A video of Prince William confronting a photographer has highlighted a huge problem facing the palace as the young prince ages.
In the 1990s, there was no more exclusive bar in the world than Club H.
This wasn’t just another overpriced members’ club, where the It Girls of the decade would drop out of their doors, their pupils pinpricked and their Galliano slips tucked into underpants.
Instead, Club H’s clientele consisted solely of guys with names like Hugh and whose pedigree was such that they could tell you whether their family had sided with the Cavaliers or the Roundheads during the English Civil War.
Club H was, of course, the creation of none other than Prince Charles whose biggest claim to dissipation was being caught ordering a brand of cherry in a pub at the age of 14. (Really.)
The idea was simple and clever: He had two teenage sons who inevitably started experimenting with booze.
Instead of doing so within the tabloids’ far-flung lens range, Charles instead created the boys’ own nightclub in the basement of his Highgrove estate.
Which brings us to the video that hit social media this week, which shows Prince William engaging in an angry confrontation with a man as he filmed the prince going on a bike ride with his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children.
The three-minute clip was shot near their Norfolk estate last year, but was mysteriously uploaded to YouTube only a few days ago. †The Telegraph reported that lawyers for the Cambridges had been in contact with the man who shot the video after the confrontation took place.)
Kensington Palace has said the video violates the family’s privacy and the royal outfit had reportedly asked the social media site to remove the video.
What this situation highlights is the delicate balancing act the Cambridges have managed to stagger when it comes to protecting their children’s privacy – a balancing act, that is, whose days are clearly numbered.
Not to be too ominous, but this video is kind of a harbinger that William and Kate should definitely be concerned about.
Rewind to 2013, when Prince George was born, and the relationship between the Royal Family and Fleet Street was a world away from where it is today.
Months after the baby’s arrival, snappers followed Kate as she walked her son in his stroller through Hyde Park or when George was taken by the family’s nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo. From day one he had a target on his small back when it came to the more predatory elements of the press corps.
In one case, as Kensington Palace explained, a photographer had placed himself in a darkened vehicle, “provided with food and drink to help him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hopes of snapping pictures of Prince George.” Police found him lying in the trunk of the vehicle while trying to take pictures with a long lens through a small opening in his skin.
The “tactics used” [to get photos] are becoming more and more dangerous,” warned then Cambridge communications secretary Jason Knauf.
So the palace and the press struck a deal: the newspapers wouldn’t hunt George or newborn Princess Charlotte and let them grow up in peace, and in return the Cambridges would regularly hand out adorable cake photos of their children.
Think of it as a type of relaxation and one that has generally lasted the better part of a decade.
However, that compact can and will only last a limited time.
For starters, while George, Charlotte and Louis are small, it’s much easier to shield their young lives from the media.
From school to playdates to tennis lessons at the Hurlingham Club, William and Kate (and Maria of course) can lead them around the place in a completely controlled manner. The possibilities for the children to have their picture taken are very limited.
That will all change when they become teenagers who want to do things on their own. Not only that, it will be teenagers surrounded by other kids or even adults who are all using smartphones.
What would Club H have been like if the guys drinking lager had all had high-resolution cameras in their pockets?
What Charles did in founding Club H was to create a sanctuary where his sons could make the stupid teenage mistakes that are an essential part of growing up away from the pushy crowd.
The advent of smartphones and social media will mean that this is a luxury that the youngsters of the Duke and Duchess of Camrbidge will never know.
Unlike William and Prince Harry as teenagers, the Cambridge children will never be able to enter a single room and know that there are undeniably no cameras; there will be no real safe space.
The other factor here is how the press will approach George’s teenage years. The unofficial deal between Kensington Palace and the major editors was intended to give not only the young prince, but also his siblings a chance to grow up away from the glare and exposure of the daily media spotlight.
But at what age will newspapers and magazines begin to see them as fair game?
In July, George will be nine years old, which means his parents are only four years away from being a teenager, multiplying all the headaches of raising an adolescent by 77 thousand. Most parents are concerned that their children have smuggled an illegal Bacardi and Coke because they have no pictures of their child prying, Bacardi and Coke said blowing up on the internet.
This week, when this William video surfaced, Kensington Palace sprang into action and it is now impossible to find the video.
But it’s not like the royal family can go this route every time George shows up at a party at age 16, is filmed shooting flaming sambuca shots by a dozen different people and all those videos are shared on social media before the prince may realize that he has singed his eyebrows.
At 13, George and his cronies will all be old enough to create Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Even if he surrounds himself with trusted allies, how long would it be before a hugely embarrassing photo is stolen from the cloud or someone named Araminta’s phone is hacked?
The sad state of affairs is that, as much as William and Kate love and want to protect their children, George, Charlotte and Louis are all facing possibly the most exposed adolescence of all royal children ever.
Here’s an idea. It has been reported that the Cambridge family could move to Windsor Castle if the Queen dies.
All the Duke and Duchess have to do is find a cell left over from Oliver Cromwell’s time, line it with lead (or whatever), and put it in a mini fridge full of UDLs to make a cage-bowl- Faraday bar for their children.
It won’t fix all of this, but the future King George VII will one day be able to take down alcopops at an alarming rate and then indulge in Queen Victoria’s favorite rosebushes without it trending on Twitter.
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years experience working with a number of leading Australian media titles.