May 22, 2013
French magazine publishes photos of topless Kate Middleton, upsets Palace
French magazine Closer published a series of photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, sunbathing topless today, dealing a fresh blow to the royal family as it tries to move on from a scandal over naked shots of Prince Harry.
Closer, a weekly round-up of celebrity gossip, ran a five-page spread of photos of Middleton relaxing topless with Prince William on a balcony at a 19th century hunting lodge in southern France it said is owned by a son of the late Princess Margaret.
"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," a spokesperson for St James' Palace said.
"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."
Closer's editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau described the photos as a "beautiful series" that showed a couple in love and were in no way degrading. She said the magazine had more intimate shots from the same series that it opted not to publish.
"There's been an over-reaction to these photos. What we see is a young couple, who just got married, who are very much in love, who are splendid," Pieau told French BFM television.
"She's a real 21st Century princess," she added: "It's a young woman who is topless, the same as you can see on any beach in France or around the world."
Under the headline "Oh my God!", the photos show the Duchess removing her bikini top then relaxing on a sun lounger, apparently oblivious to paparazzi lurking nearby as the pair vacationed at the property in early September.
The publication reopens a debate over the privacy of Britain's royal family and the freedom of the press just weeks after a US website published grainy photos of William's younger brother Harry cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The royal couple, who are on a tour of southeast Asia, learned of the magazine spread while in Malaysia and were angry and sad their privacy had been breached, a royal source said, adding the pictures were believed to be genuine.
William and Kate were on a short vacation at the Chateau d'Autet near Aix-en-Provence in the Luberon region, whose picture-postcard villages, rolling lavender fields and vineyards have made it a favourite getaway spot for wealthy foreigners.
At one point the Duchess, clearly recognisable in the slightly fuzzy images, stands up and partly peels down her bikini bottoms as William rubs sun lotion on her back.
"The last time we saw Kate and William on a balcony it was for their wedding. But they had more clothes on," reads one photo caption. Another says: "People always say she doesn't need to dress up to look good. Well ... Kate is proving this."
Closer also said Kate was spotted smoking a cigarette as the couple walked out of nearby Marseille airport where they arrived on a commercial flight.