The Princess and the Photograph


A few days ago, I was at a press event. A number of journalists from the main broadcasters and the national press were there. They are not royal writers, but inevitably conversation turned to the biggest (non)story of the week – the relatively minor editing of a photograph.

The journalists, I spoke to, were as baffled, as much of the public is, at the totally disproportionate response by the media in the UK, and the USA to the photograph.

 One put it succinctly: “I can understand criticism of politicians whose decisions affect peoples lives. I can even understand it about celebrities who, sometimes, do silly things for attention. But the Royals, mostly, are out there, trying to do good, especially, the Prince and Princess of Wales, who have never put a foot wrong.”

Some in the media will tell you how terribly important the ‘doctoring’ of the photo is and how it has broken all trust between the press and the Palace. That’s them trying to explain away what many see as bullying and a degree of misogyny.

Some of the journalists also acknowledged that the media landscape is changing dramatically. They recognise that, already, a big outlet can, sometimes be outgunned by a kid on TikTok, who gets some great footage on his phone. They are having to move with the times.

The Prince and Princess of Wales may have, inadvertently, kickstarted a change themselves.

At the end of the article below, I originally suggested how the Prince and Princess might move forward in the near future. 

On reflection, a good way to do it would be for them to use small, independent photo and film agencies to produce the content and then release it via independent media or their own account. They could also release it via the social media accounts of the charities they support.

The market is clearly there – 89 million views of the photo on one twitter account alone. 

It would be a great way to help raise the profiles of talented photographers, videographers and media outlets working at the grassroots level of media.

Main article

In the past few weeks, different groups on social media and sections of the mainstream media have released the kraken of their pent-up envy of the woman they still call by her maiden name, despite her 13 years of marriage, three children and official title, as the wife of the heir to the British throne. They think their petty use of it devalues her. It doesn’t. It does, however, reveal much about them. 

In the 20 years the former Kate Middleton, now the Princess of Wales, has been in the public eye, she has not put a foot wrong. Like Mary Poppins, she’s been practically perfect in every way. Quietly and almost unobtrusively she’s risen to become the jewel in the monarchy crown, despite not being born a royal. That fact alone drives her detractors crazy. It’s why they still call her by her father’s name. They think it puts her in her place. 
But Catherine, Kate, the Princess of Wales has been creating her own place for 20 years. Initially, quietly, steadily.

Then that gold dress, at the James Bond premiere in 2021, turned her, overnight, from royal star to superstar. Suddenly, even casual observers saw what the smart folks had picked up long before. This young woman, who took the time to learn from the best (Queen Elizabeth II) combines the poise, mystique, impeccable behaviour of the Queen and the smiling steel of the Queen Mother, with the willowy grace of her late mother in law, Diana, Princess of Wales. She glides, seemingly effortlessly, from Hollywood glamour to being sporty, from playing the piano at her Christmas carols service to photographing her children for press publication, from whizzing down a playground slide to convening summits for her passion projects such as early childhood development. She looks as at ease with Presidents as she does with the elderly in care homes. 

And she does it all in high heels and with not a hair out of place. 

Perfection terrifies most of us, it’s true. But that fear is weaponised only by the inadequate and the cruel. 

So, when perfect ‘Kate’ suffered that most human frailty of all, health problems, they pounced. While she is at her most vulnerable, they are attacking her, for the crime of – (*checks notes*) -tweaking a Mother’s Day family photo. Not a photograph given to the press as an official portrait, but a picture posted on social media.

The photo shows a smiling family and was likely posted to put an end to the hysterical and libellous speculation about her condition. In January, it was announced by Kensington Palace that the Princess had undergone major abdominal surgery and would not be in the public eye until around Easter. She’s not the head of state. There’s no constitutional or political crisis caused by her absence. So, in the real world it was accepted she had a health issue and needed time to recover – in private.

Not so, according to the media, both social and mainstream.

That she had entered and left hospital without anyone outside her close circle knowing about it, seems to have been seen as an affront by those who claim to be in the know about the royals because they have ‘sources’. It blew apart the narrative of others in the public eye who cry constantly about not being able to have ‘privacy’ – if the most photographed woman in the world can manage it, so can they. That she wasn’t telling the world exactly what was wrong with her, complete with colour diagrams, also seems to have irked many. 

A lot of noses, it seems, were put out of joint.

So, the speculation began. First as a grumbling murmur, then a demanding crescendo.  Now it’s a vicious, global hounding of a woman still recovering from a significant medical intervention.

