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Photographer: Royals entitled to privacy

By Barry Neild, CNN
  • Queen's lawyers contact newspapers reminding them of privacy obligations
  • Speculation that request could indicate imminent royal engagement
  • Royal photographer agrees there should be limits on paparazzi's conduct
  • Some speculate move is intended to avoid photos of royals hunting

London, England (CNN) -- A warning from Britain's queen over paparazzi intrusions won backing from a leading royal photographer Tuesday as speculation mounted that the move could indicate Prince William's imminent engagement.

Queen Elizabeth's lawyers recently contacted leading UK newspapers, reminding them of privacy obligations under a voluntary press code of conduct, ahead of the family's Christmas gathering at Sandringham House, in eastern England.

Her request also highlights the often uneasy relationship Britain's royals have had with the paparazzi, particularly in the wake of Princess Diana's death in a car crash while being pursued by photographers.

But, say some photographers, it is also an attempt by the royals to prevent unflattering photos of them hunting, an activity that divides opinion in the UK and is often seen as the preserve of the country's privileged classes.

Arthur Edwards, a long-serving royal photographer for the tabloid Sun newspaper, said the queen's request was a timely message ahead of what is expected to be huge interest in a possible royal wedding between William and long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton.

"The fact is, unless it is a genuine story of public interest, there's a problem," he told CNN.

Video: Royal fight for privacy

"If the queen had a road traffic accident or Sandringham House caught fire, or someone had painted swastikas on the walls, then we would be all over it like a rash, but the fact it's just gratuitous pictures of them out shooting pheasants or the queen riding, being bothered by photographers -- she has every right to ask for that."

Edwards said that while press interest in the British royals had waned since the frenzied coverage of Diana, it could be reignited by any impending nuptials.

And though he said photographers would be justified in stepping up their coverage, he insists there should be limits.

"I feel that if Kate Middleton gets engaged to William, then she will one day be queen of Great Britain, therefore it's of genuine interest.

"But when she's coming out a nightclub at two o'clock in the morning, following her through the streets and chasing her to her house and terrifying the life out her is wrong."

Edwards said he believed the queen's warning highlights the concerns of Diana's former husband, Prince Charles, over the wellbeing of their sons William and Harry.

"I suspect it's him more worried about Kate Middleton and future girlfriends of Prince Harry. Because what happened to their mother can't happen again."

He added: "My personal view is that it is fine that those aggressive paparazzi were reined in a bit."

Bookmakers say odds of a 2009 royal engagment have shortened drastically due to heavy betting following the queen's request.

Rupert Adams of William Hill say odds of 12-1 have now been trimmed to 4-1, however he speculated that the queen's message was more likely to be linked to privacy for hunting rather than princely romance.

There has been controversy over recent pictures taken by photographers around the Sandringham estate. Earlier this year Prince Edward was cleared of animal cruelty after he was pictured reprimanding his dogs.

According to one press photographer familiar with the queen's Sandringham estate, the legal warning is closely linked to the royals' desire to limit coverage to carefully coordinated opportunities, particularly at Christmas.

"They're happy to be photographed going to church, but when it comes to killing things, they don't want to be seen," the photographer, who asked not to be identified, said.

He said though certain times of year attracted large numbers of photographers, the images did not sell for huge amounts.

"It's a living," he said.