Photo shows irony of Meghan’s new life

 

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"About every single time she went out there'd be a pack of people waiting for her," Prince William told a BBC documentary in 2017 about his mother Diana, Princess of Wales. "And I mean a pack, like a pack of dogs, followed her, chased her, harassed her, called her names, spat at her, tried to get a reaction to get that photograph of her lashing out, get her upset."

The paparazzi were a scourge in Diana's life.

Now that same curse looms large over Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussexes' new life in North America.

This morning, paparazzi photos emerged of Meghan going for a walk with her baby son Archie on Vancouver Island, along with the couples' dogs Guy and Oz, and two personal protection officers (PPOs) trailing behind her.

On Sunday night, Prince Harry delivered a deeply emotional and personal speech in London, saying that as he and Meghan prepare to quit official royal life he hoped his family was about to "take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life".

Today's photos prove the stark reality that Harry and Meghan's future will be anything but serene.

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While tabloid photographers dogged Diana's every move, reducing her to valuable prey to be hounded through the backstreets of London as she tried to evade them in her Audi convertible, current members of the royal family face a far easier time of things.

Consider this: When was the last time you saw a paparazzi image of Kate out and about? About once or twice a year, at the very most, unofficial pictures will turn up in the press of the mum-of-three going about her day. In the past two years shots have been published of her in Waitrose and picking up Christmas presents at The Range, a discount store.

Contrast that with what we know about her life. She goes shopping, gets her hair done, tackles the school run and even most recently joined other parents from her children's school for drinks at a Chelsea pub.

The Duchess of Cambridge is hardly cowering behind the hedges of Kensington Palace. She is getting on with her life and is largely untouched by the press when she is not on official duty.

The reason that she is able to do that lies with the tragic passing of her mother-in-law. In the wake of Diana's death in Paris, the rapacious (largely British) press pack faced a drastic reckoning.

After Diana’s death, the press faced a brutal reckoning. Picture: Supplied
After Diana’s death, the press faced a brutal reckoning. Picture: Supplied

Public sentiment firmly placed the blame for her death on their heads, with a Gallup poll done at the time finding that 43 per cent of Britons thought lensmen were "extremely" responsible for the crash. (Conversely, only 33 per cent laid the blame on drunk chauffeur Henri Paul.)

Taking to the pulpit at Diana's funeral, her brother Charles Spencer said that the Princess was "the most hunted person of the modern age" before going on to say that the she would have wanted sons' protected from a "similar fate".

"We will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair," he said.

In the wake of the tragedy, regulatory changes were put in place to protect the royal family from the media. The Press Complaints Commission dramatically strengthened its Editor's Code of Conduct, which essentially banned long-lens photography and provided extra protection for children under the age of 16.

It is because of this change that there are very few unofficial images of Princes William and Harry during their teenage years, although the Palace still occasionally handed out slightly awkward, posed shots of the boys at school.

Diana’s sacrifice meant her kids and grandchildren have enjoyed a far easier existence. Picture: Supplied
Diana’s sacrifice meant her kids and grandchildren have enjoyed a far easier existence. Picture: Supplied

While their entry to adulthood was marked by the press staking out their favourite London haunts, they still faced a far easier time of it than their mother.

When Prince William headed to Scotland to attend St Andrews University, the press agreed wholesale to not photograph him while he was there.

Likewise, Kate Middleton's 20s saw her hounded on a near-daily basis. Watch any video of her trying to get into her car, clearly distressed, while being chased by photographers, and you cannot not feel sorry for the poor woman.

Still, the palace had learnt their lesson and in 2009, senior aides told Fleet Street editors they would not put up with any shots being taken of HRHs taken during "private" moments and that they would call in the lawyers over "intrusive and unacceptable behaviour".

The arrival of Prince George and Princess Charlotte saw the royal family take an even tougher stance. In August of 2015, the Duke and Duchess's communications secretary put out a stinging press release, stating that "there have been an increasing number of incidents of paparazzi harassment of Prince George. And the tactics being used are increasingly dangerous".

"Photographers are going to increasingly extreme lengths to observe and monitor Prince George's movements and covertly capture images of him to sell to the handful of international media titles still willing to pay for them. One recent incident - just last week - was disturbing, but not at all uncommon," it read.

"A photographer rented a car and parked in a discreet location outside a children's play area. Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince George. Police discovered him lying down in the boot of the vehicle attempting to shoot photos with a long lens through a small gap in his hide."

Despite these sort of incidents, by and large, the Cambridge kids have enjoyed a peace that William and Harry never did. The only images of them in the public domain - and not handed out by Kensington Palace or taken during official events such as Trooping the Colour - have been at events where the Cambridge family knew there would be press such as at high-profile polo tournaments or the occasional horse show. Essentially, Kate and William are able to sanction when their children are photographed.

 

These days, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are known to ride their bikes along the paths of Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens without any worry about being followed by the paparazzi, a simple but delicious freedom that would have been unthinkable for a royal child in the 90s.

That immunity of sorts would have been extended to Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor too. However, with his parents' decision to trade life in the UK to spend much of the year in North America, he faces a much different fate.

Unbound by the restrictions and codes of conduct that British press face (and which credible publications in the Commonwealth, including Australia, generally abide by), for photo agencies and tabloids worldwide, it is now open slather on the Sussexes.

Today's shots of Meghan, Archie and their security would have never been published in the UK. Nor would they likely have been taken, with The Sun's royal reporter Emily Andrews pointing out that had they been in Britain the Duchess' PPOs would never have allowed "the photo to happen". Even if the shots were taken, the reaction from the Palace would have been swift and extremely hard line.

The sad truth is that in trying to protect his infant son, Prince Harry might have made his life harder. Picture: Instagram
The sad truth is that in trying to protect his infant son, Prince Harry might have made his life harder. Picture: Instagram

This is just a taste of things to come for the Sussex family. Meghan has been back in Canada for less than two weeks, yet in this short period of time she has already been photographed by the paparazzi three times, which is nearly equal to the number of times she was "papped" in the entire two years she lived in the UK.

Keep in mind also, this has all happened on tiny Vancouver Island. While the couple has not announced which North American city they instead to set up home in, they are surely going to face even more media surveillance once they leave the relative sanctuary of the island.

Should they opt to move to Meghan's native LA, they face living in a city with perhaps the largest and most ferocious army of paparazzi in the world.

While Harry might have made clear on Sunday night how much they want a quiet existence, the irony is that by leaving the UK they have actually opened themselves up to far more press intrusion. Most likely, they now face running the media gauntlet on a daily basis, a stress and strain they by and large did not have to contend with in Britain.

Similarly, little Archie faces a far different childhood than his Cambridge cousins. While they will grow up largely protected from the media, Harry and Meghan's little boy may have to deal with a far, far greater level of attention and potential harassment. Every soccer match, every trip to the dentist and every school drop-off could be staked out by photographers.

Earlier this morning, Australian-time, Harry flew out of London to be reunited with his wife and son in Canada. There are still many unknowns about their new life but I think we can say with certainty, finding that blessed peace the Prince so dearly hungers for looks increasingly unlikely.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.


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