The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have found themselves at the centre of a privacy row after they chose to take their first family holiday in secret.
The royal couple flew with Prince George, two, and 10-month-old Princess Charlotte to a secret location in the French Alps last Wednesday.
Unlike royal ski holidays of old – when a group of photographers was invited to capture the family relaxing on the slopes – the Cambridges chose to escape the country without telling the media of their plans.
Instead of arranging a photo-call to mark the getaway, William and Kate invited only a single Press Association photographer, who took a small number of posed portraits. Six carefully selected photographs were then released to the Press this morning, hours after the family’s return.
However the details of the trip, including where young Prince George had his first experience of snow, remain a tightly-guarded secret. The couple have previously made complaints over the media invading their privacy, and devote a lot of time to keeping their children out of the public eye.
Royal officials have yet to comment on how the family travelled to their ski destination or how much the holiday cost.
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Secret holiday: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge invited just one photographer to capture their first family holiday with Prince George, two, and 10-month-old Princess Charlotte. The couple devote a lot of time to keeping their children out of the public eye
Privacy row: The royal couple, pictured throwing the snowballs, have still not revealed where they went on holiday with their children
‘Workshy’: Prince William, seen holding his 10-month-old daughter to the camera, has previously faced criticism over his work-life balance
In recent years William and Kate have made increasingly clear they wish to control access to information and images concerning their family. Traditional photo-calls have been scrapped in favour of Kensington Palace releasing carefully chosen images, often taken by the Duchess herself.
It was Kate who was behind the lens to capture the moment as her son toddled towards Westacre Montessori School for the first time. The doting mother also took the first official photographs of Princess Charlotte, which were released to the public a month after her birth.
The private trip comes after Prince William was accused of being ‘workshy’ when it was revealed he worked just 80 hours a month as an ambulance pilot with East Anglian Air Ambulance. A senior aide revealed that he works the hours so he can combine the job with his royal and charity work.
Claiming the Duke of Cambridge’s hours were in line with Civil Aviation Authority regulations, the aide insisted he had the backing of both his grandmother and father. But unconfirmed sources have previously complained he didn’t pull his weight. ‘He’s hardly ever on shift,’ it was claimed.
CAA regulations limit flying hours to 90 in any 28 consecutive days. William, whose 80-hour month is roughly half of a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, donates his salary to charity.
William’s public role has been subject to increasing scrutiny after it emerged that his 94-year-old grandfather, Prince Philip, undertook more official engagements than the young royals put together.
The Duke of Edinburgh clocked up 250 official duties at home and abroad in 2015, compared to the 198 conducted by William, Kate and Harry combined.
Top of the line: William is seen wearing a £330 jacket from high-end ski wear brand Spyder in the photos. In contrast, Prince George’s snowsuit is from Mountain Warehouse and cost just £24.99, and Princess Charlotte’s, from John Lewis’ own line, is on sale for just £28
Both the Duke and Duchess are excellent skiers but haven’t had the chance to enjoy their usual annual trip to the slopes since having children.
A palace aide said: ‘The family flew out to the French Alps for a long weekend away and wanted to share some images of their trip with the public.’
Sources say the couple have been keen to introduce their children to the slopes as soon as possible in the hope that they will inherit their love of the sport. The couple also enjoyed a number of ski holidays together before they were married.
The photographs were taken first thing on Thursday morning, within minutes of Prince George being introduced to the snow for the first time. The toddler prince looks delighted to be outside in two family photos taken while his little sister steals the show in a third photo with her father.
The three other photos show William and Kate having a playful snowball fight as they walk arm and arm through the wintry scene.
In the photos, William is seen wearing a £330 blue and black jacket from high-end ski wear brand Spyder. In contrast Prince George’s cheap snowsuit from High Street retailer Mountain Warehouse cost just £24.99 while Princess Charlotte’s one is from John Lewis’ own line and is available for just £28.
The ski trip might explain why the Cambridges were unable to attend the wedding of their good friend Olivia Hunt this weekend.
Olivia, 33, the sister-in-law of TV adventurer Ben Fogle, was William’s first girlfriend at the University of St Andrews. She tied the knot with Nicholas Wilkinson, 34, who was named as Britain’s ‘hottest’ barrister by a legal blog in 2014.
Prince Harry attended the ceremony at the historic Temple Church along with some of William and Kate’s closest friends, according to one source.
The couple’s absence sparked speculation as to why they were a no-show, with some suggesting it had been the Duchess’s decision.
Carefully selected: Three of the six photographs released to the public are of Kate and William walking arm-in-arm through the snow
Royal officials have declined to comment on whether the family took a commercial flight or a private plane – although the timings and the fact that they weren’t spotted at an airport suggests that they may well have taken a private jet.
It has also not yet emerged where the family stayed, how much the trip cost or how the holiday was funded.
A Kensington Palace spokesman said: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to share new photographs of their family. The images show Their Royal Highnesses enjoying a short skiing holiday with their children in the French Alps.
‘This was their first holiday as a family of four and the first time either of the children had played in the snow. It was very special and fun short holiday for the family, and they are grateful that John Stillwell [The PA photographer] was able to capture the moment so well.
‘The Duke and Duchess hope people enjoy the photos.’