A court has ruled France’s Closer magazine must pay €100,000 (£91,700) in damages for publishing topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The publication’s editor, Laurence Pieau, 51, and owner Ernesto Mauri, 71, must also pay €45,000 (£41,000) in fines each for invasion of privacy - the maximum amount allowed. Both avoided being sent to jail for up to a year.
They were among six people found guilty relating to the taking and publication of the images at a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday afternoon.
The Duke and Duchess said they were pleased the court had “found in their favour”, with a statement from Kensington Palace adding: “This incident was a serious breach of privacy and Their Royal Highnesses felt it essential to pursue all legal remedies. They wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen.”
The couple will privately donate the funds to charity.
The Duchess, who on Monday announced her third pregnancy, was holidaying with her husband Prince William in Provence, southern France, in September 2012 when she was secretly photographed.
The images were taken with telephoto lenses while the couple sunbathed on a patio at a private luxury estate owned by Viscount Linley, the queen’s nephew. One showed the Duchess topless and having sun cream rubbed into her by the Duke.
They were published by French Closer magazine alongside an article about the pair entitled: ‘Oh My God! The photos that will go around the world.’
Photographers Cyril Moreau, 32 and Dominique Jacovides, 59, suspected of having taken the topless pictures were fined €10,000 (£9,000) each, with half suspended.
Jacovides regularly takes images of French President Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron for the Bestimage agency, which is run by Michele Marchand. Marchand is a fixture on the gossip magazine circuit and has reportedly become the couple’s unofficial image advisor.
A week earlier, other images of Kate and William in swimwear had been published in local paper La Provence, though these did not feature the Duchess topless.
Presiding judge Florence Lasserre-Jeannin instructed La Provence to pay €3,000 (£2,700) in damages. Publishing director at the time Marc Auburtin, 57, and photographer Valerie Suau, 53, were ordered to pay suspended fines of €1,500 (£1,300) and €1,000 (£900.)
The royal couple had sued Closer for £1.6million and La Provence for £42,000, enlisting lawyers to pursue the six defendants through the courts. They also obtained an injunction preventing the further use of the images.
A statement read out in court on behalf of Prince William at the opening of the criminal case in May this year said:
“My wife and I thought that we could go to France for a few days in a secluded villa owned by a member of my family, and thus enjoy our privacy. We know France and the French and we know that they are, in principle, respectful of private life, including that of their guests. The clandestine way in which these photographs were taken was particularly shocking to us as it breached our privacy.”
The statement added they were “all the more painful as they reminded us of the harassment that led to the death of my mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.” Princess Diana died 20 years ago in a Paris underpass car crash while being pursued by photographers.
The lawyer for Closer had described the trial as “hypocritical” as “the public and private lives of the royal couple are so closely linked as to be inseparable.”
Paul-Albert Iweins added: “Two billion people watched their wedding and we even have photos of them arriving at the maternity, leaving and now Charlotte’s second birthday.
“It’s of public interest to know that the potential future heirs to the throne have a solid relationship and are getting on well. It’s all part of royal business.”
Speaking after the ruling, he told The Telegraph: “Two observations: the Windsor spouses demanded one and a half million and they got €50,000 each, which is in line with previous legal precedents and we are happy with that. However, the fine seems exaggerated for a simple, private affair.”
BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said: “The guilty verdict was not a surprise. It’s almost a game these magazines play. They get the fines but they think it’s worth it - they get the extra sales from the photographs they publish.”
He added: “It isn’t this groundbreaking precedent-setting kind of damages which would really act as a deterrent to Closer magazine and others like it in the future.”