Can royal couple outfox the paparazzi?

Photographers near the perimeter of RAF Valley in Anglesey, north Wales May 3, 2011

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have begun their honeymoon at a destination widely reported to be in the Seychelles. But having tried to keep the location secret, can they still avoid the attentions of the paparazzi?

There is near insatiable demand across the world for pictures of the royal couple.

And there will be paparazzi who will be desperate to get long-lens shots of William and Catherine on the beach during their honeymoon.

The Palace has asked for the couple to be left alone, with the privacy debate having intensified in recent days after the publication of five-year-old photos of them on a yacht off Ibiza, prompting an appeal to the Press Complaints Commission. A month before the yacht pictures, Carole and Pippa Middleton also complained informally to the PCC that they'd been harassed by snappers on mopeds.

Secrecy has shrouded William and Catherine's honeymoon plans but speculation that they are in the Seychelles appears to have been confirmed by the tourist board there. Which of the 115 islands in the Seychelles archipelago they are on is not clear.

Royal privacy issues

  • 1992: Sarah Ferguson pictured sunbathing topless with friend and financial adviser John Bryan
  • 1993: Princess Diana sues over photos taken of her in gym
  • 1997: Diana photographed with Dodi on board yacht
  • 1999: Newspaper prints topless picture of Sophie, Countess of Wessex

But with only four of them privately owned, it may not take the paparazzi long to track them down. Already the German property mogul Farhad Vladi has been quoted in a Hamburg paper saying that the couple are renting North Island, which he owns.

The royal couple and their aides will have made careful efforts to keep their honeymoon under wraps.

"It's unfortunate when you're the hottest couple in the world, there's a huge demand for pictures and stories," says the Sun's Royal photographer Arthur Edwards.

But he believes that Prince William is capable of keeping their honeymoon bolthole private. "William is an old hand at dodging photographers. And if anyone invades their privacy they're not going to take it lying down, they'll fight back."

Only three people will have known where they were heading, Edwards guesses - and the Queen and Prince Harry might not have been part of the privileged triumvirate. "William is media savvie. He keeps things to himself, Catherine and his private secretary."

Gentlemen's agreement

The prince will be determined to avoid a repeat of the pattern in which his mother Diana had her privacy repeatedly breached, Edwards says. "He's a clever guy, he'll do it his way. He won't let what happened to his mother happen to his wife."

In any case a number of British papers appear to have a gentlemen's agreement with the Royal Family, vowing not to publish any honeymoon pictures that have not been officially released by St James's Palace.

Mark Borkowski, founder and head of Borkowski PR, believes that after giving the media what they want at the wedding, including two kisses on the balcony and the Aston Martin moment, the press will reward them with peace and quiet.

The way the duchess's wedding dress was kept under wraps before the big day suggests the royal household are good at keeping secrets. A couple of publications guessed it would be Sarah Burton, but the design itself was successfully concealed.

And Katie Nicholl, royal editor of the Mail on Sunday, says that William and Catherine have a strong record in keeping their plans secret. Not only was there the stag do - which no-one found out about until later - but their engagement in Kenya last year was kept hush-hush.

Catherine and William the day after the royal wedding William and Catherine are a major paparazzi target

There are a range of tactics they might employ for keeping out prying eyes, she says. Hotels can be booked under false names, "intricate" flight plans make them hard to follow and any destination would be recced by their security team.

They would want to stay on a private island as it allows the local navy to stop paparazzi getting to shore, she says.

The gentlemen's agreement should see British newspapers behave, but there are two groups who won't play ball, Borkowski warns. "If there's a bounty on their heads, it doesn't stop rogue foreign photo agencies. And now that everyone's got a camera on their phones it's hard to avoid pictures even in remote places."

But fellow PR man Max Clifford says that attempting to keep complete secrecy would be an own goal for the honeymoon couple. Not only do the media need royal stories to sell papers, Buckingham Palace needs the media to help rebrand the monarchy, he believes.

"They need the support of the media. These youngsters are the future of the monarchy, they had a tremendously successful wedding and they need to keep the momentum going."

For Clifford there is an easy solution that would suit both parties. A few days into the honeymoon, they should give over two or three hours for the media to get the pictures they want. "That's the way it should be done. 'Thank you, you've got your pictures now leave us alone.'"

It would give the press something, allow the Royals to keep control of the images, and ensure that the couple's privacy is respected for the rest of the holiday. Such a compromise used to be a regular part of skiing holidays in Klosters. In exchange for being left in peace on the slopes, Prince Charles and his sons would pose for the assembled press corps in an organised session.

But Nicholl, who wrote The Making of a Royal Romance, disagrees. "I think a photocall is very unlikely. They want to be left in peace, this is the last holiday they'll have in total seclusion."

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