Sunday 17 November 2019

Heidi Scrimgeour: Kate only has herself to blame for bikini pictures

ONCE again Kate Middleton is front-page news. This time, at least she's wearing her bikini. It's reasonable to expect that the duchess might have gone to great lengths to avoid being snapped in her smalls, following the publication of photographs of her sunbathing topless last year.

Indeed, the royal couple were on holiday on the private island of Mustique when the latest images surfaced around the world. Paparazzi are banned from the Caribbean sunspot, so perhaps Kate, who is four months pregnant, felt she was justified in letting her guard down as she strolled along the beach, bare baby bump on display.

St James's Palace has described the pictures of Kate as a "clear breach of the couple's right to privacy". But are they?

Alfonso Signorini, editor of the Italian gossip magazine which published the images, as well as last year's controversial topless shots, thinks not.

"We have published photos shot in a public place on a beach amidst other bathers. Moreover, the photographs can hardly be considered an invasion of privacy when the subjects are public figures in a public place in the open air, specifically on a beach surrounded by other bathers," he told reporters.

It pains me to agree with Mr Signorini, because I'm uncomfortable with the notion that a young woman should have to tolerate something she deemed a violation of her privacy. Yet it strikes me that the pregnant duchess in a bikini on a public beach is fair game for certain sections of the press.

The gentleman's agreement that exists between the British press and Buckingham Palace is noble but Mr Signorini is right to say he wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't publish the pictures.

To my mind, it would be naive to the point of disingenuousness to expect not to be photographed with the world's most eagerly awaited baby bump on naked display.

If Kate would prefer not to grace the pages of the world's gossip mags scantily clad, then her best recourse would be to refrain from appearing in public in her swimwear.

After all, we've never seen paparazzi snaps of the queen caught short in a state of undress. Presumably that's because one simply doesn't parade around in one's unmentionables when one is a public figure of such prominence.

It's too utopian to think that the media might exercise restraint and agree a no-go zone around intrusive pictures of the royal couple when 'off duty', so when it comes to propriety, perhaps the younger royals would do well to take a leaf out of their decorous matriarch's book and simply avoid compromising situations.

It seems wrong to advocate the curtailing of a young woman's freedom by suggesting that she refrain from wearing a bikini in public on holiday – but a private life takes on a very different hue when it's funded by the public purse.

And royalty isn't a smorgasbord of entitlement – you don't pick the parts you like and forgo the less favourable parts. Media scrutiny and a lack of privacy come with the territory. But there are surely enough perks of the job to ensure that packing away your penchant for skimpy beachwear shouldn't be too bitter a pill for the future queen to swallow.

In an ideal world, Kate could spend her holidays wearing as much or as little as she pleases in a beach-side idyll without ever fearing that a zoom lens is lurking in the bushes. But back here on planet Earth, I'd like to see Kate wise up to the ways of the media. Of course she'd like to be left alone on holiday but it's not realistic to expect to be afforded some sort of sanctity from the press. She's a public figure, not a deity, and the media is a money-making machine, not a moral code.

Kate, don't let the press bully you into a burkha but please make them work harder for the money shots. It's hard to expect others to value your privacy if you're seen to give it scant regard.

Irish Independent

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