‘They cannot cope’: royal nurse’s family need support like DJs, says MP

LONDON The family of nurse Jacintha Saldanha was “devastated” by her death and should be getting the kind of counselling being offered to the two Australian DJs who tricked her, a prominent British MP has said.Keith Vaz, who met the family at their Bristol home and also greeted them with a hug at Parliament on Monday, said: “They simply cannot cope or understand what is happening. This is a small, loving family. When I was there they were having prayers for her and they will continue to love her and to cherish her until they take her to India where they wish to bury her, after they have ? reclaimed the body.”

Mr Vaz said police had been helpful and the family had been visited by a liaison officer but: “I am not sure that they are getting the kind of support that, for example, the DJs in Australia appear to be getting?

“The hospital has made it very clear it has supported Jacintha, which is what we would expect a good employer to do. I think that at a time of grief it’s important to give the family that support, and I would hope very much that trained psychologists and others will be helping this family because they are obviously grief-stricken.”

But he avoided answering a question about whether the family had known if Ms Saldanha was very distressed after learning that she had passed on a hoax phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s ward at her hospital last week.

“They are a very close-knit family and they had previously contacted her every day. It’s for them to tell everybody what has happened over those crucial two days.”

He said the family was grateful that the hospital had set up a memorial fund in Ms Saldanha’s memory, and that the local Bangalorean community had “rallied round”.

The hospital said it had spoken to Ms Saldanha’s partner by phone on the day of her death and offered to meet him whenever he wanted.

An autopsy is due to be conducted on Ms Saldanha’s body on Tuesday. Her death is currently described by police as unexplained but not suspicious and is suspected to have been suicide.

As the global blame game over her death continued, the King Edward VII Hospital said the radio station that broadcast the call, 2DayFM, had not contacted the hospital’s senior management or its press office in advance. The station has claimed it called five times trying to seek permission to run the call in public.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of the station’s owner, Austereo, said on Melbourne radio: “We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded [before it went to air – absolutely. We attempted to contact them on five occasions because we wanted to speak to them about it. It is absolutely true to say that we did attempt to contact those people.”

He did not explain why the prank went to air despite the station’s failure to receive permission for it and said the tragedy that followed had been completely unforeseeable.

A hospital spokesman said its management was “extremely surprised” at the station’s claim it had called because it indicated the broadcaster was well aware of its responsibility to inform the hospital of what it had done, yet went on to broadcast regardless.

British newspaper columnists have also questioned how it could have been legal to tape Ms Saldanha secretly and then broadcast the exchange without her personal knowledge or permission.

Ms Saldanha’s brother, Naveen, told MailOnline that his devoutly Catholic sister was a “proper and righteous person” and would have been “devastated” by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality: “She would have felt much shame about the incident.”

The two DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have apologised and said they were “gutted and heartbroken” by the tragedy.

First published on smh.com.au

Nurse would have been ‘hit badly’ by royal prank

LONDON Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.Jacintha Saldanha was a kind woman. “She used to walk an elderly neighbour who has dementia… down to the shops and back,” one of her neighbours told London’s The Times.

The neighbour said Ms Saldanha’s two children, a son and daughter aged 14 and 16, “were always polite and well-behaved. The boy often played football on the green”.

But Ms Saldanha, who often stayed in nurses’ quarters in London away from the family home in Bristol, also described herself to friends as “a very nervous person”, one told The Telegraph. She would have been “hit badly” by the prank phone call to her hospital asking after the Duchess of Cambridge; it would have “played on her mind”.

While there is no clear evidence from Ms Saldanha or anyone else that the prank call by two Australian radio presenters triggered her suspected suicide, news of her death has been greeted by a tidal wave of revulsion that now includes a scathing letter from the head of the hospital concerned to the management of the radio station, 2Day FM in Sydney.

And the two presenters who imitated the Queen and Prince Charles, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, are not only suspended indefinitely but appear to have deleted their Twitter accounts following a barrage of abuse.

Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the King Edward VII hospital where Kate had been staying earlier this week over pregnancy-related illness, sent a letter on Saturday condemning the call and asking for assurances the station would not do anything like that again.

Read Lord Glenarthur’s letterIn a letter to Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of the station’s parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, Lord Glenarthur said he protested in the strongest possible terms over the hoax call, which had been “extremely foolish”. The decision by management to transmit the pre-recorded call was “truly appalling”.

“The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words. I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.”

Ms Saldanha was relieving on reception when she took the call, in which Greig purported to be the Queen. She put it through to the ward where another nurse gave intimate details of the duchess’s condition. Media subsequently canvassed questions such as whether the nurses involved should be disciplined, suspended or reported to the British midwifery regulator. The hospital took no such actions.

A palace spokesman said the Royal couple had not complained of the security breach: “On the contrary we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”

Ms Saldanha, 46,  was found unconscious early on Friday morning and ambulance officers could not revive her. An autopsy is due sometime this week.

According to the Daily Mail, a female executive of the Australian radio station burst into tears when the paper broke the news to her in the middle of the night. She  said it couldn’t be true and  that the Mail’s call to her must be a hoax.  Assured that Ms Saldanha was indeed dead, executive Vicki Heath cried, the paper said.

But British newspapers, presumably relieved to be the innocent parties in a media scandal, are ripping into the station for having continued to skite about the prank even after offering a half-hearted apology earlier in the week, before Ms Saldanha’s death.

After the initial backlash, Christian said, “We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues.” But the following day he tweeted, “Still haven’t heard the royal prank that has the world talking? Listen to it here…”

His most recent tweet, promising that the latest on the royal prank was coming up, was posted half an hour before the ambulance was called for Ms Saldanha.

Major advertisers including Coles and Telstra have reportedly cancelled their advertising and the station has suspended all other advertising but chief executive Rhys Holleran has insisted the presenters broke no laws.

“This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it. I spoke to both presenters … And it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered. These people aren’t machines. They’re human beings.”

He added, “Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades. They are not just part of one radio station or one network or one country, they are done worldwide.”

British media have also noted that the radio station had conditions imposed on its licence after an incident in 2009 where a 14-year-old was attached to a lie detector test and admitted on air to having been raped when she was 12.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said it had received complaints about the hoax call but that complaints should first go to the station: “If a complainant is dissatisfied with the response, the complaint can be made to the ACMA.”

The Daily Mail says the regulator has strict procedures for invasion of privacy but they only apply to news and current affairs shows. The show in question was a music-chart program and so not subject to those rules.

First published on theage.com.au

Nurse at Kate’s hospital who took crank call from Sydney DJs suicides

LONDON: The nurse who took the crank call of two Sydney DJs asking questions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has been found dead and is suspected to have killed herself.

Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found unconscious near the King Edward VII Hospital where Kate spent three nights earlier this week being treated for pregnancy-related vomiting.

Two crews of ambulance officers tried to revive her but she died at the scene and police said her death was unexplained but not suspicious.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they were “deeply saddened” to learn of her death and their thoughts and prayers were with her family. They said they had received excellent care at the hospital.

A palace spokesperson told the BBC they had made no complaint to the hospital over the crank call.

The hospital issued a statement confirming that Ms Saldanha had recently been the victim of a hoax call: “The hospital had been supporting her through this difficult time.”

She had worked there for four years and was an excellent nurse.

Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur said, “This is a tragic event. Jacintha was a first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients during her time with us. She will be greatly missed.”

Ms Saldanha was found at 9.35 Friday morning London time. She was reportedly working on reception when two presenters from radio station 2Day FM called in pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales. She is thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess’s ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of Kate’s condition.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Michael Christian, the Sydney DJ who pretended to be Prince Charles, apologised earlier in the week but carried on tweeting about it, including a tweet this morning that said, “MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight.”

