The British royal family is suing two French media outlets for $1.6 million because they printed topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Staff of gossip magazine Closer and regional newspaper La Provence are accused of violating the duchess’s privacy by taking photographs of her while she was semi-naked on vacation in 2012.
The images – taken with long-lens cameras – showed Kate Middleton sunbathing topless next to her husband, Prince William, in September 2012.
The break, at a private chateau owned by the Queen’s nephew, Viscount Linley, was one of the couple’s final vacations before Kate became pregnant with Prince George, who was born the following summer.
They are believed to have been taken from a vantage point as far as half a mile away, where Kate would have had no idea she was being watched.
At the opening of the trial, a written statement from Prince William branded the photographs “clandestine” and “shocking”.
His statement added that they revived painful memories of his mother, Princess Diana, and her ultimately fatal struggle with the paparazzi. His lawyers are demanding about 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in damages.
Closer published the photographs under the headline “OH MY GOD – the photos that will go round the world”.
Images were printed on the magazine’s front page and inside the publication, alongside soft-porn text which described how the Duchess “offers her breasts to the soft caress of the Provence sun”.
The release of the images became a talking point in the UK. No major news organisation reproduced them.
They prompted an unusually strong reaction from the Royal Family, who have a long history of not reacting to invasive media coverage.
According to the AFP news agency, six journalists and photographers are on trial at a court in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris.
They include senior editors from Closer and La Provence, as well as three photographers who are accused of taking the pictures.
One of those on trial is Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, who initially defended publishing the photographs on the grounds that topless sunbathing is the norm in France, and as such the images contain “nothing degrading”.
She said: “These photos will go round the world. We are happy to have them and we won’t be the only ones to publish them.”
However, after complaints from lawyers acting for William and Kate, the French courts banned further publication of the pictures.
A smattering of European publications, including celebrity magazines in Italy, Sweden and Denmark, also printed the photographs.
The Irish edition of the tabloid Daily Star was another outlet to reproduce the photographs, a decision for which the paper’s editor was harshly criticized. He later resigned.