That tradition effectively ended after the disastrous 2005 trip to Klosters, when a still mic?d-up Prince Charles famously said of BBC royal correspondent Nick Witchell ?I can?t bear that man, I mean, he?s so awful, he really is.? And then the Daily Mirror?s Emily Nash wormed her way into the young princes? social group and revealed their partying antics.
Some might say the press forfeited its right to future invitations. No wonder, they might say, the Cambridges allowed only the veteran Press Association photographer John Stillwell ? who they?d trusted to picture Prince George on his first birthday ? to come to Courchevel.
But the pattern of press blackout goes much further. Since becoming a mother, the Duchess has largely preferred to release photos of Prince George and Princess Charlotte that she has taken herself. The Cambridges have stepped up their efforts to block publication of pictures which they claim are invasive, even when taken in public places. ?They have tried to create a new law of privacy around Kate and squashed pictures of her that have been taken quite legitimately,? one senior Fleet Street figure told me.
Ipso ruled in favour of Prince Andrew when he complained over press photos of his house being prepared for a Disney-themed party for his daughter Princess Eugenie. Repeated complaints from William led to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin imposing a permanent no-fly zone over Anmer Hall, the Cambridges? 10-bedroom home on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
While it?s perfectly understandable that William wants to protect his wife from the fate suffered by his mother, it?s something else to expect to live by different laws from the rest of society. The press now talks of the ?Middleton Rules?, shaped by William with Kate?s father, Michael, and intended to shield the Cambridges from the public gaze.
Hostility is growing. William is the subject of a press campaign, led by The Sun, which denounces him as workshy for his lack of public engagements and his 20-hour week as an air ambulance man. Kate is the ?Invisible Princess?.
It?s not just the press fighting for survival here. The Cambridges represent the future of the monarchy. Without the support of such once-fervently royalist titles such as The Sun, the Mail and the Express, that?s a future which is less certain. ?The public are turning on these two,? said one Henley-on-Thames commentator to Mail Online?s coverage of the ski blackout. ?Once the Queen goes, the Royal Family will fall apart.?
Kate is not Diana. Her front page pictures do not sell newspapers (though the children do, hence some of the problems). Kate and William are not big drivers of online traffic; Kim Kardashian?s nude selfies ruled on social media last week. The palace shouldn?t look to the HuffPo to organise the nation?s Union flag bunting and street parties.
There are signs that the public ? more than ever drawn to noisy extremes ? is a bit bored of a princess who is elegant but reticent and a prince who thinks he deserves the life of a Norfolk squire. They will need to be seen to match the work rate of William?s grandparents if they are to be considered global ambassadors worthy of their publicly funded lifestyles. The Firm?s fortunes, and the quality of its press, will briefly revive in April for the Queen?s 90th birthday. After that, the Royals and their once-faithful chroniclers need to patch up their differences, or be left without a purpose.