During the call, DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background apeing Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to “my grand-daughter Kate”. Ms Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am” before putting the call through to a duty nurse.

In reports about her suspected suicide, British newspapers and BBC television ran large smiling photos of the Australian hoaxers. They said the DJs and the station had continued to advertise the stunt world-wide.

The Daily Mail wrote, “today Christian was continuing to boast about the prank ‘making international headlines’ on Twitter”.

The King Edward, which is the Royal Family’s hospital of choice and the birthplace of princes William and Harry, was deeply embarrassed by the call and at the time accused the DJs of “journalistic trickery”.   Earlier this week it said it was considering legal action.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Friday, “It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.”

Distressed nurses were photographed holding on to each other when entering the hospital today.

The radio station issued a statement saying it was deeply saddened by the news and extending its deepest sympathies to the family. It said both the presenters were “deeply shocked” and it had been agreed they would make no comment.

They would not return to their radio show until further notice, out of respect for the tragedy, 2 Day FM said.

Ms Saldana’s family issued a statement saying they were mourning the loss “of our beloved Jacintha” and asking that the media respect the family’s privacy.

First published on smh.com.au

Bound by birthright: who will succeed to the British throne?


KATE emerged from hospital on Thursday – thin, pale and puffy-eyed but with her trademark dimples on show – with a bunch of bright yellow roses held firmly in front of the current abode of the next royal heir.
The Duchess of Cambridge is due to spend the next little while lying low at Kensington Palace, being nursed through the difficult start to her pregnancy. William is due to return to his work with the RAF and must, around Christmas-time, decide whether to re-enlist for another three years.
He is known to be keen to stay in uniform rather than move to full-time royal duties. He knows that, otherwise, there could be decades of ribbon-cutting ahead; after all, his father, at 64, is still waiting for the big gig. If the Queen has inherited her mother’s longevity, Charles could be in the wings for another 15 years, by which time he would be 79.
The news that there is about to be a third heir to the throne has prompted royal historian Michael Thornton to suggest that, given his age and his history of improper political interference, it would be best for Britain if Charles stepped aside from the succession in favour of a much more popular younger generation.
He cites international precedent, pointing out that the Count of Barcelona renounced his rights to the Spanish throne in 1977 in favour of his then 39-year-old son, the current King Juan Carlos I.
But Charles is probably incapable of such self-sacrifice, Thornton writes in the Daily Mail: “For Charles is a man prone to self-pity and faltering self-esteem and has described his hugely privileged existence as Prince of Wales as ‘a comfortable form of inherited imprisonment’. He remains obsessively intent on claiming his birth-right as our next King, regardless of the effect this may have on his country or the institution of the monarchy.
“His behaviour in recent years has bordered on the unconstitutional. His bombardment of government ministers with interfering and meddlesome letters – known in Whitehall as the notorious ‘black spider memos’ on account of his often indecipherable hand-writing – has become a barely suppressed political scandal . . . ”
Thornton then goes on to describe a series of political skirmishes, legal changes and court battles to shield from public view a series of more than 27 “particularly frank” letters written by Charles to various departments, including the Cabinet Office. The High Court ruled in September that there was “an overwhelming public interest” in releasing them. This was overturned by the Attorney-General on the basis that if Charles “forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king”. That decision is now going to the High Court.
All of which seems to confirm that Charles’ letters do constitute political interference, verboten under Britain’s system of constitutional monarchy.
Thornton, author of Royal Feud: The Queen Mother and the Duchess of Windsor, argues that a King William V and Queen Catherine would be cleanskins; they have no political agendas and are liked for their kindness and genuine interest in ordinary people.
Well, yes. But they are also liked because they are young; he is handsome and she is pretty; and they seem to genuinely love each other. Like the Obamas, even in public they exchange warm glances and light touches and laughter. The cameras adore them, and so do the people watching at home; the Cambridges are an embodiment of the fairytale, of happily-ever-aftering.
At least for now. But no matter what difficulties may follow, they have a huge head start on Charles and Diana, who began in a loveless marriage – at least on his side – that rapidly disintegrated into one of mutual loathing.
Diana may be gone but she is not forgotten. Chatting to English people socially, it seems that men mostly wish Charles well and think it’s fair enough he should be happy at last. But women, even younger ones, are more likely to be bitter over what they saw as the manipulation and abuse of his young first wife.
And some, like Daily Mail letter-writer Marie, despise them both, describing Charles as “an egocentric adulterer brutal enough to ground his wife so that she snaps and totally goes berserk” and Diana as “twisted and conniving”: “And now Charles wants to be king and head of the Church of England – a character like him the head of the Church of England!”
But her view is no longer that of the majority. After years of public opinion polls suggesting Britons wanted William on the throne instead of Charles, a poll just after the Jubilee found people now favour a Charles and Camilla reign. Fifty-one per cent wanted Charles crowned, although a sizeable rump (40 per cent) still preferred William.
But polls on this issue do not matter. The monarchy is not a popularity contest. There is a queue and it will be observed, barring mischance. As one male Scottish reader of the Daily Mail commented, “Let’s skip a generation because we have a shiny young attractive couple who photograph well . . . perhaps if the child is very cute we could have the Queen put down?”
So perhaps a more interesting question is the apparently trivial one of the child’s name. As Rowan Pelling pointed out in The Telegraph, this baby will lend its name to an age, as Elizabeth I did to an era, Georges III and IV did to architecture, and Victoria did to old-fashioned rectitude and empire.
“The Duchess of Cambridge . . . has to find a name that pleases her husband, her in-laws, Burke’s Peerage, the Commonwealth, Hollywood and the global army of royal-watchers. It must not sound incongruous when prefaced with the title Queen or King, which rules out a tribute to her mother Carole” – Carole, presumably, being seen as a middle-class name.
But this babe of a modern age, brought into being in a brave new world that says a commoner is fit to carry a future monarch, and a queen can rule as well as a king, will live under one old ban that has not changed. While the 16 Commonwealth countries have agreed to overturn the rule of primogeniture under which a brother always gazumped a sister in line to the throne, that gilded seat is still forbidden to Catholics.
Meanwhile, the baby bonanza has begun for the mercantile classes, with one pottery producing commemorative mugs with “A royal baby in 2013” on one side and “Hooray for Will and Kate” on the other. Along with Kate, Britain’s outnumbered republicans are reaching for the anti-nausea pills for what will be a long haul.

