The forthcoming tour of Canada by Prince William was always intended to be the big headline act of the royal year and now the worst-kept secret in royal circles is out—George and Charlotte will be accompanying their parents on the week-long jaunt, it was confirmed this week.
The announcement was widely expected, but the confirmation of the two youngest royals on the Canada tour, which kicks off in Victoria on September 24, still caused a ripple of mild delight among the cynical souls populating the royal press pack.
Now finally, they will have the opportunity to plaster images of Princess Charlotte across their front pages.
And what a wait it has been! Charlotte—who turned one in May—remains almost a complete mystery to the royal’s public, so completely have Kate and William succeeded in orchestrating a media blackout on every aspect of their daughter’s life and existence, most of which is spent playing behind high walls and being whisked from private home to palace.
There has been an almost complete absence of the kind of candid photographs that marked (some would say marred) George’s first years. The only pictures that really stand out since her birth and christening are photos approved (and in some case taken by) Kate and released to the press.
One example was the widely-mocked set of staged photos taken on a ski trip this year. The pictures—showing all four family members larking about and snowballing on the slopes—were staged by a picture agency and William and Kate were given rights of veto on the shots before they were released to the media.
This is the way Will and Kate like things to run vis-a-vis the papers, and who could blame them? They have every right to feel paranoid about their privacy. The London hacking trial revealed horrendously violating behavior on the part of reporters who routinely broke into William, Harry and Kate’s phone messages to provide gossip items for their papers.
The remarkable control that William and Kate have been able to exert on pictures of Charlotte as compared to George is down to a confluence of factors; their vast property holdings, of course, create an enviable physical distance between Charlotte and the lenses of the paparazzi, but that was always there. The larger difference is that they are now living almost full time in Norfolk rather than London.
George was occasionally snapped walking in Kensington Park with his nanny, but Charlotte lives her life safely out of view of the great unwashed on the grounds of Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate.
The danger of being photographed is ever-present in London; just this week the issue of royal privacy was in the news again, after Britain’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) ruled that the Express and OK! Magazine were wrong to publish photographs in May showing Prince George sitting on a police motorbike.
The images—which showed George sitting on the bike with Kate and four officers looking on—were shot through the railings of Kensington Palace.
The publications argued that “it was important for the public to see how young members of the Royal Family interacted with public servants,” particularly when the officers had been “commandeered for a three-year-old’s entertainment.”
But Ipso sided with the royals, saying the motorbike experience was a “private activity on private land.”
At Anmer, the royals have been more aggressively on the offensive with photographers since Charlotte was born than they were with George. They have even issued letters to photographers in the area, warning them off, “acts of harassment” and “breaches of privacy.”
In the past, the paparazzi who make a living snooping on the Royals regarded such letters with all the concern a duck’s back regards the rain, but in the three and a half years since George’s birth the royals have succeeded in making life progressively more difficult for the outlets in Britain—still the biggest market for royal snaps by far—that do publish the pictures.
They have been aided by well-honed security arrangements at all the homes used and visited by the young royals in the UK.
But such control simply cannot be exerted overseas. When they were on tour in Australia, there was an almighty furor after pictures of and video of Kate carrying George on her shoulders at the governor’s mansion in Canberra were published in foreign papers (the UK press deferred to the royal wish that they not be published).
As one royal author, speaking off the record to the Daily Beast, said: “There is an inherent contradiction in taking them on a relentlessly photographed foreign tour and their usual obsession with privacy and control. But they know the children will be a crowd pleaser, and they’d rather be with them than not.”
The truth is that in the era of instant media, royal tours are now just as much about playing to the market back home as they are to making and retaining faithful subjects of the citizens of foreign realms.
The Canadian tour is no different, and the big reveal of Princess Charlotte is as much for the benefit of the UK as Canadian public.
Kate and William no doubt regard the plans for how that reveal will happen as set in stone, but enterprising Canadian photographers may have other ideas.