Princess Charlotte: perfect portraits or PR nonsense?

Jul 17, 2015

Not everyone is impressed with Mario Testino's official photographs of the royal baby's christening

The official photographs of Princess Charlotte's christening have won praise from much of the world's media – but one critic has denounced them as "fake PR nonsense".

Kensington Palace released four official portraits of the royal family celebrating in Norfolk on Sunday. They were captured by Mario Testino, the Peruvian fashion photographer who was famously chosen by Princess Diana to photograph her for Vanity Fair in 1997.

One image shows the royal family and the Middletons at Sandringham House, the Queen's private residence, with three generations of royal successors: Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.

Another photograph shows Kate Middleton, Prince William and their two children posing in the Sandringham House garden. Vanity Fair describes it as the "perfect portrait", while the Daily Express claims it shows Britain's "happiest family".

Testino's greatest achievement is undoubtedly to have made Prince George laugh, says the Daily Telegraph, referring to a third father and son image. "The famously grumpy toddler has never given such a toothy grin for an official picture, but showed a smile usually only seen by his family as he was photographed being held by the Duke of Cambridge," says the newspaper.

The fourth Testino shot, showing Kate Middleton holding Princess Charlotte, featured on today's Daily Mail front page, with the caption: "Isn't she scrumptious?"

But Jonathan Jones at The Guardian has denounced the portraits as a "sickly sweet lie".

He concedes that Kate Middleton and Prince William have "plenty to smile about", but says "Testino, the world's most horrible flatterer of wealth and status, makes every smile look phoney".

The Cambridges have been robbed of true personality by Testino's "faux-honest" glamour shot, says Jones. "This is fake PR nonsense… We – and the royals – deserve better."

Jones claims the Cambridges have become too valuable to royal publicity to be allowed to be real. "They are turning into living lies – the impossibly perfect people with their impossibly perfect children," he says. "Please, let them be human."

Princess Charlotte's Norland nanny baffles Australian press

8 July

Princess Charlotte's christening was the event of the month for royal-watchers, attracting attention around the Commonwealth and beyond. Newspapers and magazines across the world featured pictures of the three-month-old Princess, as well as the scene-stealing Prince George and the "elegant" Duchess of Cambridge.

But the Australian media were less impressed by the outfit worn by the children's nanny, Maria Borallo, whose old-fashioned hemlines and starched collars were met with derision. "If the Duchess of Cambridge can be a global fashion icon why can't the nanny entrusted with helping her raise Prince George and baby Charlotte?" asked the Australian Daily Telegraph.

Borallo was photographed alongside the royals outside St Mary Magdalene Church, wearing a distinctive beige gown, white gloves and bowler hat bearing the 'N' of Norland College, the elite nanny training institute of which Spanish-born Borallo is a graduate.

The Telegraph went on to suggest that Borallo's peculiar attire appeared to be "propelling the christening back to the Edwardian period".

Equally baffled was the Sydney Morning Herald, which said the royal nanny "appeared to have come straight from her community theatre's production of Mary Poppins". The newspaper added that she resembled a "lukewarm latte picked up from a roadside fuel station".

Borallo's much-maligned uniform is the traditional apparel of the students at Norland College in Bath, which has been training top-drawer nannies since 1892. The brown and beige ensemble is still worn by trainees at lectures and formal events, although their day-to-day practical uniform consists of navy blue trousers and jumper.

The Norland website specifies that graduates of the school are not required to wear the formal uniform, "unless the family specifically wants them to". This suggests that Borallo continues to don the famous Norland attire at the behest of the Cambridges.

Borallo, 44, was chosen from a shortlist of Norland graduates interviewed by the Duke and Duchess when they were hunting for a nanny for Prince George, and she has been working for the couple since March 2014, according to the Daily Mail. Her experience working with other high-profile families is said to have clinched her the role, which the Daily Express suggests pays in the region of £38,000 per year.

What does it take to be a Norland Nanny?

The Norland Institute (now College) was founded in 1892 by Emily Ward in response to a demand for properly trained nannies rather than the housemaids or governesses usually in charge of well-off children.

Students at the college train for three years to receive the prized Norland Diploma, part of a full BA in early years development. The course combines theory and practice of childcare, and includes placements in nurseries, schools or families. By the end of the course, students will have mastered the correct techniques for everything from bathing and changing an infant to sewing and party planning.

Working for some of the world's richest and most prominent families also means being prepared for danger. Whether it's intrusive paparazzi or the threat of kidnapping, Norland nannies must be ready to protect their charges in any situation. This means that students are trained in taekwondo, as well as "evasive driving" to escape unwanted media attention. As far as anyone knows, Borallo has not yet been called on to use either of these skills, but her press-dodging credentials may come in handy as the young royals grow older and appear in public more frequently.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.