So, now, in pictures of a naked prince of the realm,
we see the pernicious effects of Leveson.
His Lordship’s recent enquiry into telephone hacking by
the press, though its recommendations are yet to be published, has already sent
Fleet Street’s editors desperately dashing for cover. It is not a pretty sight – unlike Prince Harry’s
bottom, which happens to be the reason for their unseemly flight.
A glimpse of the royal bum, not to mention the rest of
him (though minus the manly bits) appeared two days ago in two grainy photographs
purporting to show its owner cavorting in the altogether with girls in a Las
Vegas hotel suite. One shows Harry
covering his privates with his hands; the other has him embracing a naked
female from behind.
The pictures have been seen by the millions who
bothered to look for them on an American celebrity web site, MTZ, but not by
the millions who rely exclusively on the British newspapers for such jollies. (Many
helpfully provided their readers with the name of the web site, a nonsensical
state of affairs.)
Harry, it should be mentioned, is not in Vegas in an
official capacity, but for a spell of rest and recreation following his
exertions as a spectator at the Olympics and before his return to his military
duties. The relevance of whether he was
on duty on the public purse or off duty at his own expense may be debatable,
and is being hotly debated. But either
way, it is argued, his hotel room ought to have been off-limits.
(As indeed it was.
Reporters were not present in Harry’s hotel room. The offending pictures were shot by a guest,
who promptly sold them to the web site for £10,000. However you regard the event, it does not
represent press intrusion.)
Regardless of the circumstances behind Harry’s
frolics, and the release of the pictures depicting them, the princely minders
at St. James’s Palace were quicker off the mark than Usain Bolt with a bad case
of dysentery. These ever-vigilant royal
keepers of the privy parts immediately called the Press Complaints Commission
urging that publication be blocked, at least in the British press, the only
medium over which it holds sway. An
institution of self-regulation often maligned during the Leveson hearings (as
either too effective or completely ineffective) the PCC dutifully responded by
sending an advisory to editors, reminding them that printing the shots would
represent an unwarranted invasion of Harry’s privacy.
Now, the salient point here is that investigating
illegal acts such as phone hacking and bribing coppers is one thing, but
leaning on the press to censor material obtained by legal, if not commendable,
means is something else, something potentially far more menacing.
It can be argued that the Palace would have put the
arm on the press even without the recent outcry over hacking and other
felonies. But would the editors have been
so craven if the fall-out from Leveson had not put the fear of Rupert into
What Lord Justice Leveson will end up recommending in
the way of press behaviour and oversight is anyone’s guess, but in Wapping, Portland Place and
other media outposts in the kingdom, the rule of thumb – or bum – has become, “Keep
your heads down, boys, or it may be shot off”.
An unsatisfactory state of affairs, then, and not to
be taken as lightly as one might the judgement of Price Harry in exposing
himself. This will now be examined as if
he had feloniously stolen the crown jewels as distinct from foolishly exposing
As a post script, I might add that my wife thinks our
young prince has a very nice figure.
But, she added, what a pity about the hands.