Skip to main content

Angry royals take Kate's topless photo battle to court

From Max Foster, CNN
updated 10:32 PM EDT, Mon September 17, 2012
  • Irish Daily Star editor suspended pending investigation into republishing of photos
  • French judge is expected to issue a ruling on civil complaint by 6 a.m. ET
  • Italian magazine publishes more topless pictures of Catherine
  • William and Catherine also file a criminal complaint in France

Honiara, Solomon Islands (CNN) -- More topless photos of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, spilled into public view Monday as Britain's royal family asked a French court to stop further publication of the pictures.

The legal battle raged while the duchess and her husband, Prince William, carried on with an official tour of the South Pacific, including meetings with Solomon Islanders -- some of them topless.

The new photos were published Monday by the Italian gossip magazine Chi, which is owned by the same company that last week published several pictures of a topless Catherine sunbathing in private during a vacation at a private chateau belonging to William's uncle in Provence, in southern France.

The grainy images, shot from a distance, show Catherine on a balcony and appear to be no more revealing than those published last week by the French magazine Closer, the Guardian newspaper reported.

In a related development, Irish Daily Star Editor Michael O'Kane was suspended Monday by Independent Star Limited, publisher of the Daily Star, pending an investigation into the circumstances that led to photographs being republished in that newspaper from the French magazine.

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, are carried as they bid farewell in Tuvalu on Wednesday, September 19. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- on a tour marking the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II -- are visiting Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. See more of CNN's best photography. Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, are carried as they bid farewell in Tuvalu on Wednesday, September 19. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge -- on a tour marking the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II -- are visiting Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. See more of CNN's best photography.
William and Kate visit Far East
Photos: William and Kate visit Far East Photos: William and Kate visit Far East
Kate's topless photos spark debate
Are the royals taking legal action?
Topless photos prompt royal privacy row

Opinion: Wake up, Kate; photogs are always watching

While some have questioned the furor over topless sunbathing, which is a common practice in parts of France and elsewhere, the issue is less about nudity than it is about privacy, royal biographer Christopher Andersen said.

William and his brother, Prince Harry, still blame the media for the 1997 death of their mother, Princess Diana, in a traffic accident as her driver fled paparazzi, Andersen said. French investigators concluded the driver of the car Diana was traveling in lost control while he was intoxicated.

The royal family is concerned about similar invasions, particularly if William and Catherine have a child, Andersen said.

"This is a deterrent. They're drawing a line in the sand," he said.

Kate upset about topless photos

On Monday morning, the royal family filed a criminal complaint with French prosecutors seeking invasion of privacy charges against the magazine and possibly the photographer, a palace spokeswoman said.

Late Monday in civil court in Paris, lawyers for the royals asked for damages and a court order to prevent the photos from being published again. They also want existing photos taken offline, a palace spokesman said.

Lawyer Aurelien Hamelle denounced the published photos in court Monday calling them an infringement of privacy, CNN affiliates reported.

"It is a scene of married life, intimate, personal, that has nothing to do on a magazine" Hamelle said.

Chi, the Italian magazine, put out its special edition Monday with 26 pages of photos of William and Catherine on vacation.

As editors at Closer did last week, Chi executives defended publishing the photos despite the furor from London.

"It is a story worth publishing in an extraordinary edition because it shows in a natural light the everyday life of a very famous contemporary young couple in love," Editor-in-chief Alfonso Signorini said in a statement.

Chi and Closer are owned by the Mondadori publishing company, which is headed by Marina Berlusconi, a daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"To see a future royal immortalized in a series of pictures, which are certainly neither morbid nor damaging to her dignity, renders her for sure more likable and less anachronistic and distant from of all of us," Signorini wrote.

A French judge is expected to issue a ruling by 6 a.m. EST Tuesday on the civil complaint, reporters from CNN affiliates ITN and BFM have said.

Pacific welcome awaits William and Kate

The criminal case in France involves claims of invasion of privacy against the magazine and possibly the photographer.

French law provides for "draconian sanctions" to protect against this kind of behavior, British lawyer Charlotte Harris said, including orders to take magazines off shelves and the imposition of serious fines.

But even if distribution of the images is contained to a degree, Harris said, the damage is done to the extent that very private information about the duchess has now become public knowledge.

Laurence Pieau, editor-in-chief of Closer in France, defended the decision to publish the images in an interview with CNN affiliate BFM-TV, saying, "We were just doing our job."

Pieau said that there had been no debate at the magazine over whether to publish the photos and that they show the royals "are just like any other couple in love."

Legal analysts suggest that Mondadori hopes to recoup any legal costs and fines it may incur by increasing sales, thanks to the revealing pictures.

According to Mondadori's website, Closer has an average weekly circulation of about 414,000, while Chi sells more than 340,000 copies a week.

Opinion: British privacy should start with British press

William and Catherine's Pacific tour marks a celebration of the queen's Diamond Jubilee anniversary of her reign. They were scheduled to leave Honiara in the Solomon Islands on Tuesday and travel to Tuvalu for the first royal visit to that island nation since 1982. Their tour is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday.

Monday's legal actions in France are the only ones initiated by palace officials. British newspapers have not published the photos, although the Irish Daily Star did Saturday, in a move that palace officials slammed as greedy.

Editor Mike O'Kane told the BBC that Irish readers wanted to know what all the "kerfuffle" was about.

"She's not the future queen of Ireland, so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK," he said.

In a sign of how divisive the issue of royal privacy has become, the newspaper's co-owner, media group Northern & Shell, said it opposed he newspaper's decision to run the pictures.

The company -- which runs the Irish Daily Star in a joint venture with Independent News & Media but does not exert editorial control over it -- said it was "profoundly dismayed" by the move. Independent News & Media said the decision to publish was regrettable and an investigation into the decision was under way.

The British media are under close scrutiny after revelations of phone hacking and other abuses. The conclusions of an independent judge-led inquiry, which may recommend greater restrictions on media freedoms, are expected by the end of the year.

UK tabloid prints naked Prince Harry pictures

The controversy comes three weeks after the British royal family was caught up in a media furor over images of Prince Harry partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.

After Diana: How can intimate royal photos be published in France?

CNN's Alex Felton, Per Nyberg, Laura Smith-Spark and Hada Messia contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.