Tracey's Royal Blog
Apr 4, 2011
Kate Middleton another Princess Diana
The press won't make Kate Middleton another Princess Diana
Hunting as a pack ... Lady Diana surrounded by press photographers shortly before the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles. Photograph: Ian Tyas/Hulton Archive
Thirty years ago this month every issue of every popular newspaper ran stories and pictures virtually every day about the upcoming
Though it was still three months off, the papers were full of material about Lady Diana Spencer. She was editorial catnip. Editors loved her because the public loved her. She was about to become the Princess of Wales but they rightly anticipated that she was on her way to becoming their Princess of Sales.
The contrast between the media coverage during the buildup to that 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana and the treatment of this month's wedding of
have found it difficult to find anything to write about. There have been few pictures because there have been few, if any, photo opportunities. Clearly, that is just what the couple wish. It follows a pattern throughout William's life – at school, at university, in the household cavalry, now in the air force – during which he has successfully sought to maintain a low profile.
Similarly, his bride-to-be has followed suit. She has never made the slightest error by offering up an inappropriate quote. Nor has she made friends with any journalist.
They have kept out of the public eye, making very few appearances together aside from their first official public engagement in Anglesey in February to dedicate a lifeboat.
There has been routine speculation about the cake, Kate's dress and her hair (in the Daily Telegraph of all places). The
has run occasional articles insinuating that Kate's "racy" parents were somehow attempting to profit from their daughter's marriage. But the Middletons, like their daughter, have not received much coverage elsewhere.
has been noticeably restrained in its coverage. I was assistant editor at the paper in 1981 and recall the feverish daily demands in both the news and features departments for copy about Diana. The same pressure was occurring at the Mail, Daily Star, Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
It will be interesting to monitor the take-up of the royal wedding app launched last week by the Mirror, with a voiceover by that doyen of royal correspondents, James Whitaker.
In 1981, he was chasing Diana on a daily basis. In 2011, none of his successors appear to be doing the same. Part of the reason, aside from the lack of public appearances by Kate, is that the press has had to come to terms with its own behaviour since the death of Diana in 1997.
The subsequent change in the editors' code of practice, in which the rules prohibiting harassment were tightened, has had an effect. It choked off the market for paparazzi pictures involving any kind of pursuit.
Clarence House, which oversees the affairs of William, has made judicious use of the Press Complaints Commission's system, in which editors are routinely informed about instances of misbehaviour by freelance photographers.
That mechanism grew up around William and Kate. But it is available to everyone and has been used by many celebrities too. Indeed, it is a reminder that William's whole approach to his position has been aimed at what we might call a de-celebrification of the royal family. In an age of celebrity, it would appear that he is returning
to the 1930s and 40s, to the time of his great-grandfather George VI, to an era of discretion.
Whether this is a conscious act is less clear. Indeed, it is doubtful if he sees it in such terms. But it is patently obvious that he wishes to avoid he and his wife becoming sales-building tabloid fodder. He seeks, if not anonymity, then a large measure of privacy. He will not countenance the nightmare of publicity in which his mother became embroiled. Then again, newspapers appear reluctant to repeat the Diana experience. Consider, for example, the way they helped to create Diana as a fashion icon. From the moment she emerged as Charles's wife-to-be, her clothes became a major feature in daily papers.
Kate, who dresses with an understated classic elegance, has not been subjected to anything like the same kind of attention. There have not been any Kate-alike clothing offers. Papers have not been promoting Middleton wear. Nor has there been any attempt to cast Kate as the leader of some kind of middle-class subculture in the way that Diana was conceived to be the redefining incarnation of the Sloane Ranger phenomenon.
The only speculation about Kate has been over her weight, with some female commentators asking whether she has lost her curves. The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson even went so far as to suggest, on the basis of "very good authority", that Kate was trying to put on weight by "making trips to shops to buy packets of Haribo sweets".
That did remind me of the Diana period but, thus far at least, the subject of her weight has not generated – please forgive the pun – a press feeding frenzy. This is not to say that the wedding itself will not be given huge treatment. Within a week or so, I am sure that endless pages will be devoted to the subject, with special supplements already under way. The marriage is bound to get wall-to-wall coverage.
The Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has already revealed that the paper will produce a supplement the following day and will live-blog the event.
"It will be a nice human story on the day, but we won't go overboard," he said recently. That reaction is unsurprising from the Guardian. What is so different this time is that none of the tabloid papers have gone overboard either.
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