William and Kate awarded $150,000 over topless paparazzi shots

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A French court has awarded the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 103,000 euros ($150,000) in damages over the publication of photos from a 2012 holiday – including shots of Kate topless.

The fine was among the highest awarded for invasion of privacy in a French court, though it was significantly less than the couple’s ambit claim when they fought the case.

They had argued that the family’s status and history required a “very significant” fine, as they were “not ordinary victims”.

William and Kate had sued the French magazine Closer for 1.5 million euros ($2.2 million) over the images of the couple relaxing at a remote private chateau in Provence owned by the Earl of Snowdon.

Closer‘s editor Laurence Pieau and publishing director Ernesto Mauri were each fined 45,000 euros, and two agency photographers Cyril Moreau and Dominique Jacovides – who had denied taking the shots – were each fined 10,000 euros, of which 5000 were suspended.

They were all convicted of invasion of privacy or complicity in an invasion of privacy – but they avoided possible one-year jail terms.

At the trial at Nanterre Criminal Court in May, William said in a letter read to the court that the publication of the photos was “particularly painful, because they remind us of the harassment at the death of Princess Diana, twenty years ago, in a pursuit by paparazzi”.

“In September 2012, my wife and I thought that we could go to France for a few days in a secluded villa owned by a member of my family, and thus enjoy our privacy,” the duke said. “We know France and the French and we know that they are, in principle, respectful of private life, including that of their guests. The clandestine way in which these photographs were taken was particularly shocking to us as it breached our privacy.”

The photographs, of grainy quality after their journey down a long lens, were presented with lascivious pleasure by Closer magazine, which editorialised on Kate “offering her chest to the soft caress of the Provence sun” and described her as “a wife comfortable in her body who has nothing to hide from her husband”.

As soon as they were published, the couple won an immediate injunction preventing the photos being used more widely. However, other European magazines also republished the shots.

Lawyers for the magazine had argued they had a “legitimate interest” in publishing the images, which they said presented the couple in a “positive” light.

They had also attacked what they called “Anglo-Saxon reasoning” behind the punitive damages claim.

Previous awards in French privacy cases have been smaller: Julie Gayet, the partner of former president Francois Hollande, won 15,000 euros from Closer over a photograph of the couple.

William and Kate will also receive 3000 euros in damages from the regional daily La Provence, which a week earlier in 2012 had published a picture featuring the duchess in a swimsuit, but not topless, taken at the same chateau.

The prosecutor had argued that the picture in La Provence, though it was not indecent or vulgar, was still an invasion of privacy.

The photographer for La Provence had expressed bemusement at the trial, a French TV station reported, saying “it was an honour to have them in the region. They were not naked, (the photo) was good – not shocking.”

Meanwhile, Prince Harry’s girlfriend Meghan Markle stars on the cover of the latest Vanity Fair published this week, talking about her love for the prince and the “challenges” their relationship posed.

“It comes in waves – some days it can feel more challenging than others,” she told the magazine.

“Right out of the gate it was surprising the way things changed. But I still have this support system all around me, and, of course, my boyfriend’s support.”

She did not sound bothered by the media frenzy around the pair.

“We were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people’s perception.

“I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours.”

She did not read the British press, she said, instead she relied on the opinion of those close to her and “the rest is noise”.

Her relaxed attitude contrasts to the prince’s – Kensington Palace had issued a statement complaining of “a wave of abuse and harassment” directed at Markle, saying “Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.”

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