Friday, September 21, 2012


So you’re off to the country, to Luberon, the most beautiful region of Provence in the South of France and inspiration for Peter Mayle and Ridley Scott's A Good Year and 70 miles from Arles and the raison d'être for Van Gogh and his sunflowers. You’re on holiday and on private property in a secluded place – the remote and romantic French Chateau D’Autet, owned by Viscount Linley, none other than Queen Elizabeth’s nephew.

With an expectation of privacy you decide to take advantage of that assured absolute seclusion and sunbathe by the pool with your husband…. You take off your top to work on your tan line… and put sun screen on your backside.

Unknown to Kate an opportunistic yet unidentified photographer (Peeping Tom/Tomasina?) with a telephoto lens sitting on a public roadway an estimated three-quarters of a mile away was snapping photos of she and William who perhaps for the last time felt safe and secure - even though, their staff and security detail were not present. That should be the subject of an inquiry by and the concern of UK security authorities.  If the Taliban want Harry so bad, then they would love to get their hands on this couple.

The French tabloid, Closer, apparently anticipated the Royals visit and is rumored to have dispatched paparazzi to invade the privacy of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  The photographer took shot after shot with the end result being Closer’s revealing issue with the appalling cover which shows Kate in all her glory with the headline Oh my God! 

Now, a title of Oh My God! certainly seems to reflect a more prurient and the apparent not so noble (“young couple, beautiful, in love, living a normal life”) proclaimed intent of editor Laurence Pieau who told Agence France-Press that he doesn't regret the decision to publish the photos. We suspect that his intent was probably to verify rumors that Kate is pregnant and/or catch them in an even more intimate act and, yes, good old fashioned greed.

Pieau apparently occupies a domaine not of this earth naively countering or willing to do anything to deflect the condemnation and huge public outcry with his estimation that the protests have been “disproportionate.”  Given the overwhelming outcry from around the world it would appear that Pieau is also particularly bad at math since he obviously occupies a remote and diminutive minority view.  We suspect that he will be invoking The Almighty once again though probably in some future court room. Perhaps he can create an alliance with the anti-monarchists?
Proving that his bravado is only skin deep Pieau withdrew all the photos from Closer’s web site even before the French courts ordered him to do so.  However unrepentant, we suspect that he will ultimately regret his decision to publish the photos given that whatever he has gained in short term magazine sales will be eaten up in the cost to defend himself and the potential fines to Closer for this indiscretion and gross violation of privacy.  Pieau could even serve jail time… Yes, Kate and William have sued the magazine using the full weight of the Court of St. James.  French authorities are apparently searching for the photographer so this story will be in the news for some time. It would appear that Kate and William (and surely The Queen) are willing to go the distance on this one…  No doubt they do this to ward off future intrusions though everybody will benefit from their courage and persistence.
Once again the reaction to this incident is part of the real story.  The anti-monarchists are now out in full splendor and, seemingly amused, proclaiming that any expectation of privacy demonstrates once again how out of touch with reality the Royals really are?  We don’t get that and believe whether it be Duchess, housewife, actor, truck driver or anybody else – everybody needs to be treated with respect and have an expectation of privacy.  For the anti-monarchists to try and rekindle any debate or referendum on the monarchy at this time would appear to be bad timing and certainly not in their best interests.

Others condemn Kate’s behavior reflecting that as a Royal she doesn’t have a right to privacy and whatever her location, she should never have taken her clothes off – that she “brought this on herself.” These absolutely absurd statements reflect the pathetic, distressing values of those who demean and compromise us all.  Would they have Kate bathe with her clothes on?  

We condemn the photos as grossly insensitive, criminally intrusive and the perpetrators as predatory - uninvited guests in a domestic scene not meant for anybody’s eyes except William. We do note that Europeans in general have a different take on sex and sensuality than we mostly Puritanical Americans who are, for the most part, seemingly uncomfortable contemplating our own sexuality - that old sin, shame, guilt and penance thing.  However sexually ambivalent, we don’t appear to have any problem, yea even a fascination, embracing the seeming visceral violence that permeates our media and society.  When you go to the UK please expect to find full frontal nudity in most media including TV.
Having said that we do understand there is a fine line between a free press and privacy issues though this all appears to revolve on financial gain and not "principled freedom of expression" or any legitimate public interest.  Speaking to our previously referenced photographer, stalking is a crime in the US, Britain and France (and most other civilized countries!) and as such an invasion of privacy and – even to a lesser degree – could result in at least fines and depending on severity, potential imprisonment.  The photographer was no doubt under cover and doing their dirty work surreptitiously.  He/she had no right to know or reveal to the world any aspect of the very private life of William and Kate.

We think that Kate and William at that time had a real expectation of privacy and whether these shots were taken by paparazzi on a public road up to three-quarters of a mile away or even by helicopter, drone or satellite – it’s all the same. Just because she’s a Royal, has celebrity and committed to public service doesn’t mean that she has to forfeit her privacy. The British Media understands that and for the most part have stayed their distance.  No, Kate and William are not, “contracted national pets” as one sneering thread participant recently opined.

