The owner of an Irish tabloid that published paparazzi shots of a topless Duchess of Cambridge has promised to shut down the paper.
Richard Desmond’s company, Northern and Shell, co-owns the Irish Daily Star, which ran 13 of the shots taken of the Duchess sunbathing on a terrace while holidaying in France with her husband at a private chateau.
Insiders say he has told lawyers to start the necessary legal action to close the tabloid. He said, “I am very angry at the decision to publish these photographs and am taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture. The decision to publish … has no justification whatsoever and Northern and Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”
The paper’s website has been taken down in the interim.
St James’s Palace has said the publication of the pictures by the French magazine Closer was “totally unjustifiable”.
“There can be no motivation for this action other than greed.”
Closer’s Italian stablemate Chi, which has also run with the topless pictures, was previously best known for having published photographs of Princess Diana immediately after her fatal car crash.
Both magazines are part of the publishing group Mondadori, which is controlled by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who once fought a court battle to halt the publication of shots of topless women at his villa in Sardinia, claiming they violated his right to privacy.
France has supposedly strict privacy laws but the fines are not high – a maximum of €45,000 ($56,000). The Cambridges are also suing in the French courts, but that might not net them more than €100,000.
Closer and the other magazines that publish the pictures stand to earn millions from their resale.
In Rome, Alfonso Signorini, the editor of Chi, said he was not afraid of lawsuits because the images are “not damaging to her dignity”.
“They are certainly images of historical import,” Signorini said. “For the first time, the future queen of England is seen in her natural state.”
Signorini dismissed the idea that publishing them might be seen as revenge by Mr Berlusconi on European tabloids that had mocked him. Mr Berlusconi, who left office in November, is facing trial on charges that he paid for sex with an underage prostitute.
But if for the European publications it is a case of publish and be damned, the damnation is coming fast and furious; it is, after all, the only way the British press can get their hooks into a story that must be making their own tabloids salivate.
A media commentator with France’s L’Express magazine, Renaud Revel, has pointed out that it is hypocritical of British media outlets to denounce the pictures: “The world’s gone upside down. English paparazzi are totally lawless.”
Britain’s Sunday Mirror reported that Prince William wanted someone jailed over the photos, and French law does allow for a criminal sentence over breach of privacy. But that will not stop the photos going viral.
In the absence of international privacy legislation, the internet remains a wild and lawless realm, and royal breasts are safe only in captivity.
First published on theage.com.au