PARIS (Reuters) – A French court ruled on Tuesday that celebrity magazine Closer invaded the privacy of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, when it published topless photos of her in 2012.
The court handed the maximum fine of 45,000 euros ($53,500) to both Laurence Pieau, an editor of Closer’s French edition, and Ernesto Mauri, chief executive of Italian publisher Mondadori (MOED.MI), the magazine’s owner.
Closer magazine, a weekly round-up of gossip about the rich and famous, published a series of photos of Middleton, the wife of Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, topless while on holiday in southern France.
The court ruling followed an announcement on Monday that the royal couple, a subject of fascination for many in Britain and other parts of the world, are expecting a third child.
Two photographers from a Paris agency, who denied taking the photographs, were ordered to pay smaller fines after also being convicted under French privacy laws.
The damages ordered by the court looked well short of the 1.5 million euros sought by the royal couple, who filed the suit for what they called at the time a “grotesque” breach of privacy.
The photos were taken as the royal couple relaxed on a balcony of a chateau in the picturesque Luberon region of southeastern France.
The pictures rekindled memories for some in Britain of the media pursuit of William’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased at high speed by paparazzi.
Closer magazine’s lawyers had sought to justify publication of the photos on public interest grounds, saying they disproved rumors circulating at the time that Middleton might be anorexic.
Jean Veil, a prominent French lawyer hired by the Duchess of Cambridge, said during the trial the article that accompanied the photos was only a pretext for publishing the pictures.
Reporting by Celia Mebroukine; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Richard Lough/Jeremy Gaunt