Kate middleton visits mosqueDo people no longer have the right to a private life once they become famous? Fans and detractors alike apparently have a limitless appetite for dirt on any kind of celebrity from movie stars to "real" housewives to presidents. But that doesn't mean the incessant buzz of paparazzi hovering over their every move, like flies on a wounded animal, is ethical.
On Friday, the French magazine Closer released topless pictures of Kate Middleton and both the royal family and 10 Downing Street (the office of the prime minister) are accusing the media of "having crossed a red line." Moreover, they have pointed out, the incident is doubly painful because of the late Princess Diana's tortured relationship with the press, which ended in her death in a high-speed car crash while being chased by photographers. "The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales," reads the official statement out of St. James Palace, "and all the more upsetting to The Duke and Duchess for being so." The statement also called the publication of the photos "grotesque" and "unjustifiable."
The images were taken while Prince William and Kate were sunbathing on vacation in France at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen's nephew.
When Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to Prince Charles in 1981, she was a shy 20-year-old kindergarten teacher. Immediately thrust into the spotlight, she later said that dealing with the press was the greatest challenge of being a part of the royal family. "The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn't," she told BBC reporter Martin Bashir in 1995, "and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn't; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop." In the same interview, she suggests that the constant scrutiny, especially after she suffered from a bout of post-natal depression and was labeled "unstable," battered her self-esteem. Her confidence low, she admits she resorted to self-harm (which she calls "hurting my arms and legs") and bulimia as an escape.
The Independent UK reports the Royal Highnesses reacted to the publication of the revealing Kate photos with "anger and disbelief" and were "hugely saddened." Still, they proceeded with their duties on an official tour of Southeast Asia. In stark contrast to the photo fracas, Middleton donned a modest pearl grey dress and veil when she attended a public ceremony at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and comported herself with mind boggling poise given the controversy. According to Sky News, the future Queen of England chatted with her husband and warmly greeted the gathered crowds.
Laurence Pieau, the editor-in-chief of Closer is defending the magazine's choice to publish the photos and is brushing it off as a tempest in a teacup—presumably one containing English Breakfast. "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…" "she told French BFM television. "It's a young woman who is topless, the same as you can see on any beach in France or around the world." Of course, if Kate Middleton were a regular young woman on any beach, the pictures would be worthless.
According to the Guardian UK, the photos breach French privacy laws, which are some of the strictest in the world (and which is why so many celebrities including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as well as Johnny Depp choose to live there). A spokesperson for the palace told the BBC that legal proceedings have been launched against the magazine for breach of privacy. Privacy lawyer Thomas Roussineau tells the Guardian the magazine knew full well it was breaking the law, but was betting that the revenue gained would be worth the risk.
Suing Closer won't help Middleton much. Images of her at her most intimate will have already circulated around the Internet millions of times. While she's hanging tough now, we hope that, unlike Diana, she will be able to cope as the press picks at the bones of the hundreds of personal events that are yet to come in her life as a member of the royal family.