Media Frenzy Over Prince William's Girlfriend Reaches Fever Pitch

Jan. 10, 2007 — -- As speculation grows that Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, will soon announce their engagement, the British media have been swarming around Middleton, who just turned 25.

Some critics think the paparazzi are going too far, though.

Middleton's morning commute is kind of a nightmare.

Much like Diana Spencer, before she was Princess Diana, back in 1980, Middleton finds photographers camped out at her doorstep.

When it comes to dating and speculation that Middleton may marry William, media attention comes with the territory.

"She is famous. She knows that," said Dave Mepham, a freelance photographer. "She's going to have to put up with a lot of photos."

Middleton is a bankable star. A unique, candid photo of her is worth thousands of dollars, even, perhaps especially, if it involves the most ordinary things.

Today, the day after her 25th birthday, investigative reporters gleefully discovered that her dress had cost less than $100.

When she recently got a parking ticket, it was a tabloid scoop.

And a shot of her in a bikini is said to command a bounty upward of $50,000.

"We took the first-ever pictures of a potential queen of England taking the trash out," said Owen Beanie of the W Picture Agency. "Those pictures grossed us just over $45,000, and they're still selling now."

At William's graduation from military school last month, the media even hired lip-readers to find out what she said.

Palace lawyers have finally written a letter to the media asking the paparazzi to lay off.

"Let's not forget William believes -- correctly in my view -- that his mother was killed by the paparazzi," said royal historian Robert Lacey. "Prince Charles believes that he was pushed into an early marriage by the paparazzi."

The comparisons with Diana are unavoidable, especially now. The palace has warned editors and photographers to respect Middleton's privacy.

"They do not want her to be pursued by the paparazzi, and therefore they're trying their best to make sure Fleet Street editors are on notice not to abuse the situation," said Robert Jobson, author of "William's Princess."

As speculation rises about a possible royal wedding, though, that may be wishful thinking.