THE Duchess of Cambridge giggled yesterday as she was garlanded by bare-breasted teenage girls on the Solomon Islands.
How ironic that at about the same time, lawyers were taking up cudgels against a French magazine for publishing grainy shots of Kate sunbathing topless.
Those snatched photographs and the battle to repress them have led the national news bulletins for days. Was so much ever made of so little – and yet what is this young couple to do? Should they dismiss the intrusion as beneath contempt or come out fighting as they have done?
The international furore has been a harsh lesson for a young woman who has until now been a model of decorum.
I've always thought of the Middletons as modern-day versions of Jane Austen's Bennet sisters with Pippa as the captivating Elizabeth and Kate the quieter Jane. I thought she and Prince William were clever in making their lives so wholesome as to stun the media into bored inactivity.
Would it have stayed that way if she hadn't taken her top off? I think so.
As it is, yesterday's litigation could be but the start of a long and expensive legal battle that may spill from the French into the Italian, Irish and Greek courts.
It has the potential to vie with Jarndyce v Jarndyce (the endlessly ruinous litigation in Dickens's Bleak House).
The entire British press is sucking its teeth in disapproval of foreign celebrity magazines. Even Richard Desmond (sometimes referred to as a "porn baron") has gathered up his skirts in horror and threatened to take flight from his part ownership of the tabloid that published the pictures in Dublin.
The Duchess of Cambridge has – all agree – suffered an intolerable invasion of privacy. She is rightly wounded and infuriated. There is no public interest served in the publication of her photographs. Therefore there is no justification.
But let's be honest. Just as she must have wished her brother-in-law had more common sense than to lose at strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel, she must know that this stramash started with her decision to sunbathe topless.
Would there be headlines and court cases if she had been wearing all of her bikini? I very much doubt it.
It is an unfortunate fact that one downside of owning the womb that will carry the Windsor dynasty forward is that the world has a fixation on your body.
Kate should count herself lucky she didn't marry in the 15th or 16th century. Then she would have had witnesses in the bed chamber on her wedding night.
In that blunter world the couple's sheets would have been examined for signs of healthy activity. Her under clothing too would have been inspected – and the contents of the royal chamber pot.
There would have been no cottage in Wales, no freedom to go shopping for wetsuits and nights out at the local cinema.
All this is currently the right of the inheritors of the throne. They've had happy and intrusion-free university years. They've had a private and untroubled start to their marriage. They can sail on in similar fashion for the rest of their run-up to the throne. But there is a caveat.
They need to behave well at all times. To that end they would do us all a favour if they kept their kit on when out of doors, however private the setting.
It's unfair I know, but it's surely a small compromise. Invasion of privacy is a big principle but the incident that triggered it is not.
Already this summer we've had Prince Harry's bottom causing a furore. The difference is that he was in a hotel with a bunch of strangers and their camera phones. She was on a private estate with her husband.
But she must also be aware that one day she will be queen of a multi-racial country. Many of her subjects will find topless sunbathing offensive. I'm not saying that she should live by any standards but her own. However, just as she has modified her dress so as to respect other cultures during this tour, so she will need to be mindful here.
This invasion of his wife's privacy is a red rag to Prince William. His mother was, in his opinion, hounded to death by the press. She was photographed relentlessly and intrusively. That experience is firing his determination to nip this incursion in the bud.
That's understandable. It's also right.
To be condemned to a life without privacy is a torment worthy of the Greek myths. No human being should be subjected to it. And if faced with a choice between the throne under perpetual harassment and the potential anonymity of abdication, I know which I would choose.
By going after the photographer, by seeking fines from the publishers, the royal couple will go some way to protecting themselves. They will make foreign snappers and their editors think twice next time.
There is still the internet. There's YouTube. But first there has to be the photograph and without payment from magazines there's less incentive.
By continuing to live in a modest way in private and by displaying warmth during public duties, they will keep the British public on their side. That's their greatest protection. For more than money, editors fear losing the good will of their readers.
It would however be unwise to whinge. The role of this handsome and fortunate couple is to be dutiful and where possible to sprinkle stardust, the way the young Kennedys did in America. People accepted their privilege because they bathed in reflected glory.
So l hope William and Kate keep this legal battle sharp but short. They've demonstrated that they won't become passive victims of the prying lens. But they must accept that prevention is better than cure.
The more they tailor their habits to the realisation that their lives will increasingly be lived in the public eye – and that the eye will sometimes have a long lens – the more freedom they will enjoy.
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