Queen writes to editors over paparazzi

LONDON Sun Dec 6, 2009 1:39am GMT

Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at the airport in Port of Spain before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting November 26, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at the airport in Port of Spain before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting November 26, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Wattie

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LONDON (Reuters) - The Queen has written to newspaper and magazine editors over the issue of paparazzi photographers intruding on the royal family's privacy, Buckingham Palace said on Sunday.

"The letter was sent to editors in response to many years of the royal family being hounded by photographers on the Queen's private property," her press office said.

There were no details of the contents of the "private and not for publication" letter, sent by a royal lawyer on the queen's behalf, or when it was sent.

But the Sunday Telegraph said the royals were now ready to take legal action if photographers took pictures of them while they were "off duty."

It said they could sue for breach of privacy or take action under protection of harassment laws.

"Members of the royal family feel they have a right to privacy when they are going about everyday, private activities," said Paddy Harverson, spokesman for the queen's son Prince Charles.

"They recognise there is a public interest in them and what they do, but they do not think this extends to photographing the private activities of them and their friends."

The royal family have long had a strained relationship with the media, especially after the death of Charles's first wife Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi photographers.

In recent years Diana's eldest son Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton have found themselves targeted by press and magazine photographers.

Taking legal action would see the royals following in the footsteps of Princess Caroline of Monaco, who won 10,000 euros (9,011 pounds) in damages at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2005 over German press photos of her and her family.

The court backed Caroline's claim that the pictures had violated her right to respect for her private life.

The first test of the new royal stance is likely to come later this month when the queen is joined by other members of the royal family during her regular Christmas visit to her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, in eastern England.

In the past, freelance photographers have spent hours on the estate, whose gardens are open to the public, with long distance lenses hoping to snatch a photo of the royals at play, the Sunday Telegraph noted.

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