The frenzied level of attention Princess Diana received from the British press was unprecedented. But despite her death and the promises made in the wake of it, her family has continued to clash with the press ever since.
The Princess of Wales died 20 years ago this month as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash, as she and her partner Dodi al Fayed were being pursued by members of the paparazzi.
The inquest into her death ultimately found that she and al-Fayed were unlawfully killed by a combination of the driving of chauffeur Henri Paul, who was found to be intoxicated at the time, and the actions of the mob of photographers. The inquest jury also specified that the passengers’ failure to wear seatbelts also contributed to their deaths.
In the following years, the royals’ relationship with the press became exceptionally guarded, with Princes William and Harry particularly clashing with the media.
Some, such as royal commentator and journalist Christopher Wilson, are exceptionally critical of this. He told HuffPost UK: “Have they learned any lessons? Well you have to ask ‘what lessons are there to be learned?’.
“The press didn’t kill Diana.
“There was a huge public outcry over her death which the press covered and of course you could say it fanned the flames, but there’s a duty, a responsibility of the press in a free and democratic society to reflect the way that people feel and behave.
“I don’t know that the press had an awful lot to learn. What they did do was show a bit more respect for a time, but then a lot of red rags have been waved around, both by the press but also by the royal family. I’m particularly thinking of the news management team at Clarence House and Kensington Palace, I’m talking about William and Harry’s people, who are determined to show their contempt for the people who report on them.”
He explained: “They are very, very tight on news management. They won’t tell people what they’re doing on how they’re doing it. At the same time what they want is public approbation, when they’ve got something they want a story for, they expect everybody to come and interview them.”
Commentator and biographer Richard Fitzwilliams told HuffPost he believed that the press were less vociferous now, saying: “The paparazzi and press intrusion is still an issue, but it’s certainly not the issue that it was when Diana was alive.”
Following her death, Fleet Street newspaper editors agreed to no longer use paparazzi pictures of the royals, but, Wilson added, it didn’t last long: “Today all you have to do is look at the MailOnline and the clickbait and you can see that that was a dream which didn’t last very long.”
Since her death there have been some high-profile incidents when the royals have still clashed with the press...
Prince Harry gets into a scuffle with paparazzi
The 20-year-old prince was involved in a scuffle with paparazzi outside a nightclub in London’s West End in 2003.
Royal officials said that Harry, who was left with a cut lip, was hit in the face with a camera, the BBC reported at the time.
The photographer, Chris Uncle, told the Evening Standard a different story, saying: “Prince Harry looked like he was inside the car and we were all still taking pictures.
“Then suddenly he burst out of the car and lunged towards me as I was still taking pictures. He lashed out and then deliberately pushed my camera into my face.”
Treatment of the Duchess of Cambridge while she was dating Prince William
This wasn’t strictly the royal family but it does concern someone who would go on to become a member.
Kate Middleton, as she was then known, was the subject of intense press interest while dating Prince William, after the two met while studying at the University of St Andrews.
The Middleton family lawyers asked the Press Complaints Commission (the then-press regulator) to circulate a letter fin which it was claimed Carole and Pippa Middleton were “pursued” and “harassed” by photographers.
Fitzwilliams told HuffPost UK: “If you look at the way that Kate was harassed during the period that she was going out with William, I think there were some pretty awful scenes there.”
Pictures published of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless
In 2012, while the Duchess of Cambridge was holidaying with Prince William at a chateau in the south of France, paparazzi took images of her sunbathing topless using long-range lenses.
The images were published by the French edition of Closer magazine, local newspaper La Provence and Italian magazine Chi.
The royal couple sued Closer and La Provence in a French court, a case which is still ongoing.
In a statement read to the court, Prince William slammed the “clandestine way these photographs were taken”, adding that it had been “all the more painful” because of the his mother’s experience of the media and the nature of her death.
Wilson has less time for this, telling HuffPost UK: “Did they go too far or should he made sure that she was somewhere where she wasn’t going to be seen? Therefore was that her responsiblity? The responsiblity of the police protection officers?”
The incident still continues to prompt debate over what expectations of privacy the royals - and indeed anyone - should be able to expect.
Prince Harry photographed naked in a Las Vegas hotel room
Prince Harry hit the headlines in 2012 when pictures of him playing “strip billiards” in a hotel room in Las Vegas appeared in The Sun, despite a request form St James’ Palace not to publish them.
Speaking after the incident, he said: “At the end of the day I was in a private area and there should be a certain amount of privacy that one should expect.”
Fitzwilliams said he didn’t think the incident was really of any great consequence.
He said: “It did him no harm at all, he was fiercely resentful. It was passed off by most people that it was ‘one of those things’”.
Paparazzi use disturbing tactics to photograph Prince George
In 2015, Kensington Palace issued one of its strongest warnings to date about photographing Prince George, detailing “disturbing” incidents where members of the paparazzi have gone to extreme lengths to photograph the young boy, including hiding in the boot of a vehicle, obscuring themselves in sand dunes and using other children as bait.
The palace described a series of “increasingly dangerous” tactics used by members of the paparazzi in order to obtain images of the young prince.
The palace said in a statement: “Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince George.
“Police discovered him lying down in the boot of the vehicle attempting to shoot photos with a long lens through a small gap in his hide.
“It is of course upsetting that such tactics – reminiscent as they are of past surveillance by groups intent on doing more than capturing images – are being deployed to profit from the image of a two-year old boy.
“The worry is that it will not always be possible to quickly distinguish between someone taking photos and someone intending to do more immediate harm.”
Although Fitzwilliam said he thought the paparazzi behaviour was “completely unacceptable”, Wilson was less forgiving, saying: “As a two-year-old, he’s probably the better protected than any other single two-year-old in the country and if there’s a chink in the armour, perhaps the royal family should be looking to see how they could stop up that chink.”
The treatment of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle
In 2016, Prince Harry issued a strongly-worded statement following rumours that he was dating actress Meghan Markle, claiming she had been subjected to “sexism” and “racism”.
The statement referenced Harry’s relatively warm relationship with the media, even though “he has never been comfortable” about their interest in his private life.
It went on: “But the past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public - the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm… This is not a game - it is her life and his.”
Fitzwilliams told HuffPost that he felt the letter was “reasonable”.
He said: “I thought it was perfectly reasonable and he gave a whole list of examples of the way she and her family were being harassed in one way or another by the press.”