First published in The Age.

Baby frenzy: Kate’s pregnancy news causes debate and delirium


When the Queen was pregnant with Charles, an oblique announcement said merely that she “would undertake no public engagements until June” – and left the world to figure out what that meant.On Monday, Kate and William put news of her pregnancy up on their website, which promptly crashed. Serious newspapers began live-blogging on the issue. TV reporters were stationed outside the hospital. Twitter buzzed with quips like “Dilatey Katie”.

Bookies announced Elizabeth (8/1 ) and Diana (12/1) the top favourite names for a girl and Philip (14/1) and Edward (16/1) for a boy (and you can bet on the hair colour, too, 6/4 brown, 2/1 blond).

And columnists began speculating about when, precisely, the baby might have been conceived. The holiday in France that spawned the topless pictures? Maybe, concluded one paper, though perhaps it could have been during the couple’s tour of South-East Asia. Another magazine reports “insider” claims that the baby is the result of a passionate night in their rented home in Wales.

Princess Diana felt her pregnancies were too public – “The whole world is watching my stomach,” she once said – but the level of intrusion is already far greater for Kate, particularly now that details of her medical situation are known.

The news is a blessing and a curse for women’s magazines around the world, which will be madly pulling scheduled covers in order to roll out (pre-prepared?) spreads on royal baby bliss and pregnancy misery. But the very illness that has made the pregnancy such hot news will later bedevil the media, as it means Kate is much more likely to spend the next seven months living a private life rather than providing joy for paparazzi. Severe pregnancy-nausea of her kind can go on for up to 14 weeks, and in rare cases can last the whole pregnancy.

