The topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge published in a French magazine are a depressing throwback to a squalid era of intrusion and prurience from which the media seemed to have moved on.
They serve no purpose and have no justification. And nobody should need reminding that the Duke’s mother died in France while being pursued like a hunted and beautiful beast by a pack of photographers who continually harassed and hounded her.
These photographs are all about grubby commercial gain and money-making. They will however be excused on the flimsy grounds that they are somehow related to freedom of the press, are in the public interest or, that dishonest nuance, that the fact that people buy the magazine proves it is in the public interest.
There is another gambit too that is increasingly being played in this global internet age. It is that if something is already widely available on the internet – and what is not? – then it is somehow fair game for mainstream publications, on the grounds that everybody has seen it on the internet anyway.
If the law and morality is to be equal for everybody, one way of assessing the rights and wrongs of these matters is to imagine them with ordinary members of the public involved.
Do that, and you see this incident for what it is. If an ordinary member of the public equipped themselves with a long lens camera and then stalked in the bushes to take photographs of a young woman neighbour sunbathing in her back garden, the person with the camera would be liable for arrest for voyeurism and stalking. The young woman would feel invaded and unnerved.
Diana had to go through all this. Some made their money out of her. For her, it led to nothing but misery and tragedy.
The Duchess of Cambridge should be spared.