Are the naked pictures of Prince Harry the first test for a post-Levenson era? Or are the tabloids too scared of the Royals?
No major British newspaper had published pictures of the nude prince by Thursday morning, despite them being published by American website TMZ more than 24 hours before.
The Sun mocked up the pose of the Prince of Wales covering his crown jewels, looking behind him at a topless girl, and wearing a distinctive circular pendant.
The Sun's front page - which does not use the original pictures
Features picture editor Harry Miller, 31, and fashion intern Sophie Henderson, 21, were roped into the strip to recreate the photos for pages 1,4 and 5.
After the pictures first appeared online, legal warnings to the British press were issued by lawyers from Harbottle and Lewis, acting for the Royal Family, and a memo was sent to the Press Complaints Commission.
The PCC Code states it is unacceptable for editors to print pictures of places where individuals have "reasonable expectation of privacy” unless it is in the public interest to publish.
Writing for The Huffington Post UK, former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis said: "Extraordinary scenes are going on this morning in newsrooms and editors offices all over Britain.
"The subject is a set of photos taken of a naked Prince Harry cavorting with naked girls in a Las Vegas hotel room. Extremely interesting in lots of ways, not in itself earth-shattering, but undoubtedly of huge interest to many of the public.
"The paranoia and brain-freeze going on with senior journalists throughout Britain, and starkly evident on Twitter since the story of the pictures broke in the early hours, is whether the British Press DARES to print.
"Nothing to do with journalistic merit, nothing to do with the merits of the story, nothing to do with legal issues, nothing even to do with journalistic ethics...
The decisions are being reached on the basis of: 'What will Lord Leveson think?'"
The models who mocked up Prince Harry's pose for The Sun
Wallis said he would have published the photos at the News of the World.
CNN Royal correspondent Robert Jobson said: 'Surely the British paying public has a right to know what their royal family is up to. But post-Leveson no editor seemed, initially at least, is prepared to risk the backlash.
"They have again been scooped by the digital media.
"This is a dangerous precedent and in my view tantamount to returning to the good old, bad old days of royal reporting when in 1936 American and European newspapers freely reported on the affair of King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson while an establishment deal meant nothing was reported in the British newspapers.
"Censorship of that royal story helped create the hysteria around the abdication crisis, polarising opinion and may even have led to an atmosphere where the king felt he was forced to choose between love and duty."
Sky News showed the video of Prince Harry in a pool in Las Vegas, but did not show the naked pictures
British political blogger Guido Fawkes published the pictures on Order Order, saying underneath; "The truth is the old media have been scared into submission by the Leveson Inquiry.
"This is the third in line to the throne, the son of Prince Charles and one of the biggest names in British public life. Yet not one British newspaper is reporting the story with pictures.
"Nevertheless everyone in Britain will be searching online for these pictures and will find them regardless. The old rules won’t work in the internet age. Fortunately for this blog’s readers, Guido doesn’t care."
The pictures were also on the front page of Ireland's Evening Herald.
Red faced? A legal memo from the Royals has spared the prince's blushes
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie told Newsnight it was a "fantastic" story: "Literally any journalist worth his salt, whether at one end of the market or the other, would have said 'thank you God'.
"It doesn't affect Prince Harry at all, because in a way he is a 28-year-old Army officer, he is single and he is cavorting with ladies who wish to be cavorted with.
"So where are the issues? There are no issues except one: Leveson."
Pictures taken on a camera phone of Prince Harry at a private party in the pool were also published by tabloids
But broadcaster and alleged victim of phone hacking Vanessa Feltz told the programme: "If there is some kind of moral awakening then it's about damn time because there are too many people whose lives have been played fast and loose with for nothing more than a bit of titillation over your Frosties."
The pictures of the prince have now been published by hoards of international websites, including Daily News America, Canada's CBC News, Indian-based Zee News and Hindustan Times, Ireland's Entertainment.ie and CNN International.
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