New Meghan Markle and Prince Harry holiday photos expose huge issue

Ah, February 2013, when the British royal family seemed to be going gangbusters. Someone had found the body of Richard III under a car park and Kate, then the Duchess of Cambridge had managed to fulfil her number job requirement, to get knocked up.

After having battled hyperemesis gravidarum, it was time for her to jet off for quite the jolly holiday to the Seychelles. Just her, her husband Prince William and the lone paparazzo who, while hiding up a palm tree or behind a sand dune or disguised as a cabana boy, managed to capture the first shots of a pregnant, bikini-clad future Queen ever.

What a day for the history books.

(Thank Christ no one ever tried to take a furtive black and white shot of Queen Victoria gingerly lowering herself in the nippy waters of The Solent in her neck-to-knee woollen bathing dress.)

If anyone fancies doing some fulminating about this gross invasion of William and Kate’s privacy, be my guest, but we have a bit of a compare and contrast situation to get on with here.

Because, this week another royal vacation picture popped up, showing Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, doing some holidaying of their own on Canouan, a small island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

As far as pap pics go, this new Sussex shot is tamer than watching a lengthy instructional video about cardboard. All it shows is the duo leaving a gourmet food store and looking like two people enjoying some high-grade lounging time and the occasional rum-based drink, then arriving back in Atlanta on a private jet.

Lucky sods. However, these picture comes in a year when the duke and duchess have faced the increased, prying presence of cameras (and smartphones) in their lives.

They have, since just May, been papped heading out for sushi in Santa Barbara, at a flower market, with daughter Princess Lilibet at a Fourth of July parade, leaving an office together, Meghan on the phone walking to car, Meghan with a calming sticker on her wrist, Meghan hiking, Meghan at LAX on her way to Germany last month, the couple out to dinner for her birthday, involved in a supposed “near catastrophic” car chase with the paps in New York, and Meghan out to lunch at Instagram mainstay Deux Moi.

Meanwhile, in the intervening decade since those photos of a pregnant, bikini-clad Kate appeared on Italian, US and yes, Australian newsstands, we have barely seen another unauthorised photo of them on holiday since.

It’s not as if this can be put down to Kate and William’s enthusiasm for high-end overseas jaunts having dimmed.

In 2014, the new parents left baby George at home and pootled off to enjoy a break in the Maldives.

They have repeatedly travelled to Mustique to top up their vitamin D levels and to teach their kids how to build sand castles as grand as the ones that Gan-Gan owned (now Grandpa Charles), most recently in 2019.

In 2016, William and Kate took a young Prince George and Princess Charlotte to the French Alps, with them apparently returning this year again too. (Don’t worry, Prince Louis was reportedly there too.)

In 2021, the whole lot of them plus their longtime nanny were photographed arriving at Heathrow for a holiday to Jordan.

In 2022, the family went to the South of France for her brother James Middleton’s wedding.

More recently, the Wales family now regularly holidays on Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly.

And these are just the trips we know about, with the real, full tally unquestionably much, much longer.

Aside from Kate snapped holding a baby George in Mustique in 2014, no further snaps of her, William or their kids on holiday have since emerged.

My point: the now Prince and Princess of Wales are now generally left alone, by both the press and by fellow sunburnt holiday makers bearing fully-charged iPhones. After those 2013 snaps came out, St James’s Palace said the royal house was “disappointed” and thundered (well, firmly stated) “This is a clear breach of the couple’s right to privacy.” Meanwhile, a source told The Mirror that the Waleses were “furious”.

That moment thus proved to be something of a watershed one, a line-in-the-sand was drawn, with a souring of the public mood towards the young couple being subjected to such intrusive paparazzi activity. (This would only become more so after William and Kate put out a statement regarding the press going to disturbing lengths to get photos of baby George.)

The Waleses then proceeded to erect a firm dividing line between their public and private lives, with carefully controlled glimpses provided into

The latter via social media posts and pictures handed out by Kensington Palace.

Ultimately what William and Kate have done is to wall off their family life such that we the public only see what they want us to see, while having created a certain illusory sense of intimacy. (Exhibits A-Z: all those dozens and dozens of Ralph Lauren-campaign-worthy shots of them enjoying wholesome family activities at home, in the garden, the kitchen, up trees, playing, on a beach etc.)

The prince and princess have also somehow managed to engender a degree of public respect for their privacy when they are out and about, doing the weekly shop or buying Prince Louis more glitter pens.

However, the Sussexes’ lucrative forays into the entertainment world have taken them in a whole other direction on this front.

The last year has seen the duke and duchess, on screen and in print, lay bare their lives and their relationship, inviting us all into their world.

We have seen their first date, Meghan crying after a meditation session, emotional shots of a newborn Archie with his parents and grandma Doria Ragland, of bath time, of baby Lili seemingly the day she was born, and shot after shot after shot of a doting Harry playing with his children.

From a philosophical standpoint their TV series, his book and their multitudinous interviews represented them opening their lives up for mass public consumption.

The sticking point comes when, in having opened this door, in having allowed Netflix subscribers and book buyers into their universe, it might be impossible for them to reverse course.

In hindsight, the argument can be made that their Netflix-a-thon and Spare blurred the boundaries in the public imagination about what was, and wasn’t, off-limits. I’m not saying for a second that this is fine and dandy or that in doing the TV series the Sussexes automatically relinquished their future right to privacy.

Also, it is unimpeachably the Sussexes’ choice what they reveal of themselves and how and where they do it.

But the question now is, are we now seeing one of the unintended consequences of those lucrative content deals playing out?

The only really good thing that can be said: At least it’s been a cracking week for the Canouan tourist board.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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