The royal family scored a legal victory today when a French court ordered a French gossip magazine to turn over all digital copies of photos of a topless Kate Middleton reportedly sunbathing in the south of France or pay a hefty fine if it ignores the ruling.
Under the court order, Closer magazine, which first published the photos Friday of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing alongside husband Prince William at a private chateau while on vacation, must turn in all digital copies of the photos by noon Wednesday, must not print the photos further and will face a $12,000 fine each time it defies the ruling.
The royals acknowledged the court's decision today with a simple statement.
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcome the judge's ruling," a representative for St. James's Palace said.
Three publications in three different countries have published the photos of Middleton, 30, but today's ruling affects only Closer.
The topless photos also ran in the Irish Daily Star and, on Monday, the Italian magazine Chi published a 26-page photo spread of the same topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge. Under the headline, "Court Scandal: The Queen is Nude," the photos in Chi include at least one shot of the duchess applying sunscreen to herself that did not appear in previous publications.
Chi, like Closer, is published under the Mondadori publishing house owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Chi is also the same magazine that, in 1997, published photos of Princess Diana's dying in a tunnel in Paris after a high-speed car chase with paparazzi that ended in her death at age 36.
"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," the palace said in a statement Friday.
In addition to the civil lawsuit they have filed in France against Mondadori, the royal family is also pushing for criminal charges against the unidentified photographer or photographers who took the photos. There are as many as 200 photos of Middleton sunbathing alongside Prince William, according to TMZ.com.
The royal couple was sharing a "healthy and profoundly intimate" moment when the photos were taken, their lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, told the court Monday. The situation was "deeply personal."
The case centers in part on just how private the villa was and whether, in effect, Middleton was to some extent flaunting herself. When the photos were taken, the Duke and Duchess were vacationing at a secluded and privately owned chateau before beginning a tour of the Far East and South Pacific to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
"It's not an accessible [view] from the exterior," Hamelle said of the site, a point contested by Closer's lawyer Delphine Pando, who said the site is visible from a nearby road.
The editor of Chi stood behind his decision to publish the photos, telling The Associated Press that he did not fear legal action and writing on Twitter that "not even a direct call from the Queen" could stop him from publishing the photos.