Photographs of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless on vacation in 2012 were an invasion of privacy, a French court ruled on Tuesday.
The court in Nanterre, in the western suburbs of Paris, awarded 100,000 euros in damages to the duchess and her husband, Prince William. It also slapped both the editor of Closer magazine and the chief executive of the publishing group that owns it with the maximum fine possible under French law (45,000 euros or about $53,500).
The couple had asked for 1.5 million euros (nearly $1.8 million) in damages after the magazine and regional newspaper La Provence published grainy photos that showed the duchess sunbathing topless while on holiday in the south of France.
The photos were taken with long lenses as the duke and duchess stayed at a private chateau owned by Viscount Linley, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth.
Paul-Albert Inweis, the main lawyer for Closer, called the fines “somewhat exaggerated” after the ruling.
“The Windsor spouses sought 1.5 million euros in damages from the court but they got 50,000 each, which is in line with the jurisprudence. This is welcome,” he said. “On the other hand, the fine – which corresponds to the maximum fine – seems somewhat exaggerated for a private dispute.”
“This case raises real issues regarding freedom and we will consult with our clients.”
Six people associated with the publication of the paparazzi images – including three photographers – went on trial in May, five years after they were first printed.
At the time, Prince William slammed the decision to print the images of his wife as “particularly shocking” in light of his late mother’s battles with the paparazzi.
Princess Diana died 20 years ago in a car accident as she fled photographers in Paris, when her sons were aged 15 and 12.
“The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to The Duke and Duchess for being so,” a palace spokesman said in 2012.
In 2012, Closer was fined by a French court for printing the images and banned from distributing the print magazine and online. The court also ordered the publication to turn over the original images to the royal family within 24 hours of the ruling and pay them 2,000 euros (around $2,600).
The ruling comes a day after the duke and duchess announced they are expecting their third child together. The baby will be fifth in line to the throne.