The media upside: extreme pregnancy nausea is also slightly associated with a higher likelihood of twins. Princess Mary of Denmark could get a run for her money.

The royal baby-to-be means unalloyed happiness for Prime Minister David Cameron, wrestling as he was with the Leveson fall-out and welfare reform and the euro-crisis, but now likely to be revelling in the spotlight turning to what an Independent columnist has sourly dubbed “the feel-good foetus”.

The London Telegraph’s Tom Chivers is doing a similar bah-humbug, saying he needs to coin a new word for what he is already feeling: “Babigue? Pregxhaustion? Ennuioetus?” Several of the Top Ten Stories Zoe Williams of the Guardian doesn’t want to  read are already up on newspaper websites, including advice on what Kate should and shouldn’t be eating and speculation as to how Diana would have reacted.

The Queen is probably still sorting out her own reaction. She was told only as Kate was being taken to hospital. The official announcement talks of her delight. But for her and her dynasty, this is about more than an old woman’s pleasure at the promise of her first great-grandchild.

William, Kate and their children are likely to become the new face of the monarchy long before they sit on thrones. It is an age where image, not monarch, is king; they are young, handsome, apparently in love, and ready objects for the projection of their subjects’ longing for the fairy-tale.

They also seem to have “the common touch”; friendly, approachable, down-to-earth.

The Queen has had many moments of glory. The oceanic swell of people turning out for her Jubilee was, to a non-Brit, extraordinary. But she is respected rather than loved. And, while she has kept her footing on deck during some truly stormy seas, she is like the wall-paper of Britons’ lives: there, seemingly, forever, but faded now, and reminiscent of another era and its ways. The gloves alone say it all about her un-touchableness.

But before William and Kate come Charles and Camilla. A poll just after the Jubilee suggested that, for the first time, the British populace favoured a Charles and Camilla combo on the throne ahead of a William-and-Kate ensemble. Fifty-one per cent wanted Charles crowned, although a sizeable 40 per cent still favoured William. Camilla is successfully chipping away at the national resentment over Diana.

But polls on this issue do not matter a hill of beans. The monarchy is not a popularity contest. There is a queue and it will be observed, failing mischance.

And seductive as youth and beauty and cute babies may be, next year’s royal arrival is just as likely as Charles to grow into a middle-aged monarch-in-waiting. According to James Kirkup on the London Telegraph, life-expectancy data suggests the child due next year would probably not succeed until 2068, when he or she was 56 years old, and might well reign into the 22nd century.

By which time he or she might also find themselves sharing the limelight with an expected grandchild who will represent the new face of the monarchy…

First published in The Age.

Kate pregnant: royals confirm news after Duchess taken to hospital


Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.Royal bump-watchers have finally been rewarded with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton-that-was, is expecting her first baby.

The child will be third in line to the throne and is destined to be monarch regardless of its sex, as the British Government is negotiating with all Commonwealth countries to change the law so that a first-born girl can inherit the throne even if she has brothers.

The news was revealed after Kate was admitted to hospital on Monday afternoon for treatment for severe morning sickness. No due date has been announced.

St James’s Palace issued a statement announcing the pregnancy and saying, “The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII hospital in central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, her royal highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.”

Acute morning sickness is normally treated with extra hydration and nutrients, which might include an intravenous drip. Unpleasant though it is for the mother, the received wisdom is that it suggests a healthy pregnancy because it means the level of pregnancy hormones is high. It affects only two per cent of pregnant women.

Only a small number of women are understood to experience the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum  throughout pregnancy.

”It will mean that the patient may need to be re-admitted throughout their pregnancy… but in terms of any particular complications, if it’s treated well and they’re kept well hydrated it’s something that is relatively easy and well treated,” consultant obstetrician Daghni Rajasingham from Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said

Royal pregnancies are not normally announced until they are passed the fragile 12-week mark and it is thought that the duchess’s hospitalisation is the reason for the press release at an early stage. The couple reportedly wanted to avoid speculation about her condition.