There’s even a hashtag on Twitter “Where is Kate Middleton?” 

It’s supported by ‘demands’ that ‘Kate’ disclose her private medical records and/or parade herself in public during her recovery process. This apparently would ‘reassure’ complete strangers that she is okay, or even alive, according to the worst of these ghouls. The demands come from a variety of unsavoury sources; self proclaimed ‘royal experts’, attention seeking newspaper columnists, D list zelebrities, the vicious ‘supporters’ of Netflix reality show duo, Meghan and Harry (whose sickening posts warrant investigation by the authorities) bots and trolls spewing the same semi literate script provided by whoever is funding them, the abolish the monarchy lot and sundry other unhappy/unhinged folk. 

So, a photo was posted on the Prince and Princess of Wales Twitter account, probably to try and appease the baying beast. 

But a photo was never going to satisfy the mob. Even a close up of her stitches would not have done that. A number of vested interests saw an opportunity to kick the Prince and Princess of Wales when they are vulnerable . They have come together, in an unholy alliance to conjure up a ‘crisis’ from which they each seek to benefit. The hysteria is so out of all proportion to the (admitted) photo editing that it smells bad and co-ordinated. (There must surely be a story here for an intrepid, investigative journalist, to join the dots between these different groups).

There are articles and news pieces about how the photograph has been ‘doctored’ or ‘manipulated’. These words make it sound sinister as if something unspeakable has been done. ‘Edited’, ‘Tweaked’ wouldn’t have the same effect, one supposes. One American newspaper had a dramatic headline but the article itself contains only one line about what has actually been done to the Royal photograph – namely there had been some ‘minor tweaks’ made to it. The rest of the piece was about Photoshop and how commonly it’s used. 

If the media genuinely believes there is a serious story here, they should say so. 

Are they claiming that the Princess of Wales was not in this photograph? And that her image has been super imposed upon it? If that is not their claim, then why is there this fake global outrage across the media, pushing out news about wars, elections, political upheaval, and the current decrepit, spineless leadership in the West? 

Why are complete strangers demanding that the Princess reveal her confidential medical records to them? Why is a woman recovering from surgery being hounded to parade herself in public so that strangers can gawp at her and gossip about whether she looks different?

What impact is all this nonsense having on her 3 children? Prince George is of an age where he may be well aware of both social and mainstream media. These children have had the scare of having their mother being in hospital for two weeks, recently. They don’t need to see the ‘Be Kind’ brigade posting that their mother is probably dead, on Tik Tok. 

What impact is all this likely to be having on the 75-year-old King undergoing treatment for cancer?

It’s poisonous stuff for a family that has suffered two very significant deaths within a short period; the Queen and Prince Philip, the King being diagnosed with cancer, the surgery of the Princess, continued betrayals from the reality show duo. And they’ve had to endure it all in the unforgiving glare of the world media as well as under the often hostile scrutiny of the British press which routinely instructs them how to conduct their lives.

The only positive from this shameful treatment of the Princess is that she may well have the last laugh. The photo has 86 MILLION (and counting) views on one Royal Twitter account alone. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the combined total of followers the BBC and Associated Press Twitter accounts have. 

The photo was not given as an exclusive to any media agency or outlet which means they haven’t made big money from it. Will any public figure or celebrity offer an exclusive image to the media again when they know now they can post it on their own social media account which they can monetise? 

And since the Princess has probably now established herself as the most marketable public figure in the world, how likely is she to want to offer anything, in future, to the worst media outlets?

The Prince and Princess may have done themselves no favours by rushing out a picture just to try and appease the social media beast, instead of waiting until Easter, as originally planned for the Princess to return to public life (although it should noted that they release a photograph for Mother’s Day every year). But it may be  the mainstream media that has truly shot its future in the foot.

Nevertheless, it would be naive to think that anything will change immediately. The reality is that both the mainstream and social media are what they are. And the Royal family has to work with the first and be aware of the second. Any photograph released in the near future will be pulled apart by armchair sleuths in need of a boost in likes and followers. The best way forward, after a short break, will be to release a few short videos over a period of time, of the Princess back at work, at Windsor castle, meeting with small groups of people representing her charities, patronages and foundation. Similar to the snippets we get of the King meeting the Prime-minister. It’s a ’back to work’ message but with a caveat; the Princess is still recovering, still needs time and is not fully back to undertaking her engagements in the usual way. It’s also a message that her ‘comeback’ will be on her terms, at her pace and in an environment she is comfortable in.