"Kate Middleton Topless Photos" is not a headline I ever expected to read, and I hope I never will again. In a massive invasion of privacy, French gossip magazine Closer has acquired photos of Middleton sunbathing sans bikini top on the deck of a private chateau, owned by the Queen's nephew, Lord Linley. She and her husband Prince William were staying at the chateau while they vacationed in Provence. The photos, taken with a long lens, appeared in Friday's issue of Closer alongside the headline, "Oh My God! Les Photos Qui Vont Faire le Tour du Monde" (or "Oh My God! The Photos That Will Make It Around the World").
In a five-page spread, photos depict the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge relaxing on their balcony, Middleton removing her bathing suit top, and the couple rubbing sunblock on one another. Basically, Kate and Will are acting as any couple would in the privacy of their home. And yet, this publication has decided to broadcast their private, intimate moments as news without the couple's knowledge or permission.
The royal family is, understandably, outraged. St. James' Palace issued an official statement, seen in its entirety below. 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. 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.
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.
Officials acting on behalf of Their Royal Highnesses are consulting with lawyers to consider what options may be available to The Duke and Duchess. The Duke and Duchess remain focused currently on their Tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu on behalf of HM The Queen.The palace's statement touches on the most disturbing aspect of this whole affair, namely its striking similarity to the media frenzy surrounding Princess Diana. It's no secret that the paparazzi's obsession with Diana was so intense that they continued to snap photographs of her while she lay gravely injured following the car crash that would claim her life. I don't mean to suggest that lurking in the bushes outside Kate's vacation home is on par with chasing Diana down in a car, but the former sinisterly foreshadows the latter.
The media is obsessed with nudity. Granted, this obsession is driven by the public's unwavering fascination with seeing celebrities in their birthday suits. Put "Naked," "Nude," or "NSFW" in a link and you guarantee that every warmblooded human will click it. And the public's interest in nakedness goes beyond sexual attraction. People are a curious breed. Whether driven by self-appreciation or self-loathing, everyone is eager to get a glimpse of everyone else in the buff, to compare and contrast their assets. So, if supply and demand has taught me anything, it's that nudity will never disappear from the Internet. I've accepted that.
Thanks largely to Twitter, Facebook, and smart phones, it's easier than ever for "private" photographs to make their way online. Sometimes, such as when The Newsroom's Alison Pill accidentally tweeted a photo of her bare breasts, it is the fault of the photograph's subject. Other times, a third party eager for attention leaks the offending photos to the press — Kate Middleton's brother-in-law Prince Harry learned this the hard way when one of his new Vegas friends spread the photos of his crazy night all over the Interweb. Any time naked pictures end up online it is sad and embarrassing (for the person in the photo); and it's deplorable that whoever sold the photo places their greed above the emotional well being of the picture's subject. But people aren't very nice. I've accepted this as well.
What sets this incident apart from the scenarios mentioned above, however, is the lengths the photographers took for a peek at the topless Middleton. Secretly taking photographs of a person — any person, be she a celebrity or average Jane — in a private location without her consent is a gross invasion of privacy.
A spokesperson for Closer defended the magazine's decision to publish the photographs to the London Evening Standard. He said, "The photographs we have selected are by no means degrading. They show a beautiful, in love, modern holidaying young couple, in their normal life. The article reports on the couple’s recent stay in the South of France.” Wow, talk about skirting the issue. Yes, anonymous sir, the photos do depict a "beautiful, in love, modern holidaying young couple." The problem is that you weren't supposed to be anywhere near their "normal life." The problem is that you inserted your camera lens into the couple's private moment. The problem, sir, is that you have become a Peeping Tom. And you know what happens to Peeping Toms? They go to jail.
People is now reporting that the royal family will be pursuing legal action against the magazine. "St James's Palace confirms that legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the Publishers of Closer Magazine France," a spokesperson for St.James' Palace said. Thank goodness.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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