Most Unwanted: William and Kate and the Specter of Bin Laden

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“Of course it explains why the royal couple postponed their honeymoon to Abbottabad,” joked Jimmy Kimmel, one of the first U.S. television hosts to start mining Osama Bin Laden’s death for comedy. The funniest thing about Kimmel’s quip was that it appeared to contain a grain of truth. The announcement, the day after the wedding of the newly styled Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, that the couple had “chosen not to depart for a honeymoon immediately” and that the groom would instead report back for duty at his air force base in Wales after a “private weekend” in the U.K., caught royal-watchers on the hop. Yet the wedding had been so meticulously planned and its secrets so jealously guarded (The dress! The Aston Martin!) that the newlyweds’ decision to opt for a short budget break over long-haul luxury seemed just another exercise in wrong-footing the paparazzi who had already packed their Speedos in preparation for following them to a tropical paradise.

Then came news of the storming of the compound in Abbottabad, planned in the week leading up to the nuptials and carried out two days after the event. The British tabloid newspaper, the Daily Express, diligently found a security expert who agreed there could be a link between Kate and William’s homespun holiday and the covert operation to eliminate the world’s most wanted terrorist. “I would not be surprised if the reason the royal honeymoon was put off had to do with forewarning that this might be happening,” said Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham. “The Government would probably have been told that now would not be a good time for the royal couple to travel off to the other side of the world.”

The theory was not implausible. It was, however, wrong—assuming in a skeptical age that demands documentary proof of births, marriages and deaths we are prepared to take palace officials at their regal word. “There is no link between honeymoon delay (a personal choice of the couple and one made weeks ago) and OBL,” emails one such official. “The decision to delay a honeymoon was taken several weeks ago,” concurs another in a separate conversation. Sources in Westminster and Whitehall confirm their version of events.

What is also true is that the police and security services are now alert to the possibility of revenge attacks directed at prominent sites and public figures. Five men were arrested as they photographed the Sellafield nuclear plant in northwest England on Monday, and a Scotland Yard source told the Daily Telegraph that Bin Laden’s slaying had changed the “threat picture” ahead of the state visit to Britain of the President and First Lady later this month. The Obamas will be guests of the Queen at Buckingham Palace; whether they get to pass on congratulations directly to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge depends on the scheduling of that delayed honeymoon, which the Daily Mail confidently reports is planned for “mid-May” at an Indian Ocean resort “surrounded by coconut groves.”

The Mail‘s managing editor Robin Esser has given assurances that his newspaper “won’t be buying anything” if offered snatched honeymoon photographs of the couple with or without coconuts, and the rest of the British media appears united in a pledge to respect the couple’s wishes for privacy. The last such voluntary ban on royal reporting, a wall of silence around Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan, was breached not by Brits but the Drudge Report. Palace officials may have exonerated the U.S. from charges of disrupting the royal honeymoon but nobody would rule out the possibilities of another brash American intrusion into royal affairs. Nor are all photographers likely to play nice. Bikini pictures of a future queen would command high prices, no matter whether the British press close their pocketbooks. Such images would also illustrate just how hard it can be for the world’s wanted to stay hidden from view.