Thursday, February 9, 2012

Princess Caroline and Privacy Rights

Unfortunately, the latest word is that HRH Princess Caroline has lost her court case against the German magazine Frau im Spiegel which she had taken to the European Court of Human Rights in 2008. This is unfortunate because of the principle involved, it is certainly no great tragedy (the House of Grimaldi has plenty of experience dealing the real ones) but may have far-reaching consequences concerning who does or does not have a right to privacy and how far such rights go. It may have an impact on the case recently filed by Charlotte against the paparazzi, we will just have to wait and see and hope for the best. This did distress me though as, because of the principle involved as well as my own fondness for the princess, I was really hoping our Caro would take that mag to the cleaners and send a warning to all the other unscrupulous gossip rags in the world who have made an art of the invasion of privacy. I am a big believer in two basic rights: the right to private property and the right to privacy and I think we would live in a better world if everyone could at least respect those two rights.

Alas, however, we do not and privacy issues involving royals can be a little bit thorny. Many people would say that a lack of privacy is simply the price that has to be paid for some of the other perks that come with royal status. There is also no denying the fact that the attention royals draw is often harnessed by them to use their status to raise awareness of important issues, causes and to raise money for worthwhile charities all around the world. That is certainly true and some would say that a lack of privacy must be accepted as going with the territory of being a royal or a celebrity or any sort of public figure or public servant. I would disagree, at least to an extent, with that assertion.

This is because, as I see it, royals are in an entirely different ballpark than celebrities or politicians. Although I think everyone deserves some standard of privacy, the difference to me is that celebrities and politicians freely chose professions that come with scrutiny. In the case of celebrities, they deliberately court public attention because their celebrity status is what gives them the “rich and famous” lifestyle they crave. If no one cared about them their music or movies wouldn’t sell and they’d be just like the poor slobs they scorn. With politicians, they are public servants who rule and exercise power on behalf of the public so scrutiny of them and their actions is not only expected but, I think, necessary. For royals, on the other hand, it is an entirely different story. They didn’t ask to be royals; they were born into the position. They didn’t seek fame or notoriety, it just came with their birth certificate. In most cases they hold no actual power over anyone and this is certainly the case with Princess Caroline. It is even more the case with Charlotte who actually has no title and no official position at all.

Princess Caroline, it is important to note, brought this case against a German magazine. The Federal Republic of Germany does not recognize her title as Princess of Hanover (nor does it recognize the title of her erstwhile husband Ernst August IV) and when in Germany she should be entitled to the same rights to privacy as any ordinary citizen or foreign visitor because, legally, that is all she is in that country. The way I see it, some amount of public attention is certainly to be expected but especially when it comes to photographs it does not seem to me that the public would be harmfully deprived if the attention was limited to official events and appearances. Private time is private and family moments should be sacrosanct. I’m sorry the European Court of Human Rights doesn’t see it that way. Regardless of what titles or status someone holds they are just as human and you or I and should be accorded the same rights, including privacy, as anyone else.

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