When the editor of the Irish Daily Star, Mike O’Kane, was asked about his decision to publish a few of the topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William – a future king of Great Britain, the crown perhaps descending from his grandmother’s snow-white head to his own prematurely balding pate – he replied: “Kate is not the future queen of Ireland, so really the only place where this is causing fury seems to be in the UK, and they are very, very tasteful pictures.”
Alfonso Signorini, editor of Chi (“Who”) magazine in Italy, answered the same question by saying, “first of all it is a journalistic scoop … surely it’s unusual to see a future Queen of England topless? I think it’s the first time in history, so it deserves an extraordinary edition.” (He has 200 pictures of the couple and plans to do more.) Chi is the top gossip magazine in Italy, and like Closer, the original publisher of the pictures, in France, is in the magazine division of Mondadori, owned by Silvio Berlusconi.
Signorini, a former classics professor, is also a TV host and did his boss great service last year when he interviewed, with almost paternal sympathy, Karima El Mahroug, otherwise known as Ruby Rubacuore (“Heartstealer”), an exotic dancer in a Milanese nightclub. Berlusconi is alleged to have paid her, while she was under 18, for sex at one of his “bunga-bunga” parties when he was still Italian prime minister. The charge, of encouraging underage prostitution, is now being heard in a court in Milan. Signorini’s interview, dwelling on her tough childhood and her gratitude to Berlusconi for his wholly platonic friendship and financial assistance – “He behaved like a father to me, I swear” – was itself a journalistic scoop: the first time a prime minister of Italy had been revealed as one who gave selfless succor to a penniless young exotic dancer.
This is steamy company for a Duchess of Cambridge who may ascend to the most magnificent monarchy still extant in the Western world, and unsurprisingly she and her husband want none of it. Much has been made of Prince William’s particular revulsion at the photographs (now widely available on the Web), since they are said to recall for him the hounding of his mother, Princess Diana, and the circumstances of her death – crashing in a Paris tunnel in 1996, pursued by paparazzi.
Diana was surely a victim, and the media did consume her. But she was a victim as Marilyn Monroe was, one of dazzling beauty who was able – from a more solid, better-protected base than Monroe – to set some of the terms of her engagement with the media, turn their avidity to her own ends and use the vast drafts of hot air generated by the media coverage to raise her to global supercelebrity status.