Kate Middleton photo proves Meghan Markle right

In a blow to the opinions of writers everywhere, Sigmund Freud never actually said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (It’s number 67 in our official union handbook of lazy story openers).

But sometimes a grainy pap shot of two women on a gray British day is much, much, much more than a grainy pap shot.

The major, breaking news being bellowed by every newspaper, website, magazine and two-bit Twitter account purporting to ‘know’ things about the royal family is that Kate the Princess of Wales is alive! Alive you hear!

There, in the new image, was Kate being driven in an Audi by her mother Carole Middleton, the two women wearing slightly dyspeptic faces and dark sunnies.

Somehow this otherwise banal photo has managed to show up not only Prince Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but Kensington Palace equally too.

When that shot appeared online, the staffers of Kensington Palace in their well-cut washable wool reportedly swung into action, I’m imagining, like Hannibal crossing the alps.

The British media, having wiped the brown sauce and cynicism off their hands, didn’t run, salivating, towards this shot to slap it on their front pages but instead decided with a certain degree of sanctimoniousness, not to run it, although there has been been plenty of reporting about its existence and back-patting at their restraint.

Was that the sound of a vegan oat super latte hitting an off-white Montecito wall?

Meghan, these days is better known for not launching a website and for faithfully being papped out to lunch slash dinner slash mimosa brunch done up in half of Max Mara’s current season floor stock while Harry does … Harry things. (Mend the chicken coop? Play Fortnite? Ponder the nature of forgiveness and trust and loss while staring off into the middle distance instead of learning how to write a TV script?)

But, for the past few years, the Sussexes have been better known as two people on a self-appointed, self-righteous crusade against the British press.

They are, in the words of Harry, the “devil”.

“The clicking of cameras and the flashing of cameras makes my blood boil,” he told Oprah Winfrey. “It makes me angry and takes me back to what happened to my mother and my experience as a child.”

And let there be no bones about it. The duke has reason to feel this way. Throughout his childhood, teenage years and 20s at least, his life, his relationships, his mental health were clearly affected by a rapacious British press.

Speaking to ITV’s Tom Bradby, the 39-year-old said that “certain members of the family” “have decided to get in the bed”, that is, the tabloid press.

Rewind to 2011, the UK’s phone hacking scandal broke, bringing down the News of the World, triggering the Leveson Inquiry and ushering in a whole new way of doing things. It was the first time that the UK government had stepped in to regulate the press since the 17th century.

It’s something of a brave new (or at least better) world now, one where a princess lives in the very center of London and only a couple of hundred meters away from the Daily Mail‘s offices yet are rarely photographed. And even then, very rarely with her children.

The days of the pack of bloodthirsty paps hunting a teary princess down the back streets of Knightsbridge are thankfully long gone.

And yet, for the better part of the past five years, the duke has waged a one-man crusade, launching lawsuits against the parent companies of the Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sunhowever all of the cases center on alleged phone hacking and illegal information gathering between 1996 and 2011.

What this Kate photo situation proves is that the Sussexes’ favorite villain of the piece turns out to not be quite so villainous these days.

Although obviously far from perfect, the fact still remains that the British press has grown up. Can the same be said for Harry?

This story can’t end here however, because there is another capital ‘L’ lesson to be drawn from the Kate shot. Because if this has shown up Harry, so too has it shown up the palace’s treatment of Meghan.

The duchess has repeatedly charged that the palace machinery failed to protect her from the press. To her telling, the palace wholesale left her to fend off the wolves of the media alone, without so much as even a sharpened stick.

What has become clear is that Kate was this week being looked after by the higher powers and clever minds of Crown Inc. Emily Andrews, the Sun‘s former royal correspondent, posted on X that the palace had “exerted huge pressure on the British media NOT to publish the pic”.

So, on one hand we have a princess currently in the middle of an extended period of sickness leaving as she recuperates after abdominal surgery, for whom the palace has pulled out the stops, and on the other a duchess who feels like she was being eaten alive left to fend for herself.

Now, I have to say, these are all very apples and oranges. The Kate situation involves privacy during historic sick leave. The Meghan one revolves around leader writers and journalists churning out critical copy about things like her six-figure, celebrity-crammed baby shower and she and Harry flitting about the Med in private jets while the duke was busy piously banging on about his eco travel initiative . (Whatever happened to that?)

An intrusion into a private space after having surgery versus the middle-aged British commentariat pointing out the gaucheness of afternoon macarons with Amal Clooney or the hypocrisy of Uncle Elton footing the bill for a private jet flight to Nice are different beasts.

Still. What Kensington Palace has accidentally proven this week is that when they want to do something to help, they can. Feel free to draw your own conclusions here.

Meghan has every right to, this weekend, enjoy a long, wry laugh.

Al Gore was right. The truth can be very inconvenient, no matter which side of the Pond you live on.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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