14 Sep 2012

William and Kate launch legal action over topless photos

St James’s Palace says the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are taking legal action against a French magazine that published topless photos of her that were taken while they were on holiday.

In a short statement, the palace said: “St James’s 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.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton reacted with “anger and disbelief” when they found out the pictures had been published, according to royal representatives. The photos were apparently taken while the couple were staying at a private house in Provence.

Official representatives have been consulting lawyers to consider what legal options are available. In a strongly-worded statement, the palace said the couple were “hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.

‘Worst excesses’

“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.”

Closer magazine’s French website showed an image of its new front cover with a heavily pixellated image of a woman with dark hair, who it claims is the duchess, in a bikini apparently about to remove her top. The front cover shows the headline: Only in Closer: Kate and William, their very hot holiday in Provence.

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. Clarence House

The couple were staying at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen’s nephew, ahead of their Diamond Jubilee tour of south-east Asia and the South Pacific on behalf of the Queen.

The publication of the photos comes just weeks after naked photos of Prince Harry in a Las Vegas hotel were published in The Sun newspaper.

British newspapers have declined to publish the photos, and reflected the outrage expressed by the royals and the government. However there has been an international interest in the story. According to Topsy.com 25,132 tweets have contained “kate topless” over the last 24 hours and 48,733 tweets contained “kate middleton” over the last 24 hours.

‘Red line crossed’

St James’s Palace declined to comment on the claims made by the publication, but royal officials said that if the photos are genuine and are published, it would be like “turning the clock back 15 years”.

“They can’t believe the pictures were taken, they can’t believe anyone would publish them. The level of intrusiveness means a red line has been crossed,” added Clarence House.

The duke and duchess were told about the allegations on Friday morning before they visited they Assyakirin Mosque and had also looked at the images on the website.

Read more on Jon Snow’s blog: What’s in a mammary gland?

The UK version of Closer magazine will not be publshing the photos, according to a statement which said the two publications have different publishers. The French edition is owned by the Italian company Mondadori, which is owned by the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

“Closer magazine UK would like to make it clear that the two publications make entirely independent editorial decisions. In this respect the comments made by the Editor of the French edition which have reported in the media today do not reflect the opinions of Closer magazine UK,” read the statement.

But Laurence Pieau, the editor of the French version of Closer, said she could not understand the reaction. She told the AFP news agency: “These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches.”

Mosque tour

The royal couple broke new ground by touring a mosque for the first time during their tour of Malaysia, but all media attention was on speculation that another member of the royal family will be at the centre of embarrassing images. Malaysia is a largely Muslim country with laws on public decency which makes the timing even more difficult.

The photos are likely to reignite the row over privacy which raged around Prince Harry last month. Staying in a reported £5,000-a-night hotel suite, Harry was filmed wearing a hat, sunglasses and colourful swimming shorts, and socialising with bikini-clad women at a pool party.

The Sun was the only British newspaper to defy a Press Complaints Commission advisory note not to publish photos of Harry in the nude with an unnamed woman.

The Duke and Duchess arrived in Singapore on Tuesday and are currently in Malaysia before travelling on to Borneo then the South Pacific.