PARIS -- In a victory for Britain's royal family, a French court Tuesday ordered that published photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless be handed over to her and her husband, Prince William, within 24 hours.
The court also said the glossy celebrity magazine that published the pictures, Closer, would be fined $13,000 every time it republished or distributed the offending images.
The royal couple was said to have been "profoundly shocked and troubled" by the photos of them vacationing in the south of France at a secluded villa belonging to a relative of the prince. They had demanded that the pictures be turned over to them after what they called a "grotesque" invasion of their privacy.
They asked the court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre to order the magazine to remove the pictures from its website and ban Closer from republishing them under threat of punitive fines.
At a hastily arranged hearing Monday, the lawyer for Closer, Delphine Pando, argued that the controversy raging over the pictures was a "disproportionate response" to an "ordinary scene."
However, Aurelien Hammelle, the lawyer for the royal couple insisted that the pictures were "profoundly intimate" and "shocking." Applying for an immediate injunction, he reminded the panel of three judges Monday that the photos had been taken on Sept. 5, almost 15 years to the day that William's mother, Princess Diana, had died in a "morbid, cynical and pointless chase" by paparazzi in Paris.
Hammelle asked that the magazine hand over the equipment on which the digital photos were stored and that the images be banned from sale in France or abroad.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as William and his wife are known, have also filed a criminal complaint under France's privacy laws, which could see Closer fined tens of thousands of dollars and its editor serve up to a year in prison. They also filed a complaint against "persons unknown," referring to the photographer, who has not yet been identified.
Hammelle told the civil hearing at the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Nanterre that the photos revealed "particularly simple and deeply intimate moments in the life of this couple that have no reason to be on a magazine cover."
"In the name of what did Closer publish these 'shock' photos? Certainly not in the name of information," Hammelle said. "The Duchess of Cambridge is a young woman, not an object ... and I ask you to put yourself in the place of her husband, Prince William, ... and the place of her parents."
-- Kim Willsher
Photo: Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, on a royal visit Tuesday to the South Pacific. Credit: Tony Prcevich / AFP/Getty Images