Kate Middleton

Royal media machine keeps tight control over Prince George's privacy

Buckingham Palace faces dilemma of protecting its privacy while keeping the press on message as it tries to keep pace with 21st century

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 4:46pm

The British monarchy's media machine has handled the birth of the royal baby smoothly but huge challenges lie ahead to protect young Prince George's privacy. The frenzy that erupted when Prince William and his wife, Kate, gave journalists a glimpse of the boy on Tuesday was just a taste of the lifetime of media attention that awaits the future king.

The frenzy that erupted when Prince William and his wife, Kate, gave journalists a glimpse of the boy on Tuesday was just a taste of the lifetime of media attention that awaits the future king.

Buckingham Palace faces a dilemma as it balances the need for privacy with its use of a photogenic new generation of royals to secure the future of an ancient institution in the modern world.

Patrick Jephson, former chief of staff to William's late mother Diana, said the palace had handled the royal birth well so far.

"My impression is that this was a relatively straightforward royal operation which the palace machine handled with its usual smooth efficiency," he said.

The dark decades of scandals and press intrusion that culminated with Diana's death in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi seem far behind today's gilded monarchy.

The royals are on a roll after three successive summers in the spotlight, with William and Kate's wedding in 2011, the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth last year and now the birth of a new third-in-line to the throne.

The palace has in particular used the image of William and Kate as a modern young couple to move the monarchy into the 21st century - and now, with the birth of their son George Alexander Louis, possibly into the 22nd.

Much of that is down to the palace machine run by the queen's private secretary, Christopher Geidt, a former diplomat and military man.

He supervises not only the press offices for the queen but also Clarence House, the residence of heir to the throne Prince Charles, and Kensington Palace, where William and his family live.

The palace's tight control of information was visible when the 200 photographers and correspondents who had been waiting outside St Mary's Hospital for three weeks remained in ignorance for four hours after the birth. His arrival was then announced by e-mail and Twitter.

Breaking the news of the birth fitted perfectly with British newspaper deadlines, with the hospital appearance and announcement both coming at around the same time in the early evening.

The only glimpse of the shadowy media machine was when the queen's press secretary, Ailsa Anderson, posted a bulletin announcing the birth on a golden easel at Buckingham Palace.


The royals and media struck an explicit deal after Diana's death to leave William and his younger brother, Harry, in peace until they were older. In recent years, the palace has reached out to the public on social media.

Maintaining privacy should be easier in the coming months when the new baby is holed up in Kensington Palace, and the public are only likely to see him for the odd official photo shoot.

UK media are still playing by the rules after their methods came under scrutiny in the 2011 tabloid phone-hacking scandal. The palace sued when photos of Kate topless appeared in foreign media in September.

The lineage of King George

The name George has been borne by six British kings, four of whom served in a row.

GEORGE I: The German-born, first king of Britain from the House of Hanover acceded to the throne in 1714 and ruled until his death in 1727. GEORGE II: The last British king to fight alongside his soldiers, at the age of 60. Because his oldest son had died, George II's grandson inherited the throne upon his death in 1760. GEORGE III: Upon succeeding his grandfather, George III ruled for nearly 60 years until his death in 1820. GEORGE IV: Assuming the throne in 1820, he was known as much for his marriage difficulties as for his interest in art. His only legitimate child died in childbirth, so the crown went to his brother upon his death in 1830. GEORGE V: Assumed the throne in 1910. His legacy includes starting the sovereign's annual Christmas Broadcast. He died one year after celebrating his silver jubilee, leaving his son Edward to take the throne. GEORGE VI: The father of Queen Elizabeth was the most recent King George. His first name was Albert, but he used George - his fourth name - as sovereign in honour of his father, George V, and to create stability and continuity in the monarchy following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. Associated Press