News of the pregnancy comes just three days after Catherine visited her former school St Andrew’s, where she ran around a hockey pitch wearing high-heel boots, laughing and playing with children.

It is 18 months since Kate married Prince William and speculation has been rife that a pregnancy might be on the way. A columnist in The Daily Mail last week wrote about the duchess’s new haircut and warned that women tend to change their hair when they have a drastic life change, adding, “Predictably? Kate’s new cut has sparked speculation that she may be pregnant. (And if she is keeping a Very Important Secret, then that demure fringe is perfect for hiding behind.”)

A remark that now looks as prescient as the not-so-ditsy speculation a couple of years ago about her sudden five-kilo weight loss – which was almost immediately followed by the announcement of the royal engagement.

With hindsight, it seems that an American magazine report last week was the first to break the news. US Life and Style magazine headlined with “A baby is on the way!’, citing an unnamed close friend of the couple as the source.

There must have been something in the air. Last week, Prince William accepted a home-made baby suit from a young mother in the crowd as he and Kate toured Cambridge. The suit read, “Daddy’s little co-pilot”.

Wellwishers have already signalled joy at the couple’s news, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying ”the country will be celebrating with them”.

”I’m delighted by the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby. They will make wonderful parents,” Mr Cameron posted on Twitter, later admitting he learnt of the pregnancy when handed a note during a meeting.

Bookmakers will be taking flurries of bets on what the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will choose to call the eagerly anticipated new prince or princess.

Speculation as to what they might name their first child began even before Kate was pregnant, with predictions posted ranging from Mary and Matilda to Edmund and George on the mumsnet website before their wedding.

Their decision – be it traditional or unusual – will most likely set a trend for the next generation of babies.

Royal youngsters are mostly given safe, historical names which are passed down through the monarchy such as James, Edward, Charles, George, Mary and Elizabeth.

First published in The Age.

Bottom-feeders do their sums and rise to the top(less)

SO, WHICH aspect of the royal nipples scandal is the most eye-rolling? That depends, it seems, on which part of the press is pontificating.

The lefties point out the naivety of an heir to the throne who has not yet twigged to the potential of the telephoto lens – after Fergie’s topless toe-sucking pics? – and wonder also about the possibility of confected outrage.

The Observer’s Catherine Bennett filleted the royal response, saying the reports of the BBC’s Peter Hunt developed ”in the manner of a grief counsellor illustrating the seven stages of bereavement”.

She wrote: ”At first, he said, the couple were ‘annoyed’. Also ‘saddened’ and ‘disappointed’. But they were also ‘philosophical’. Then, just when you might have expected them to enter ‘acceptance’ followed with luck by ‘hope’, the labile pair became ‘hugely saddened’, then ‘furious, upset’ over this ‘grotesque’ event, passing through ‘disbelief’ to become ‘angry’ and next ‘incandescent’ to the point of consulting lawyers. By teatime on Friday, legal proceedings had been launched and for William there had to be real concerns about spontaneous combustion.”

All a bit much from a pair who needed to understand that they were ”contracted national pets”.

But the part-owner of an Irish tabloid is not nearly so sanguine. A furious Richard Desmond has promised to shut down the Irish Daily Star for publishing 13 of the paparazzi shots of a topless Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing while holidaying in France.

Mr Desmond’s company, Northern and Shell, co-owns the Star and insiders say he has told lawyers to start the necessary legal action to close the tabloid. He said: ”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.

St James 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.”

Well, yes. Closer, the French magazine that published the pictures originally, has long been a bottom-feeder, as has its Italian stablemate Chi, which has also run with the topless pictures and was previously best known for having published photographs of Princess Diana immediately after her fatal car crash. Both magazines are part of publishing group Mondadori, which is controlled by sleazy former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

France has supposedly strict privacy laws but the fines are not high – a maximum of €45,000 ($A56,000). The royals are also suing in the French courts but that might not net them more than €100,000.

