'Workshy' Prince William criticised over skiing snaps

LONDON - Official photographs of Prince William and his family skiing fuelled growing criticism in the British press on Tuesday of the "workshy" royal, driven by frustration at his perceived reluctance for a life in the public eye.

The palace said the Duke of Cambridge and his wife Kate "hope people enjoy the photos" of the couple with their young children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, on a private trip to the French Alps last week.

The young royals remain hugely popular in Britain and the pictures made front-page news.

But almost five years after William's extravagant wedding in 2011, commentators are casting a more critical eye over the second in line to the throne.

"Sloping off again... Workshy Wills takes family skiing" headlined The Sun tabloid under a front-page picture of a laughing Kate throwing a snowball at her husband.

The normally monarchist paper last month dubbed William the "reluctant royal" after noting he had conducted just 122 official engagements last year, while his 89-year-old grandmother Queen Elizabeth II had carried out 341.

William also has a job as helicopter pilot for the air ambulance service near his home in Norfolk, eastern England - the first royal directly in line to the throne in civilian employment.

But the mass-selling Daily Mail tabloid reported that he only works there 80 hours a month. The Sun quoted a source saying that he was "hardly ever on shift".

Several newspapers criticised the failure of William to hold a photocall on his holiday, instead choosing to invite a single news agency photographer to take shots that were then distributed by the palace.

William has a deep distrust of the media, driven by the death of his mother Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.

But critics argue that dealing with the media, and performing public duties, is a key part of being a royal.

"The quid pro-quo of the royals' fabulous lifestyle is hard work and accountability to the taxpayers who fund it," The Sun wrote in an editorial on Tuesday.

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, himself a staunch monarchist, urged William to "play the game".

"If he continues to rewrite the rules of engagement than eventually the press will too - and then I fear he'll see what real intrusion's all about, of the kind his mother had to endure," he wrote in an article for Mail Online.

The Daily Express tabloid last month claimed that William was not "workshy" but was wary of working as hard as his father Prince Charles because he wanted to be a more hands-on dad.

"William does not want to be an absent father because he knew what it was like growing up with one," a source close to the royal told the paper.

His concern for his children has also led William to tightly restrict media access to the young prince and princess, including by moving the family out of London to Norfolk.

Since the birth of Prince George in 2013, there have only been a handful of opportunities to photograph him and Princess Charlotte, who was born in 2015.

Instead the royals have often issued their own photos, some of them taken by Kate herself.

Wary of the public outrage that remains over Diana's death, the British press have largely been cooperative.

But Neil Wallis, formerly executive editor of the now defunct News of the World tabloid, said the current criticism was a "sign of frustration".

"It's very, very plain that the public want to continue their love affair with these young royals, who in my view have probably saved the House of Windsor in recent years," he told BBC radio.

"But I think there is a legitimate question being asked here and it may be being fuelled by how little we're allowed to know about the royals now." However, Robert Jobson, royal editor of London's Evening Standard, said newspapers were simply irritated that they did not find out about the skiing holiday before it happened.

"It's not really the fault of the royals that the tabloids don't have the information," he told the broadcaster.