The Queen of England has complained bitterly about news media harassment of her family and friends and may soon demand a reassessment of Fleet Street standards for covering royal activities.
Only a few weeks after Buckingham Palace accused newspapers and television of hounding a young woman rumored to be the likely bride of Charles, Prince of Wales, the Queen's anger has been directed at media interest in her family's winter holiday.
The royal family usually spends Christmas and New Year's at Sandringham, Norfolk, a rambling country home close to the highways and public thoroughfares.
Until two years ago there was a Fleet Street convention that the "Royals" were not to be disturbed during their winter "hols." But that was before Prince charles became the target of intense press speculation about his marital intentions.
It was certainly before Lady diana spencer arrived on the scene. The young kindergarten teacher is rated the most likely marital prospect ever courted by the Prince.
There have been continuous rumors over the holiday period that Lady Diana is a houseguest at Sandringham and is being entertained there by the Queen and her eldest son.
Speculation intensified when it became known that the Archbiship of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, was is the area and would be preaching at the church used by royal family.
Press photographers began arriving in droves, and that was when regal fury started rising.
A royal official rang up Buckingham Palace and instructed the press office of issue a stiff complaint about photographers lying in wait for the Queen, her family, and friends as they entered and left Sandringham.
A palace spokesman said, "The Queen is finding the intrusion quite intolerable and is more than a little angry over press behavior."
He went on, "No member of the royal family can move out of Sandringham without a posse of pressmen surrounding them. They are hanging around the stables, photographing anything that moves. It has been far worse this year than at any other time."
In the last few days the Queen has personally upbraided a photographer for running the risk of frightening a Shetland pony ridden by Princess Anne's three-year-old son, Peter.
She has told other photographers to "go away." Most of them have not. One London daily newspaper reported that a member of its staff was fired on by Princes Charles using a small-bore shotgun.
Unlike Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and other royal residences, Sandringham is regarded by the Queen as a private domain where she can expect and demand privacy.
Fleet Street editors point out, however, that it is close to traffic arteries. Newsmen tend to take the view that while doubt remains about the future of Prince Charles and Lady diana, there can be small chance of the royal wish for privacy at Sandringham or elsewhere being met.