Last time unauthorised pictures of his wife Kate Middleton on holiday were published in European gossip magazines, the famously hot-tempered Prince William flew into a rage.
Within hours of the publication, a strongly worded statement comparing the 'grotesque' photos to the ‘worst excesses’ of the press during the Princess Diana era was issued by the palace with William’s blessing, and within days legal action had been launched against both Closer magazine in France and the unnamed ‘John Doe’ photographer who had taken the snaps.
This time, bar a statement from the palace that the royals are ‘disappointed’ and regard the publication as an invasion of their privacy, there, has, in contrast, been not a peep from William. There is certainly nothing to suggest, that William is ‘screaming down the phone’ from his £19,000-a-week villa in Mustique at his aides in London demanding legal action.
True, the previous pictures showed Kate topless, whereas this time she is in a bikini, which could no doubt account for a husband’s rage, yet still the difference in reaction between the two incidents is striking.
Other than the nudity, what accounts for it?
Firstly, although William did indeed succeed in his legal action against Closer magazine, it was a hollow victory.
The magazine sold 100,000 extra copies, paid only a small fine and the photographer who took the pictures is protected by French law as a journalistic source and has thus never been identified or prosecuted.Many said at the time that William’s emotional reaction was an unhelpful response which aggravated the situation.
Secondly, the editor of the Australian magazine Woman's Day which published the pictures has claimed the pictures were taken by a fellow tourist on Mustique – and not a paparazzo.
If that was the case, then William and Kate would have been “in public” and could therefore not argue to have "a reasonable expectation of privacy," under the British press laws as they currently stand (although as Roy Greenslade points out in the Guardian, Mustique may be a special case - in 2006, Elle Macpherson complained about a bikini-clad picture of her on one of the island's beaches. Her lawyers argued that all of Mustique's beaches were private and that she therefore imagined she was in a private place and the British press council backed her).
Mustique is famous for the omertà that ensures that very little celebrity tittle-tattle ever makes it off the island. The Mustique Company boasts that it is “dedicated to protecting the island’s privacy.”
Alfonso Signorini, editor of Chi magazine, has defended his decision to print the images.
He told the BBC: “The photographs, which can in no way be considered scandalous, were bought from an international photo agency, do not harm the image of the protagonists and the reaction of the media seems to me wholly over the top. 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.”
More than the legal arguments, however, it appears that it is the futility of trying to block dissemination of the pictures on the internet has finally dawned on William. Within hours of their publication in Italy, scans had been uploade to tumblr accounts.
The impossibility of the task was highlighted yesterday when a mainstream British TV show, This Morning, were discussing the story in a news review section when Chi's front cover flashed up and filled the screen, but the pictures were not blacked-out as they have been in all other UK media.
The presenters later issued a groveling on-air apology.
It is unlikely to have satisfied William, but equally unlikely is the prospect of him actually being able to do anything about these latest pictures.
Is it time to bring back the vacay photocall?