So Closer and its colleagues just do the sums. Potential millions in earnings from resale of naughty pix, versus up to €150,000 in slaps on the wrist? No contest. Publish and be damned.

The damnations are coming fast and furious; it is, after all, the only way the British press can get its hooks into a story that must be making its own bottom-feeders salivate. Renaud Revel, media commentator with L’Express magazine, 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.”

The Sunday Mirror reports that William wants someone jailed over the photos, and French law does allow for a criminal sentence over breach of privacy. But that won’t 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

Paper may be shut over topless pictures


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


The makeover of the wild man of Windsor has hit a bump in the road, writes Karen Kissane in London.

First prize must go to the British newspaper The Sun for the earthy brilliance of its headline about a naked Prince Harry covering his genitals with his hands: “Harry grabs the crown jewels.”
But the left-wing paper The Guardian wins the silver. Referring to the small red star that draws attention to the central point of the royal rear in another photograph, columnist Hadley Freeman muses that she is not sure “if the red star on the royal bare backside is a coy editorial choice … or that’s just how royal arses come”.
This week, everyone’s wild about Harry – except, perhaps, his nanna, who must have choked on her breakfast toast at the news that the third in line to the throne had been photographed in a Las Vegas hotel room playing naked with girls and that the pictures had swept right across the world via the internet.
Suddenly, the Queen has been sucked back into the kind of ghastly maelstrom last visited upon her when Fergie was photographed having her toes kissed beside a pool. Or, worse, the brouhaha when Charles was taped talking about how he longed to be his mistress’s tampon.
A suddenly circumspect Harry is lying low. His Dad has unleashed his hounds on the British press. Several reportedly paid tens of thousands of pounds to buy the images but Prince Charles’s lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis, sent a letter to Leveson-cowed newspapers via the Press Complaints Commission warning that under the editors’ code of practice, “It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.”
That did not stop some British editors from publishing links to the celebrity-gossip site tmz.com, which originally published the images, and yesterday the Sun splashed one of the pictures over its front page.
It is thought one of the girls had taken the images on a camera phone and later sold them for up to ¬£200,000 ($303,000). They show the birthday-suited prince getting up close and personal with a naked woman while playing a game of “strip billiards”.
Almost as entertaining are the legitimate photographs taken of Harry the next morning, after news of the pictures broke. He might be 27 but his facial expressions would be recognised by any parent of an errant teenager: sheepishness and dread.
Harry had pretty much recovered from his image-denting attendance at a party while wearing a swastika armband in 2005. On an official trip to the Caribbean earlier this year, he charmed leaders and paraded his blue suede shoes.
Harry’s makeover was said to be partly the work of a new team of spin doctors who are refashioning the monarchy’s image for a modern age. But Harry, bless him, will long remain the spin doctors’ greatest challenge.
Life and times
Prince Harry is an Apache helicopter pilot who has served in Afghanistan and is expected to return later this year.
At 12, walked behind the coffin at the funeral of his mother, Princess Diana.
Reportedly had engaged in underage drinking; has admitted smoking marijuana.
In 2005, was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party and later apologised.
In 2009, made a derogatory remark about a Pakistani soldier. Sent to army sensitivity training.First published in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Half a million sing along to celebrate Queen’s jubilee


Prince Philip couldn’t make it. He was in hospital with an infection after spending four hours in a chill wind watching the jubilee flotilla the day before.

But up to 500,000 others crammed into The Mall outside Buckingham Palace last night to watch the jubilee concert celebrating the Queen’s 60th year on the throne.

The concert started lamely, the baldness of daylight not conducive to glamour.

Annie Lennox pranced awkwardly around the stage in a pair of angel’s wings.

