Privacy and the Princess

Published March 28, 2024

By Lib Campbell

“There is a strange man outside,” Katherine announced, standing by the parlor window… “this man is lurking across the way. Pretending not to notice me while I notice him.” Katherine suspects that what he is holding is a camera.” 
A conversation ensues between young Katherine Force and her mother as they await the arrival of suitor, Colonel Jack Astor. Mother Force prepares to send someone to ask the man, who holds his camera in hand, to leave the premises. Mother Force says, “It would be pleasant to offer Colonel Aster a measure of privacy, at least here in our own house.”
The scene is written by Shana Abe, in her book The Second Mrs. Astor. John Jacob Aster is one of the rich and famous of New York in the early 1900s and, as a divorcee, he is highly sought after. The paparazzi of New York begin hounding Jack and the young woman who would become the second Mrs. Aster. She may be unnerved by such attention, but isn’t anybody who has such celebrity fair game?
People in high places in society, politics, theater, sports, movies, and royalty live in fishbowls. Every burp and guffaw is recorded and videoed to share with a world hungry for insider information and as much dirt as is possible. It garners clicks, and TicTok videos. It fills pages of tabloids like the Enquirer. Apparently, first amendment rights are more valued than privacy. I can tell what you do and what happens to you in private and I will make up the parts I cannot see.
We are watching the unfolding of yet another provocative story of the royal family of England in the revelation that both King Charles and Princess Catherine have cancer. Once again, the English press has pushed the limits of privacy in order to provide fodder for hungry readers and viewers. What they didn’t know, they made up. The conspiracy theories surrounding the health of both the royals were getting out of hand, so Princess Catherine taped a video trying to explain. 
Here's where I find the problem. The medical diagnosis of cancer is heavy for a family to process. It takes time to talk with and comfort little children, two of whom are old enough to read. If they see a sensationalized news report that might scare and upset them, trauma may follow. A family should have enough privacy to deal with all the elements surrounding cancer, treatments, and all the other questions of what they will be going through without constant harassment of the press. 
Transparency is one thing and might be helpful in keeping the dogs off. I will tell you the truth, but the inner details are private for my family and friends whom I invite into my struggle. 
Even when you do not live in a fishbowl, cancer rocks your life. Besides health, you lose any sense of control. You lose modesty. Privacy is on the periphery. You learn a lot about trust. You ask a lot of questions and offer a lot of prayers. You work to preserve who you are in the process of treatment and healing. Princess Catherine is living this, just as any cancer patient does. She and her family need enough privacy to protect themselves from any who seek to exploit or harm them.  
Almost every person in the world walks around with a camera in their pocket. Cameras on phones take studio-quality pictures. Nefarious camera users can do a little photoshop, a little AI change, and upload anything on any platform about anybody they are stalking. There are no real controls for what is real and what is true on any social platforms. Cyber spaces are a new frontier where everybody’s privacy is at risk. 
While a historical record is valuable to the world, gossip, hyperbole, disinformation and conspiracy are not. We apparently have lost the empathy that makes us human. We will sell a story for a buck and the price of a soul. 
The princess deserves privacy. She will tell us what we need to know in her own time. 
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at