How little times change

Cast your mind back to May 2011 and the new word on everyone’s lips was ‘super injunction’, the court-imposed gagging order favoured by celebrities and philandering footballers.

While the national press couldn’t mention the names of those involved, over 40,000 twitter users did.  The rights and wrongs of a non-existent privacy law captured the zeitgeist and were debated across the country.

Flushed with our new understanding of the law, we may have felt we knew all about injunctions.

However, it turns out that injunctions to protect the privacy of the rich and famous date back over 160 years.

A story that captured my interest in The Times revealed that Queen Victoria obtained an injunction to prevent the publication of loving family sketches.

The 80 sketches drawn by Queen Victoria in the 1840s feature scenes of domestic family life including bedtime and bathtime.  Each sketch is signed by the Queen and accompanied by a handwritten caption.

Queen Victoria entrusted a number of the drawings to a printer but the drawings were then stolen by the printer’s apprentice.

In a demonstration of just how little times change, the apprentice then made copies of the drawings and sold the lot to a royal gossip columnist for £5.

The columnist planned to exhibit the drawings in London, but the Queen obtained an injunction preventing their publication and so the drawings remained unseen.

It’s one of the earliest examples of a high profile figure using an injunction to keep their private life private and in my opinion one of the best examples of just when an injunction should be granted.

To this day the majority of the drawings remain in private at the Royal Collections in Windsor but six prints that were recently discovered in an attic have now been released for auction.

While it’s clear the system is open to abuse by high profile figures with money to spend, I can’t help feeling that on this occasion the private images of the Queen’s children should have remained private, just a she intended.

The auction will take place on January 25 with the prints expected to fetch up to £1,500.