The potential downside of any protracted legal action is that this controversy, however noble Kate and William’s intent, will keep the pot stirred (perhaps for years) and that many more people interested in the dark side of this story. No doubt a protective William passed from saddened to annoyed on to mad as hell as I would have been had my partner been so violated. These are predictable and understandable text book reactions though again they knew the risk of just such an event from day one.  Indeed, the Italian magazine Chi and the Irish Daily Star have both published the photos though now both are in the sights of criminal investigators. They have both shown their true colors and at least will lose the respect of honest journalists and the public worldwide.

Commenting on demeanor, Kate does not act like the very vulnerable Diana and looks to be very strong - seeming to possess all the maturity, self-confidence and savoir faire of someone twice her age.  She appears comfortable in her own skin and able to settle securely into any environment.  Photos taken of her shortly after the Closer exposé, reflect a dignified and resolute Kate, certainly capable of taking care of herself.  If this is all part of some test to see if the Modern Royals can take up the gauntlet of the British People, then they have passed with flying colors.  It appears that they are among the best of their generation and will be excellent future stewards of The Empire. I like and respect them…

The French Justice system has reacted swiftly and already in high gear has ruled totally in favor of The Royals by banning Closer from publishing any more topless photographs of Kate or selling them to any other media in the world.  If they do so Closer will be fined $13,000.  The Courts ordered Closer to hand over the original photos to William and Kate within 24 hours and failing to do so be fined $13,100 for each day it delays the handover. In addition, Closer must “give back” (we assume to William and Kate) the equipment on which the digital images of Kate were stored.

We wonder if this might be an empty gesture since it would appear that the photographer and his/her agent may own and have retained the originals. We do ponder that the photographer once identified may fully open Pandora’s Box and result in even further fines and criminal charges against Closer.

In addition, Closer has been ordered to pay the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge 2,000 euros to cover their legal fees.  As we mentioned earlier, Closer was also ordered to remove the images of Kate from the Internet which they had already done several days ago.

Actually this is just the opening legal salvo since an investigation has now been launched to formally determine if the photos criminally breached the privacy of William and Kate. Given the rulings already handed down this would appear to be a slam dunk.  If found guilty Closer could be fined up to 225,000 euros plus civil damages and while unlikely, its editor, Laurence Pieau could do jail time.
William and Kate have started criminal proceedings against the John or Jane Doe aka “person or persons unknown” aka the photographer who took the pictures and who remains unidentified as of this posting.  Maybe they should check any photographer who recently flew to the Solomon Islands…

It will be interesting to see if the French Courts continue to adjudicate the criminal aspect of this case as quickly and fairly from this point on given what has been characterized as the toughest privacy laws in the world.  There now appears little doubt that taking the photographs and then publishing them was perceived as illegal, even criminal, acts.   

The fallout from these responsible acts isn’t nearly over yet.  The Irish Daily Star which published some of Kate’s topless photos is now apparently in danger of being closed down with the tabloid’s publisher suspending the Irish Daily Star’s editor.

Prince William and Kate are now setting their sights on Chi, the Italian celebrity gossip magazine that recently published a 26-page special edition of the illegal photos. An almost euphoric Chi appears fully engaged and unrepentant like Closer in France used to be.  Italian Closer editor Alfonso Signorini defended and justified the publication of the photos in order, “…to show how the royal family in Britain had modernized.”  Right… We suspect that if Kate was fully clothed he wouldn’t have been remotely interested in the photos.

The Swedish magazine, Se och Hor (See and Hear) bought the photos despite an order by the French Courts for the photographer not sell the photos and to turn the originals over. This was all done in defiance of the injunction with Se och Hor publishing the lot including four that showed the Duchess topless.  Their Danish sister magazine, Se og Hor, published the same photos of Kate today.  The editor of the Danish magazine was more honest than most by offering that they will, “…satisfy our readers' curiosity." 

Predictably, copies of Closer even made in onto US Internet auction giant eBay before eBay management motivated by user feedback banned their sale. Curiously, copies of the Italian Chi remain for sale on eBay.  There will surely be more to come though we are carefully noting for posterity those that have embraced the dark side for the coin of the realm. We understand that the Royals’ attorneys are doing the same.

Weasel publications like Closer, Se och Hor and others of that ilk will always make decisions to invade the privacy of any citizen of any country on the basis of money - anticipated revenues v. the potential fines.  However, when you enter a criminal complaint against the editors, writers and photographers of that media, who then face the prospects of doing jail time, well, you have a whole different paradigm.

Thanks to William and Kate for pursuing criminal charges against these thugs and holding them accountable for their behaviors. Vive Justice!

How about we all pledge to never buy another issue of the aforementioned magazines or any of their breed or the products that advertise within their pages? You remove the reward and you eliminate the incentive… Successfully accomplishing that, however, shouldn’t require us to return these folks to the Human Race.


Ned Buxton

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