Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph clashed with Sir David English, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail on Radio 4's Today programme when the two were invited to talk about privacy and the Royal Family.
Mr Moore claimed that the Daily Mail's undertaking not to use paparazzi pictures of Princes William and Harry was meaningless as long as it continued "prying in the most disgusting way into private family life and now into private family grief".
Mr Moore was incensed by a news story run on the front page of the Daily Mail last week under the headline: "Charles Weeps Bitter Tears of Guilt". A leader in the Telegraph yesterday asked how the writers of the article could possible have known Prince Charles's thoughts.
Mr Moore said on Today: "There is a philosophy of intrusion. There is a belief that the people - it's always done in the name of the people, like the secret police in Communist countries - have a right to know, to dig into the heart of people they have heard of. We saw that after the death of the Princess with these disgusting suggestions that the House of Windsor hadn't got a heart simply because it didn't choose to wear its heart on its sleeve."
Mr Moore said he wanted to draw particular attention to the Daily Mail because it was claiming to be different from tabloids such as the Sun and the Mirror. He also predicted that the tabloids would leave the princes alone only while public feeling remains high, "but then it will all be back and will start all over again".
Sir David English said the attack was more to do with the Daily Telegraph's fear that the Daily Mail was taking its readers: "If I were a cynical person I would say that this is just another commercial extension of royal coverage," he told Today.
"Here's a chance for the Telegraph, which is being hit by the Daily Mail ... so it tries to label the Daily Mail as a down-market and an intrusive paper, which it isn't."
Sir David claimed that the announcement by his proprietor, Viscount Rothermere, that no celebrity paparazzi shots were to be used without his permission would make a difference: "Lord Rothermere has given this instruction to editors, freed them from commercial imperatives to use paparazzi pictures. That's the first step towards a change in the culture."
Despite the spat, Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission told the London Press Club last night that he had been "greatly encouraged" by the co-operation he had so far received in his review of privacy since the princess's death.
He also praised the press for never having "hounded" the two princes while at school and said that the PCC would seek to ensure that they never did. He also said it was his personal hope that there be no age limit on how long the princes were left alone by the press.Reuse content