Cliff Richard was a vision in pink, recycling a medley of his hits including Congratulations and Devil Woman (“The same set Cliff did for Queen Victoria!” tweeted one listener).

He ended his set with Long live the Queen! and a saucy flick of his bottom.

Grace Jones was statuesque in a red and black latex bodice that left her long gleaming legs bare. In an amazing feat of respiratory control, she whirled a hula hoop around her waist as she sang her set.

The Victoria Memorial had been converted to a rock arena for the night. Its Perspex roof had long gold spikes that could have been a stylised crown or the cap of a jester, the traditional court entertainer.

Night descended to add a little glamour just in time for our Kylie to appear dressed as a cockney Pearly Queen in hot pants, accompanied by a praetorian guard of dancing girls in tiny silver togas.

As darkness intensified the lighting came into its own, making the stage as bright as a circus carousel.

Coloured lights swept the facade of Buckingham Palace and enormous screens showed grainy footage of episodes from the Queen’s life: riding an elephant, crowning Charles as Prince of Wales, and smiling when she reached Prince William in the line while she was doing a military parade inspection.

Opera singers Alfie Boe and Renee Fleming sang Somewhere from the palace balcony.

The band Madness sang Our House from the roof as light-pictures played across the façade of the palace, turning it into different kinds of stately homes.

For It Must Be Love, Love Love, the lights flashed large pink hearts.

Prince William and his wife Catherine, Prince Charles and Camilla and princesses Beatrice and Eugenie watched the show, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

They and others in the royal box bopped along to the music. Princess Anne and Prime Minister David Cameron joined in with Rolf Harris as he sang Two Little Boys.

Age had wearied some of the voices. Paul McCartney’s was thin and occasionally uncertain, and Elton John’s was not as polished as in earlier days. (And was “I’m still standin’ better than I ever did, lookin’ like a true survivor” quite the right sentiment? Though not as misplaced as Stevie Wonder singing the Queen Happy Birthday when, clearly, this was not the point of the evening).

But Shirley Bassey (Diamonds are Forever, of course) and Tom Jones belted out their classics with undimmed vigour, and Jones’s flamenco version of Delilah had even Prince Harry singing along, generational differences notwithstanding.

The Queen arrived part-way through the concert, warmly wrapped in a heavy dark cloak that looked like one she had worn for a Cecil Beaton photographic portrait in the 1960s.

At the end of the music the Queen appeared on stage with Prince Charles. The cloak was gone, and she shone in a gold dress flecked with Swarovski crystals. Her eyes were suspiciously bright as Prince Charles began a speech.

“Your majesty,” he began. He paused, “Mummy.” She almost smiled, and the crowd let out a burst of laughter.

He thanked the performers and the 600 technicians and thanked God that the weather had turned out fine. At this the Queen, who had shared with Prince Philip the stoic hours watching her rain-sodden flotilla, did laugh.

Prince Charles told the crowd the only sad thing about the evening was that his father was unwell and couldn’t come.

“But if we shout loud enough, he might hear us from hospital,” he said. The audience did its best.

He said his mother’s life had been changed irrevocably at the age of only 26 when his grandfather, King George VI, died suddenly and she became monarch.

“So, as a nation, this is our opportunity to thank her and my father for always being there for us, for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service, and for making us proud to be British,” he said. The crowd clapped and cheered. The Queen swallowed hard.

Prince Charles led three cheers for her and then kissed her gloved hand.

The night ended with the Queen placing a large diamond-shaped crystal into a device that lit the last of 4200 beacons across the nation and the world to celebrate her jubilee.

The beacon flamed six metres into the air, joining a line of 60 along Hadrian’s Wall and one on each of the highest peaks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Then, it was time for more philharmonic grandeur as the sky above Buckingham Palace exploded with streaks, fans and drizzles of light with 5000 individual fireworks going off in four minutes.

Tonight, the Queen is due to attend a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. Prince Philip, who will be 91 on Sunday, is due to stay in a London hospital for a few days.

First published on smh.com.au