A tabloid on Thursday splashed paparazzi pictures of Prince William on the ski slopes with a young woman described as his girlfriend, earning the displeasure of royal aides.
The five pages of pictures of William and dark-haired Kate Middleton in The Sun are the first major breach of an agreement struck between the royals and the press to leave the sons of Prince Charles out of the limelight.
The publication of the photos suggested it could now be open season on the photogenic 22-year-old prince, who is second in line to the British throne.
“We’re very unhappy with the breach of the agreement and the use of the paparazzi pictures,” said Charles’ communications secretary, Paddy Harverson. “I’m asking newspapers to continue to abide by the agreement.”
Charles’ Clarence House office had hoped that in allowing the media to snap pictures of Charles and William enjoying the slopes of Klosters during the weekend, it would ensure the royals were left alone for the rest of their vacation in the Swiss resort.
But under the Page 1 headline, “Finally ... Wills gets a girl,” The Sun published a picture of William smiling at Kate Middleton.
The tabloid said the pair met at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland and have been “an item” since Christmas.
It said Middleton has visited Charles’ country estate, Highgrove, in southwest England three times, and has met the heir to the throne and received the approval of his longtime escort, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Newspapers agreed after the 1997 death of William’s mother, Princess Diana, that they would leave William and his younger brother, Harry, alone in return for occasional photo opportunities.
So far, they have been happy with one photograph per semester of William, who is studying geography at St. Andrews.
When Charles was William’s age, he was the subject of a newspaper frenzy every time he was seen with a woman.
But in an editorial, The Sun said publishing the pictures had been in the public interest, since William, at 22, is now an adult.
“One of William’s girlfriends could become queen one day,” it opined. “Her subjects will be entitled to know all about her.”
Clarence House refused to comment on the relationship between William and Middletown.
“We are not going to get into discussion about the nature of his friendships,” said a spokeswoman.
The royal staff indicated that The Sun may be barred from future photo events as a result of its action, but the spokeswoman said no decision had been made.