The Princess will still be a Great Auk's egg

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THE PRINCESS of Wales knows nothing about economics (which is no surprise) and little about human nature (which is) if she believes that making fewer public appearances will reduce the media attention focused upon her. The more scarce an object, the more it is prized. Collectors pay nothing for robins' eggs, but offer a fortune for an egg of the Great Auk. They pay relatively little for Penny Blacks, but pounds 2.2m for the Bordeaux cover bearing one Penny Red and a Twopence Blue.

The Princess has also failed to understand that the photographers whose attentions she once courted, but which now confine her in a golden cage, do not care whether she wants to be photographed or not and her public declaration that she does not will only increase their ardour. She has become, like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, or Princess Caroline of Monaco, an international icon. I am not sure why these particular women should ring the same Pavlovian bells the world over; it must have something to do with the eternal fascination in watching youthful beauty and privilege brought low.

Let Princess Diana consider Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who moved from being the adored young widow of the most charismatic president in history to the reviled wife of one of the richest men in the world. It was widely believed at the time that one of her reasons for marrying him was the hope that his wealth could guarantee the privacy she had come to crave. How wrong she was]

If you up the ante, you only increase the challenge. Jackie's retreat to her second husband's multi-million dollar yacht Christina and his private pleasure island, Skorpios, merely proved an extra spur to photographic technology, leading to the development of hitherto undreamt-of 500-metre lenses, half-mile lenses, lenses that could cut through fog and heat-haze and still take an identifiable picture. For this, photographers were willing to hide in a bush for days. If the result was a picture of Jackie sunbathing in a bikini or - the paparazzi's Grail - topless, fortunes were made. Such pictures sold for millions of pounds worldwide. Imagine the headline: 'Jackie and Ari in lovers' kiss]' Wouldn't you be curious? A photographer could be set up for life.

This technology went on to give us the Princess of Wales herself in a bikini on a Caribbean beach holiday while pregnant (the combination of pregnancy and bikini evidently adding a special frisson) and, more recently, the disgraced Duchess of York enjoying a stolen toe-suck.

My first reaction on reading the Princess's optimistic words about being allowed to lead 'hopefully, a more private life' was that she is trying to make space for a new relationship. That, at any rate, will be the conclusion reached by royal-watchers and newspaper editors - lecherous old cynics that they are. Nothing could be more desirable than a photograph of the Princess clasped in the embrace of Another. The first whisper of gossip will have the paparazzi scurrying off to Skye or Gstaad, or the Scottish baronial castle or anywhere else she had hoped to canoodle unobserved. I can tell her now: she won't manage it.

It is no good the public crying 'Shame]' to the paparazzi or pretending to sympathise with the Princess, for it is our fault. If we boycotted all publications with her picture on the cover, such photographs would soon cease to be taken. It is a classic free-market transaction. Billions of people the world over buy newspapers and magazines containing titillating pictures of the Princess, so the remotest areas of the British Isles are not remote enough to guarantee her privacy.

Cameramen and journalists, like almost anyone else, will behave in highly unattractive ways to earn a million pounds. Money puts a different complexion on things, and a vast amount of money paints roses on the most sordid transaction. Remember Shaw's famous dinner-table riposte? He asked the aristocratic beauty on his left if she would kiss him for a million pounds. Duchess dimples prettily. Would she then, persists GBS, give him a kiss for a shilling? Duchess bridles: 'Mr Shaw, I am not a common prostitute]' 'That, your Grace,' said Shaw, 'has already been established. We are merely haggling over the price.'

By making herself more inaccessible, the Princess of Wales can only increase her market value. Alas, poor Diana: until the public gets bored with you (which I fear may be never) you are public property, and your life, quite literally, is not your own.