Topless tempest: Kate photos spark palace fury

By Gregory Katz

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 14 2012 1:20 p.m. MDT

Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge take their shoes off before entering a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012.

Mark Baker, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

LONDON — Paparazzi, French media and a British royal: The publication of topless photos of Prince William's wife Kate has reunited the same players whose clash ended with the untimely death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a Parisian car crash.

William, who has long harbored a grudge against the paparazzi who chased Diana in the days and hours leading up to her 1997 death, was clearly infuriated. The royal couple hit back with an immediate lawsuit against the popular French gossip magazine Closer.

The blurry photos, called a "grotesque" abuse of privacy by royal officials, show Kate — the Duchess of Cambridge — wearing only a skimpy bikini bottom. They are the first to show Britain's likely future queen with her bosom exposed.

St. James's Palace officials sharply criticized the magazine moments after the photos hit French newsstands, comparing the intrusion on the young couple's privacy to the tragic paparazzi pursuit of Diana, which many believe was a contributing factor in her early death on Aug. 31, 1997.

The parallels between the past and the present were eerie. Diana was hounded by paparazzi who took telephoto shots of her vacationing on a yacht with her boyfriend Dodi and tailed them relentlessly in Paris.

Earlier this month, a photographer with a similar long lens captured Kate and William relaxing in the sun at a private estate in Provence, a vacation spot near the French Riviera.

Instead of challenging the authenticity of the blurry photos, palace officials said they appear genuine — and should never have been taken, much less published.

"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 St. James's Palace official in London said in a statement.

The British press — chastened by a deep scandal over phone hacking and other misdeeds — all shied away from using the photos. That restraint came even though Rupert Murdoch's The Sun tabloid is famed for its daily "Page 3" topless shots.

The photos, which were not available on English newsstands, appeared to unite many Britons behind their royal family.

"I think it's quite outrageous," said Alice Mason, 24, from London. "They were on holidays in a private place and some creepy journalist took pictures. It's not in the public interest to see this.

"They are always going to be in the public eye, but there is a line, and they (the press) crossed that line."

She said the royal couple has "every right to be outraged, especially with what happened to Diana."

Much of the anger seemed to stem from the fact that the royal couple was at a private residence when they were photographed.

Prime Minister David Cameron chimed in to support the royal couple's right to privacy. William, second in line to the British throne after his father Prince Charles, married Kate in 2011 and both have recently expressed an interest in having children.

Royal officials have stressed that William and Kate should not be photographed when they are not in public. They have complained before about candid pictures of the couple walking their cocker spaniel puppy Lupo on a wintry day in north Wales, where William is based as a military search-and-rescue pilot. The palace has also complained about an Australian magazine's use of photos of the couple on their honeymoon.

Those complaints were expressed quietly compared to Friday's stern reproach of the French press.

Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, defended the decision to use the topless photos, telling The Associated Press the pictures were tasteful.

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