It’s safe to say that Princess Diana is one of the most photographed women ever to have lived. That’s why it’s incredibly rare for images of the late Princess of Wales to surface that have never before been seen.
Still, that’s exactly what happened with the release of an extensive batch of 22 brand-new photographs and their negatives (to ensure they’re the only reproduction) that are up for auction at Willingham Auctions in Cambridgeshire on March 4, according to The Mirror.
David Levenson/Getty Images
The photos are actually anything but new: They were snapped over 40 years ago in September 1982 by Baron King, a British Airways businessman and friend of the royal family, while visiting Balmoral, Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish estate. They include Diana, a newborn Prince William, then-Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth, too.
What’s striking is how relaxed and casual the images are. Diana is pictured in green wellies and corduroys; Charles is giddy holding his newborn son William. It’s also from a time in the young couple’s life of which images are more scarce.
But it also raises an ethical question: Should these pics be auctioned off at all? The internet was aflutter with suggestions that they be given directly to Princes William and Harry vs. sold. Or that the proceeds go to the charities that Princess Diana supported, much like a recent auction for a collection of personal letters from Diana, which fetched $170,000.
Even then, questions about ethics were raised by many, including me and my c0-host of the Royally Obsessed podcast, Roberta Fiorito. Those letters revealed the torment Diana experienced during her “desperate and ugly” divorce from Prince Charles, how the divorce settlement left her on her knees and even spoke of fears that her phone was bugged.
Is the release of items like this part of the historical record or a violation of the late princess’s privacy? As one Royally Obsessed listener who works in historical research wrote in, we depend on items like the letters or photographs for accuracy about the past. Still, situations like this could benefit from a statute of limitations for when items that we depend on for historical information can be given over to the public. Better yet, she suggests a “responsibility agreement” that’s attached to royal memorabilia being auctioned off to ensure that they are used to illuminate an accurate story vs. perpetuate a breach of privacy.
Back to the upcoming auction of these images. For now, they are all over the internet, published by The Mirror in full. Is there a chance the royal family themselves will snap them up for their personal archive? We’ll find out on March 4.