, are on a trajectory to the throne, this is a typical Facebook shot.

The high-profile parents' choice to go the 'commoner' route, over palace tradition, could very well be an indication of their game-plan to balance privacy, protocol, press and public.

These pictures represent a couple coming to terms with their duty as public people, the hunger for information about them, and doing what is best for them as a family.

The frenzy around Will and Kate's engagement, wedding, and public appearances came to a head with the invasion of privacy that was the publication of intimate shots of them on holiday last September.

One would completely understand if they shied away from the press after that trying and humiliating debacle. But these two understand that the world has changed, and they are in the driving seat, if they so choose.

In this seemingly off-the-cuff move, the Cambridges gave something to the salivating global media, as well as ticking a milestone off the official list – and did so on their own terms. The images are drenched in reality – albeit against a rather luxurious backdrop.

The 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians' generation wants the inside track. And it doesn't get more personal than a real snap of the royal couple at home with the family.

There is a feeling of liberation around the release. Even though the pictures came through the official channels, Kate and William managed to fulfil their duty whilst creating their own customs. The images act as a dual statement of the couple's on-going dedication to public life, and their independence as people.

There is also a nod to the role Kate's parents will play in George's life. The location and photographer sends a message that the Middletons aren't going anywhere. This child belongs as much to his mother's family, as his father's dynasty.

So it is business as usual for the Cambridges as they manoeuvre demands from press, palace and public. What has changed is that there is an air of new-found power around the royal couple since the arrival of boy George. Through the nude picture scandal, a difficult early pregnancy, and ensuing tragedy at King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes, they consistently played ball with the media.

The new addition to the household has grounded the couple, in particular William, who has lived his whole life in the public eye. Through an unfortunate and extraordinary series of events they have each learned that finding a balance between privacy and publicity will be a key factor in providing stability as parents.

Well-played, Kate and Wills.

Irish Independent

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