Literally hours after French magazine Closer published topless pictures of Kate Middleton and husband Prince William taken while on a three day holiday last week, the royal couple launched legal proceedings against the magazine.
Today a press spokeswoman for the British Royals confirmed the impending action with this statement:
“St James’ Palace confirms that legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the publishers of Closer Magazine France.”
Perhaps in light of the recent Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and their own agreement with the Palace not to unduly breach the privacy of the royal family, the UK press have refused to publish the photographs. Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper, said:
“The Sun has no intention of breaching the royal couple’s privacy. The circumstances are very different to those relating to the photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas.”
“Prince Harry was at a party with a large group of strangers – one of whom released a photo into the public domain.”
Likewise, UK tabloids, TheDaily Mirror and Sunday Mirror said they were offered pictures of the Duchess a week ago but declined to publish them. Mirror editor, Lloyd Embley said:
“As with the naked pictures of Prince Harry in a private hotel room, we took the decision not to publish them. In both cases we believed there would be a clear breach of the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code of Practice, regarding intrusion of privacy.”
Today UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph said the couple had reacted with “anger and disbelief” to Closer’s decision to publish the pictures, while The Guardian and The Independent said Kate Middleton was “saddened.” Further reports of the couple’s fury came from the BBC.
BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: “Royal officials say they accept the photos are genuine and the couple are furious,” while BBC journalist Nicholas Witchell said:
“[The royals were] incredulous that any magazine would have felt they had a justification in publishing these pictures.”
“I have rarely heard quite such a level of publicly expressed anger that I have heard today reflecting William’s feelings. He is absolutely determined to protect the privacy of his wife; he has always been very protective of her and that anger has mounted during the day.”
Currently on a nine-day tour of South East Asia, the Duke and Duchess left Kuala Lumpur today for Kota Kinabalu, capital of the state of Sabah in Borneo for the next leg of their tour. A BBC correspondent reported that Prince William has a “look of absolute thunder” on his face as they left, whereas Kate “looked composed and was smiling.”
Today the UK arm of Closer Magazine distanced itself from the furore and stated it would not be publishing the pictures. They issued a statement saying the French edition of Closer was printed by another firm and made its editorial decisions independently.
“Closer magazine U.K. is published by Bauer Consumer Media. The French edition meanwhile is published under a license by a totally different company, an Italian business called Mondadori.”
So far, Mondadori, owned by the former prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi’s company Fininvest (and chaired by his daughter Marina Berlusconi), has made no comment.
It’s widely known that Prince William is particularly sensitive to incursions on his wife’s privacy, especially by the French press, after the death of his late mother Diana in Paris August 31, 1997. A statement released by St James Palace before news of the legal action was confirmed reflected this:
“Their Royal Highnesses have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.”
“The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the Duke and Duchess for being so. Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them.”
Closer’s editor-in-chief, Laurence Pieau, defended her decision to publish on French BFM Television. Describing the photographs Pieau said:
“What we saw in the pictures was a young couple that have just got married, who are in love, who are beautiful. She’s a princess of the 21st Century.”
Adding that the shots were part of a “beautiful series” and that there was “nothing degrading” about them, Pieau said reaction to the photographs had been “disproportionate.” However, Pieau’s comments sit at odds with the way the story has been billed in the magazine. One portion of the editorial accompanying Closer’s story reads:
“See incredible images of the future queen of England like you’ve never seen her before … and like you’ll never see again.”
Commenting on the chances of success of the royal couple’s legal action, Thomas Roussineau — who specializes in privacy law — said.
“It is totally forbidden. The castle [a chateau in Provence owned by Lord Linley, the Queen of England's nephew] is not the street, it is in a private place, and they are intimate pictures.”
Roussineau went on,
“They [CloserMagazine] will have a big revenue, and the amount of the sentence will not equal the revenue they will make, it will be a very small part of the revenue they will [make] from these pictures.”
Echoing Roussineau, Duncan Lamont, a lawyer at Charles Russell LLP, said the palace could be in for a tough legal battle to prove invasion of privacy.
“It is not quite a private house. The chateau is rented out and there may be debate as to how truly private it was and whether the paparazzi were on a public thoroughfare. These issues can take years to resolve.”