Published September 18, 2012
A court in Nanterre, France, has ordered a stop to any further publication of topless photos of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, while she was vacationing at a family chateau in Provence.
“The breach of privacy of Mr. and Mrs. Mountbatten-Windsor is blatant,” the ruling reads, using the formal names for the duke and duchess. It goes on, “These photographs are of a particularly intrusive nature. Mr. and Mrs. Mountbatten-Windsor have thus suffered being brutally exposed on a magazine cover and in a sensationalist article.”
The royal couple issued a statement through St. James’ Palace saying they welcomed the injunction.
The photos, of course, are already out in the public eye, including on the Internet. Both an Italian and an Irish magazine have published them as well.
“The problem is that the horse got out of the barn a long time ago, and unless you institute a regime of censorship before publication, unfortunately for the royal couple and people in the stead of the royal couple, the only thing they can do is a rearguard action such as this," Christopher Mesnooh, an American lawyer in Paris, said.
“Thousands, if not tens of thousands of copies are now in public circulation," Mesnooh said.
But Mesnooh added that getting that injunction is a positive move for the couple, and it sends a very strong message that they won’t tolerate breaches of their privacy in the future.
The injunction rules that the French magazine Closer has to hand over all the digital images in question to Prince William and his wife within 24 hours of the ruling. They will have to pay 10,000 euros, the equivalent of $13,000, for each day they are late, and another $13,000 for each time they re-print or re-sell those photographs.
However, the photos do not belong to the magazine in the first place. They belong to the photographer who took them, who is now under criminal investigation for breach of privacy.
The magazine has always argued that the couple were in view of a public road when they were photographed. They were in the south of France on the balcony of a chateau set deep in a private park. The queen’s nephew Lord Linley owns the property.
“I published them with the belief that these pictures convey the image of a modern, contemporary duchess, and they can only do her good," Alfonso Signorini, the editor of Chi, the magazine that published the photos in Italy, said. "She comes across really well. It’s a sign of the monarchy up with the times, contemporary.”
Maitre Aurelien Hamelle, the couple’s lawyer, told the court, “The duchess is a young woman, not an object, and I ask you to put yourself in the place of her husband, Prince William, or of her parents. For the close family and for her, this is profoundly troubling and upsetting.”
It’s unclear how much money has been made off the photos.
“I can tell you that it is certainly an important scoop," Signorini said. "Maybe 10 years ago we would have paid a lot more for it, but I can tell you that it’s a scoop paid in line with the economic crisis, which all the world is going through. The photographers who made this scoop are hardly sunbathing in the Caribbean right now.”
St. James’ Palace called the publication of the photos grotesque and unjustifiable. “The photographs were taken on Sept. 5, 2012, which was, give or take, five or six days, the 15th anniversary of the cynical, morbid, and useless hunt which led to the death of William’s mother," the couple’s lawyer said, referring to Princess Diana's death in a car crash while fleeing photographers.