Will and Kate go to war over topless photos
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William pose wearing traditional island clothing during a visit to the Governor General's house as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour of the Far East on Sunday in Honiara, Guadalcanal Island. (Getty Images)
The ultimate in royal peep shows is now an all-out war, with Prince William leading the charge.
As the Royal Family braces for another blast of 'topless Kate' photos on Monday from the Italian gossip magazine Chi, William -- with the full backing of the Queen and his father Charles -- is unleashing an army of lawyers on the people and publications who have pushed him past the brink of paparazzi tolerance.
On Monday, lawyers for the couple will make a formal criminal complaint of breach of privacy and trespass at a court hearing outside Paris. They are also asking for an injunction banning the French magazine Closer -- which published topless photos of the duchess on Friday -- from printing any more pictures and removing any on its website.
The prince has told aides he wants those reponsible for the photos that were captured while he and Kate were on private holiday to be jailed, and that he would be happy to give evidence at their trial.
Meanwhile, the editor of Chi, Alfonso Signorini, tweeted that "not even a direct call from the Queen" could stop him from publishing photos. The celebrity magazine will hit the streets with a 26-page section that contains some 50 photos.
At least 200 pictures were taken of the Duke and Duchess sunbathing by one or more photographers from a road that was perhaps 600 metres away from the French chateau where the couple was staying courtesy of the Queen's nephew, Viscount Linley. The getaway came just before they left last week for their nine-day tour of Asia and the South Pacific.
“They will take any action they can within the law to seek redress," an aide for William and Kate told reporters. "They’ve always said they don’t have an issue with the mainstream media just doing their job, but they have always had an issue with paparazzi whose work intrudes on their privacy.”
"It is the first airing and we will be seeking an injunction from them using the pictures and it will lead to a longer court case where damages will be sought," said a royal spokesperson.
If successful, Closer's editor, Laurence Pieau, could go to jail for a year and be fined the maximum $57,000 (Canadian).
Signorini didn't seem at all worried about his own looming battle with the Palace. He told London's Observer that his magazine will have "normal topless shots, except Kate happens to be the future Queen."
"They are not scandalous, there are no unpublishable pictures. It is just a huge scoop," said Signorini, who said he selected the photos from among the 200 offered. "There are no amorous moments, no kisses, at most William places his hand on her head affectionately at one point."
Chi is no stranger to printing provocative pictures of celebrities, with and without clothes. It is also the magazine which caused a privacy storm when it published a photo of Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, as she lay dying after a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997.
Chi and Closer are both published by Mondadori, an Italian company controlled by the former prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi.
The internet is now littered with the grainy photos contained in Closer. The cover of Monday's Chi is also in circulation, showing a topless Kate with the headline (in Italian): “Scandal at court: the Queen is naked.”
The Irish Daily Star has likewise unleashed plenty of backlash after publishing the Closer pictures in their Saturday edition. Richard Desmond, head of Northern & Shell, the British company that co-owns the paper, immediately expressed his outrage and began plans to dissolve his partnership with the paper.
The Palace issued its own statement, saying the paper's only motive for publishing the photos was "greed." It has called upon the media to use "common sense and decency" and not publish any topless photographs.
Irish Daily Star editor Mike O'Kane was unrepentent. "I did this as a service to our readers, I'm a little taken aback by the reaction in the UK," he told the BBC.
"It only seems to be an issue in the UK because she is your future queen. But from our point of view in Ireland, Kate Middleton is just another of the fantastic line of celebrities."
In Greece, the front page of the newspaper Eleftheros Typos had two photos of Kate, one showing her topless.
Former British Prime Minister John Major weighed in on the topic-du-jour on the BBC on Sunday: "It is the action of a peeping tom. In our country we prosecute peeping toms. That is exactly what they have done and they have been peeping with long lenses from a long way away. They are very distasteful."
Much as the Palace would like it, putting these pictures into a vault somewhere, never to be seen again, is not going to happen. If Kate could turn back the clock, she would undoubtedly have kept her top on.
But this is not just about embarrassing photos anymore. This has become the line in the sand for Prince William and Kate and their expectation of privacy. They will make their point in court, though history suggests this battle will not be end there, not by a long shot.
MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE SOLOMON ISLANDS ...
Thousands came out to cheer the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they landed on the Solomon Islands on Sunday.
Standing atop a Toyota van that had be decked out to looked like a warship, the couple showed no sign of the controversy swirling around them as they smiled and waved at the crowds in Honiara, the capital of the Commonwealth nation.
The couple was given a traditional Tukuwaka welcome at the airport by men dressed in loin cloths and carrying sticks. Kate wore a dress by Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders and a hat by Jane Taylor.
Later, at a banquet hosted by Governor-General Frank Kabui (right), Kate threw out her fashion script and, instead of the dress she had planned to wear, changed into a strapless pink and orange dress that had been given to her by her hosts. William, meanwhile, wore a blue island shirt that was also a gift from the Islands.
In a speech, William praised the islanders.
"This land is the most beautiful place imaginable, and the people of the Solomon islands are amongst the most gracious and friendly we have ever met. The Queen told us this would be so, and as with so much else in her long reign, Her Majesty was absolutely right."