A FURIOUS Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have launched legal action against French magazine Closer after it published pictures of Kate topless on holiday.
• Closer claims photos were taken during couple’s holiday in France
• Palace says publishing pictures is like ‘turning clock back 15 years’
St James’s Palace drew parallels with the worst experiences of Diana, Princess of Wales, saying the the couple’s privacy had been invaded in a “grotesque” way.
In a strongly worded statement, the palace said the decision was “totally unjustifiable” and had left William and Kate feeling “anger and disbelief”.
Direct comparisons were made between the publication and the way William’s mother was treated by the press. It is understood William himself is furious, and onlookers said he was visibly angry yesterday as he arrived in Borneo during a visit to south-east Asia as part of celeberations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
It is believed to be only the second time a royal has sued over such an issue. Prince Charles took legal action against the Daily Mail after it published parts of his travel diaries.
A statement from St James’s Palace said: “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.”
The photographs were taken last week while the couple were staying in Provence at a château owned by Lord Linley, the Queen’s nephew,.
The blurry images, spread over four pages in the maagainze, were taken with a long lens on the terrace at a guest house at the Château d’Autet. Closer featured several photos of the couple, with a number of the duchess topless, including some of her rubbing sun cream on Prince William, in its edition released yesterday.
A source said the publication of the pictures had left the
couple feeling “anger and disbelief”, but the legal proceedings were the result of them feeling they had to make a stand.
The source said: “This is a clear and unjustifiable, grotesque breach of privacy. If we don’t take a stand against this, then when would we make a stand?”
William and Kate were informed about the magazine’s intention to use the photographs over breakfast in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
They looked at the teaser
picture on the website showing the magazine’s front cover with a heavily pixellated image of Kate about to take her top off.
The couple then proceeded with their busy schedule of official engagements, including their first visit to a mosque.
But it is not thought they had seen the topless photographs
inside the magazine before leaving the Malaysian mainland.
St James’s Palace said the couple would not let the controversy distract them from the visit.
A spokesman said: “The duke and duchess remain focused currently on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu on behalf of HM the Queen.”
It has been reported that British newspapers were offered the pictures last week, but declined to use them.
Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, remained defiant yesterday, insisting there was “nothing degrading” about the photographs and claiming she could not understand the couple’s
Ms Pieau said: “These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches.”
Legal experts said the royal couple would have a strong case.
Caroline Jan, solicitor at London-based firm Kingsley Napley’s media group and active member of the Franco-British Law Society, said it would be the “biggest Franco-British privacy clash since Princess Diana’s death”.
She added: “The French magazine publishing pictures of the duchess is clearly testing the water in a country where privacy laws are stricter than in the UK.”
But media lawyer Mark Stephens suggested William and Kate might not have the ability to take effective action over the photographs.
He said: “It is obviously highly intrusive, but as they have published the pictures the genie is out of the bottle.”
It is not the first time Kate has turned to the courts where she has felt her privacy has been invaded.
In 2009, when still William’s girlfriend, she was photographed playing tennis on Christmas Eve while on holiday in Cornwall and the image was syndicated by a picture agency to foreign media outlets.
The duchess won £5,000 in damages and an apology from Rex Features for invasion of privacy.
Publishers of the UK edition of Closer sought to distance themselves from the French magazine yesterday, describing the photographis as “offensive”.
Chief executive Paul Keenan of Bauer Media said his company deplored the publication of the “intrusive and offensive pictures” and had “complained in the strongest terms” to the firm that licensed the title in France.
He said Bauer had asked Closer France to remove the pictures and refrain from publishing any more.
Claudia Joseph, Kate’s biogragher and author of Princess in Waiting, said Prince William would be particularly angry about the pictures.
“He wants her kept out of the limelight in the way his mother was. He doesn’t want her followed everywhere by the paparazzi.”
The publication of the photographs were also condemned by Prime Minister, with a source close to David Cameron saying Number 10 “echoes the sadness of the palace” over the publication of the pictures.
The spokeswoman said: “The view from Downing Street is that they are entitled to their privacy.”Closer France is published by Italian-based Mondadori, whose chairman is Marina Berlusconi, the eldest daughter of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.The magazine’s website flagged up the photos yesterday morning, saying it had pictures of the couple “like you have never seen them before. Gone are the fixed smiles and the demure dresses. On holiday Kate forgets everything.”
The magazine’s editor posted a series of titillating messages on Twitter, telling followers Prince Harry would feel “less alone” when the controversial edition hit the shelves, referring to the recent controversy of pictures taken of Harry cavorting naked with women in a hotel room in Las Vegas.
Taking a seemingly light-hearted approach, Laurence Pieau said readers could expect the “hot Provence version of the Crown Jewels”.
“With regard to English reprisals, we will keep you updated … but Kate in Provence in Closer is so pretty”.