t’s been a tough few weeks for the British Royal Family. First there was the release of multiple nude photos of Prince Harry indiscriminately partying with a few salacious women in Las Vegas. Roughly a week later, the Duchess of Cambridge was photographed sunbathing topless at a private chateau in France by a photographer armed with camera equipped with a long range lens. A lawsuit is currently being filed against the publishing of the Middleton photos by a French magazine while legal notices were sent to the British press warning them not to publish the photos of Prince Harry’s naked escapades. The British tabloid The Sun broke precedent in running the photos of Harry but does not appear to be facing legal action from the Royal Family at this time.
So far thousands of complaints have been lodged against The Sun for publishing the photos to the Press Complaints Commission. Loyalists to the Royal Family were dismayed over their release. Palace officials were reportedly suffering from “acute embarrassment.” Here, the man third in the line to the British throne was caught in a playboy-like caper befitting for a young, boozing celebrity instead of a member of the crown. To the press, this was incredibly damaging to the family’s reputation. There is an urging for the family’s legal representatives to take action as they have done with the Middleton photos. The problem is that a case can be conceivably made that Middleton had her privacy violated while the prince voluntarily sought out women to engage in his crude idea of recreation.
The question then becomes, should Prince Harry have a right to his reputation?
The answer is that in a free society, there would be no right to reputation. A reputation, as Murray Rothbard explains, is made out of the pure subjective thoughts of others. It is not a physical object that can be justifiably gained and regarded as property.
For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s “reputation” is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s “reputation” is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.
From the view of human liberty, the nude prince photo scandal is actually quite welcome. Prince Harry, by virtue of his royal ties, represents the British monarchy of the past. And it is under a system of rule by the crown that one man’s authority takes precedence over the rights of others. It is a system of governance totally antithetical to any notion of natural rights. Because it rejects the idea that every man is the owner of his body, monarchy rejects the basis of human life itself.
For whatever reason, the Royal Family is still regarded as sacrosanct in England. The failure of the British press to report on the photo incident shows just how much deference is still given over to the family. But the incident is revealing of the chink-in-the-armor that always haunted the minds of kings in the days of feudalism. The photos of Prince Harry’s debauchery reveal that he is indeed human and subject to the same vices and pleasures as the everyday street bum.
Judging by the prominence of tabloids, gossip rags, and coverage of sexual scandals, man seems drawn to the humiliation of others typically viewed as famous or of higher authority. This may stem for a number of reasons but instances which reveal the innate humanness of someone considered extraordinary tends to bring them a down in a peg in the public’s view. Since state power in practice is a small band of men claiming the right to use force over the masses, it relies on consent with an aura of respect and prestige. In other words, those within the offices of government must present themselves as having the highest of integrity for which to rule. Monarchies, republics, and democracies differ little in this regard.
As philosopher Herbert Spencer described it
The great political superstition of the past was the divine right of kings. The great political superstition of the present is the divine right of parliaments.
Though Prince Harry (or any of the royal family for that matter) is in no position to have a significant impact on the British government, the indignity of the nude photo incident thankfully shows just how human the prince really is. The British press may be doing their best to protect the reputation of the Royal Family but Brits themselves are enjoying it and rightfully so. Once again, the prince has demonstrated he is just another man; his blood does not grant him intrinsic nobility. Once public officials are regarded in the same manner, great progress will be made toward a free society.