'Furious' Will and Kate launch lawsuit after magazine publishes topless photos
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge keep stiff upper lips as they depart Kuala Lumpur airport for Sabah Maylasia on Day 4 of of their Diamond Jubilee Tour. (Getty Images)
The normally smiling faces of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge were anything but that on Friday afternoon as they formally launched legal action against a French magazine that published topless pictures of Kate.
The photos, published Friday by weekly gossip magazine Closer, were taken while the couple was on a weekend getaway in France just before Kate and Prince William began their nine-day royal tour of Asia and the South Pacific this week.
The royal couple had their smiles intact as they sipped tea at a reception at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday and visited a mosque (right), but were definitely grim-faced as they headed to the airport for the next leg of their tour.
A spokesperson said they are "hurt, shocked, furious and disgusted" with the magazine.
The Palace quickly consulted their lawyers to see what legal action could be taken. Friday afternoon, St. James's Palace issued a statement confirming "legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the Editor and Publishers of Closer Magazine."
The papers have been served on Closer and a hearing has been scheduled for Monday, sources told the Daily Mail.
Over the headline "Oh My God!', the Closer cover shows some snaps of the couple sunbathing, with Kate about to take off her top in one. Inside, the five-page spread of grainy photos was devoted to their time around the swimming pool at Chateau d'Autet in the Luberon region of France. The countryside estate is owned by Viscount Linley, the Queen's nephew and son of the late Princess Margaret.
After seeing the cover the magazine, William and Kate lashed out at the publication for invasion of privacy in a statement issued just before they took off from Kuala Lumpur airport:
"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."
Some distant shots of Will and Kate at the estate first surfaced on the internet last week, showing the couple on the terrace with Kate in a bikini, but not topless.
Will and Kate are halfway through their nine-day royal tour. A St. James's Palace spokesperson said the couple "remain focused currently on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Island and Tuvalu on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen."
The publication of the photos has raised eyebrows for many because of France's strict privacy laws, stricter than those in Britain or the rest of Europe. The law forbids "fixing, recording or transmitting the image of a person in a private place without their consent."
A lawyer who is expert in French media law told AP the couple would have clear grounds for a case of invasion of privacy. Last week, French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler won a judgment of $2,500 (Canadian) after the publication of photos of her in a bikini.
Under French law, the magazine's editor could face up to a year in jail and a fine up to $57,000.
Closer editor defends photos
Closer's editor Laurence Pieau (right) defended running the photos and said she had even turned down more explicit pictures, which were also reportedly offered to -- and rejected by -- publishers in Britain.
"There's been an over-reaction to these photos. What we saw in the pictures was a young couple, recently married, who are in love, who are beautiful," Pieau told the French news channel BFMTV. "She's the princess of the 21st century. They are on the balcony of a mansion in the south of France ... visible from the street."
Pieau added that there is no comparison between these photos taken at the sprawling 640-acre renovated chateau that was a 19th-century hunting lodge (right) and the ones taken of Prince Harry several weeks ago during a strip billiards game in his Las Vegas suite.
"She's a young woman who is topless just like the ones that can be see on all the beaches of France and the world," said Pieau, who would not reveal how much the photos cost. "These are pictures that are full of joy. The pictures are not degrading. Similarities have been drawn with the pictures of Prince Harry. They are nothing like them."
Closer, which has a weekly circulation of about 400,000, has an exlusive on the photos, but Pieau said she plans to put them up for sale to other publications. (UPDATE: Irish tabloid publishes photos and Italian magazine plans special issue.)
Closer is published by an Italian media company, Mondadori, that is chaired by Marina Berlusconi, the daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. There is a UK magazine of the same name, which has suffered some backlash from readers as a result of the photos, but it has been quick to point out that it is published by a separate company.
Being the most photographed woman in the world, Kate has had her run-ins with photographers before. In 2009, when she was Prince William's girlfriend, she sued a photo agency after photos of her playing tennis were published in Germany. She won an apology and legal costs.
Still, no senior member of the Royal Family has actually gone to court for a privacy lawsuit. William's mother, Princess Diana, once sued for breach of privacy when someone took pictures of her with a hidden camera, but that case was settled out of court.
The photos are overshadowing what has been a highly successful trip for the young royals in only their second major tour since their marriage in 2011.
On Friday, after the couple found out about the magazine's plans to publish, they attended a cultural event at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, where Kate wore the tradtional head covering with her Beulah London dress, then headed off a tea party at the British High Commission.
There, with news of the photos spreading wildly and pictures appearing on the internet, the couple maintained their composure, though the tea didn't do much to relieve the sombre look they had when entering the reception. Kate was, as usual, elegant in her wardrobe -- a light blue dress with a layer of patterned lace from one of her favoured British designers, Alice Temperley (it goes for about $2,200).
She also wore LK Bennett shoes, which was a little awkward since one of the guests at the tea was another famous shoe designer, Jimmy Choo.
RIGHT: Catherine,Duchess of Cambridge sips tea at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Day 4 of the Diamond Jubilee Tour of the Far East on September 14, 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Getty Images)
Here is raw video from Kate and Will's visit to a mosque on Friday: