Gone are the days when Britain's royals could have their cake and eat it.
Last week, when pictures of Prince Harry cavorting naked at a Las Vegas party were published online, I barely batted an eyelid. After all, the flame-haired royal has been at the centre of gaffes in the past.
A famous example is when he was snapped wearing a Nazi swastika armband to a 'colonial and native' themed fancy dress party in 2005.
But what really caught my attention, a few days later, was the fact that the royal family had asked the British newspapers not to carry the embarrassing images and - more surprisingly - the newspapers duly agreed.
The plot thickened last Friday, however, when The Sun defied the royal request and splashed the photos on its front page. The move drew strong and mixed reactions. But I believe it was the right thing to do, and here's why:
Some have said that printing the photographs was a cynical ploy by the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper to sell more copies while hiding behind a flimsy public interest justification.
However, the snaps of the frolicking prince had only a limited commercial value as they had already been widely available online for days - meaning all those who were really keen to see them could do so for free.
On the other hand, there is a solid public interest argument for printing the pictures.
Prince Harry enjoys great privilege as a member of the royal family. One wonders whether the 27-year-old would necessarily have been able to afford a lavish trip to Las Vegas or attract the attention of the pretty girls he invited to his hotel suite were he an ordinary citizen and not a member of the house of Windsor.
To some extent British taxpayers, who help to fund the leading royals, have put Harry where he is. In return, the social contract demands that he behave in a way that upholds the dignity of brand Britain.
This does not mean Harry has no right to privacy. But the popular prince, who stepped in for the Queen at the London Olympics closing ceremony, has to protect his own privacy first before expecting the rest of the world to do so.
The images were not captured during a tabloid sting but by young women with camera phones who had been invited into Harry's hotel room for a game of strip billiards.
British politician Louise Mensch, who sits on the United Kingdom parliament's culture, media and sport committee, made a valid point during a BBC radio interview.
"Prince Harry, inviting people to his room, did not have an expectation of privacy," she said. "More to the point, you can't have a situation where our press as a bloc is so scared of the Leveson Inquiry they refuse to print things in the public interest."
The British press has been under sharp scrutiny since April last year when it emerged that tabloid journalists were regularly hacking into the mobile phone messages of news-worthy individuals in order to secure scoops.
The ensuing public backlash led to the closure of Britain's best selling tabloid, the News of the World, and a parliamentary probe into the hacking allegations. Now a public investigation known as the Leveson Inquiry is looking into broader media ethics.
As a former tabloid journalist, who spent three years working as a reporter for the Sunday Mail newspaper in Scotland, I believe this period of soul searching is long overdue.
However, great care must be taken not to go overboard. Yes, the British press has overstepped the mark on several occasions, misusing the public interest argument to justify gross intrusion into people's lives.
But publishing Harry's photographs does not fall into this category.
Harry is third-in-line to the throne and the British people have the right to scrutinise his antics. Incidentally, the public appear to have little problem with Harry being a "playboy prince", but that does not mean the press should not carry the images.
What impression would Britain be giving to the rest of the world if it stubbornly tried to ignore embarrassing images on its doorstep, while preaching about democracy to the far corners of the globe?
The royal family asking the press not to show the pictures may also be the thin end of the wedge. In 2009, the News of the World published video footage of Harry calling an Asian cadet he was training with at Sandhurst a "Paki", a word he later said was used in jest. The story and the accompanying footage sparked an important national conversation about race and class which helped to underline the important point that nobody, however privileged, is allowed to use racist language.
If the same footage emerged now, would the papers be too scared of the Leveson Inquiry to publish it?
The Sun is the only newspaper so far to have flouted the royal request and shown its readers the photographs. In doing so, it has demonstrated that it will not be cowed by the country's elites.
The paper's rivals, such as the Daily Mirror and The Daily Star, have refused to publish the pictures. This may strike some as a responsible stance, but I wonder if they will extend the same courtesy to the next soap stars, footballers or lesser mortals who find themselves on the receiving end of a kiss-and-tell story? Will those publications resist printing compromising photographs if they are asked to?
The Sun has said its decision to publish is about press freedom and allowing its readers the chance to enter into a healthy debate about Harry's personal image and the competence of his security staff.
Critics say these issues can be raised without showing the offending pictures. Although that is true, it rather misses the point.
What's at stake here is an important principle.
There cannot be one rule for the prince and another for the pauper.