As currently reported in the press, Catherine Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge) sued the French magazine Closer for publishing topless photos of her sun-bathing, and she and her husband were awarded €100,000 in damages by a court in Paris. She originally asked for up to €1.5 million.

While I find it highly reprehensible to take and publish photos of someone in a private situation, I am suprised at the amount of damages, both the original claim and the award.

While having (semi-)nude pictures of oneself being published is demeaning and humiliating, no permanent damage was done, so I would have expected a lower amount, To give some context, even for serious injuries, such as lost limbs, the damages awarded for pain and suffering (pretium doloris) are usually five-digit Euro sums. For example, in this case the victim of a traffic accident was paralyzed and was awarded €40,000 for pain and suffering (Souffrances endurées / pretium doloris).

Now, granted, in cases with physical injuries the total award is usually much larger then just the award for pain and suffering, because there are also huge costs to cover (medical bills, loss of income, cost of building alteration etc.) - but in the case of the Catherine Middleton there are no such damages, as far as I can see. So:

  • Under which law(s) and for what type of damage did the court the sum of €100,000? Was it only for emotional pain and suffering?
  • Why is the amount so high compared to the sums awarded for life-changing injuries? Does it include punitive damages?


  • Unfortunately, while there are many reports in the press, I could not find any that gives details as to the legal aspects, nor could I find the court judgement anywhere.
  • I realize that the judgement was for a total of €190,000, because the court also imposed criminal fines, but I am not asking about these fines.
  • Not french legal expert, but we must consider that Closer likely had significant financial benefit from publishing these photos, and Catherine has a valuable public image to protect. If the punishment was say $1... what would prevent anyone from continuing this kind of behavior?
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:17
  • @NPSF3000: You seem to imply that the sum includes punitive damages. Could you add some citations and make that into an answer?
    – sleske
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 15:37
  • 1
    I think I may have found the judgement text, but it's behind a paywall.
    – DPenner1
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


There are two types of damages involved in this case.

Compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

I personally believe that the compensation awarded for her public embarrassment was appropriate, i understand why other people may think otherwise. It is all subjective, of course.

However even if you think she didn't deserve that much money as compensation, it is entirely possible that the court awarded her the amount as "punishment" to the offenders, to dissuade them from committing the act again.

I dont know how much the magazine made by taking those pictures, but I suppose it would be a large amount. If the damages ordered were very small, it would not be enough of a detterant to prevent future offences from occuring. Here you can see the practical benefits of punitive damages, it discourages people from committing the illegal act again, or following the actions of the magazine

However we can be more certain of the intentions of the court if you link the full judgment

  • 6
    -1 Civil (French) law does not have punitive damages - they are exclusively a common law concept
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 20:18
  • 1
    @DaleM in that case do you know how the figure of €100K was reached? Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 1:01

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