The 360: Is the Duchess of Cambridge right to take action against Tatler?

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories

The palace is taking action over the article. (Getty Images)

What’s happening

Kensington Palace is understood to have sent a legal complaint to Tatler, a society magazine, after it published an article about the Duchess of Cambridge.

Among a series of stories about Kate there was a claim that she feels “overworked” because of an increased workload during the coronavirus pandemic.

When the article was published, the palace described it as having “a swathe of inaccuracies”.

However Tatler has stood by the author, and says the palace knew about it beforehand.

While Kensington Palace has not confirmed it has taken legal action, Tatler released a statement on Monday which said: “We can confirm we have received correspondence from lawyers acting for the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge and believe it has no merit.”

It’s understood the palace asked for the article to be taken down from the Tatler website.

While not unprecedented, it’s not common for the royals to take legal action - though there does seem to be an increase in the amount being taken at the moment. Kate’s decision to take action comes as sister-in-law Meghan Markle takes the Mail On Sunday and the Mail Online to court.

Prince Harry is also part of a claim against the Mirror and News UK.

Why there’s debate

The royals suing could set a tone - this is the line. The Duchess of Cambridge last sued over topless images of her which appeared in a French magazine. If she is indeed planning to sue this time, it will indicate what she will no longer put up with in stories about her.

But it could be a risky move given the volume of stories printed and written about her every day, week, and year. Because if she doesn’t sue every time, there might be an indication the other stories are all completely true.

What’s next

Kensington Palace has yet to confirm what action it has taken against the society magazine.

It remains to be seen what they will do next if Tatler is determined to stick by the story. There could be another royal court case to come.

Either way, it is yet another signal that the royals’ relationship with the press is changing. Perhaps they feel that the relationship is not worth preserving anymore.

Perspectives

‘This is little more than flapdoodle and invention’

Really, really, don’t sue. Not until you see the whites of their eyes, which you never will; not until and unless you’re libellously accused of a serious crime. Troubling a magazine might feel good at the time — many, when misreported, enjoy the frisson of sending that first threatening legal letter, the one which forces the newspaper or magazine’s editor to summon the writer to discuss their notes and sources. But when the only stuff being written is flapdoodle and invention about your personal feelings and family happiness, you’re unlikely to win in court. And more importantly, the precedent you set means that if you don’t call the lawyers each and every time with equal vigour, all future articles about your private feelings will be presumed to be OK by you. True or true-ish. - Libby Purves, The Times.

What’s upset them is the idea Kate is workshy

Such a strong denunciation was partly to prevent some of the more fanciful allegations being repeated, but it also underlined the Palace’s dismay at what it views as an unfair examination of the couple’s life and their motives.... But what has upset the Cambridges, and upset them deeply, is the claim that Kate somehow resents the increase in duties that have come her way. Aides are refusing to be drawn on this, but I understand that this assertion that she is workshy is utterly rejected and that the couple are angered at what they perceive to be a false and misleading picture. - Richard Kay, The Daily Mail.

The tone is a shock for someone who was an icon

The tone of the article would have come as a major shock to Kate as the magazine — loved as much by the hunting and shooting set as Made In Chelsea stars — has previously championed her as a society icon. - Matt Wilkinson, The Sun.

It’s the way they talk about class that’s a problem

Tatler has every right to report on the soap opera-like behind-the-scenes dramas that have beset the young royals. Just as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have the right to push back on aspects of the society magazine’s cover feature this month on “Catherine The Great” that they can prove are inaccurate. But, having read the article, it is the truly repulsive way this bible for the elite continues to write about the working classes that makes my skin crawl. Have these stuck-up snobs learnt nothing about the dangers of judging someone because of their social background? - Dan Wootton, The Sun.

Are the Cambridges following in the Sussexes footsteps?

The saying, "never complain, never explain" – created by Benjamin Disraeli – was first adopted by the Duchess of York when she became Queen in 1936. The old saying was then passed on to her own daughter the Queen who appears to have followed the rule without exception during her reign. However, it seems this tradition could soon be one of the past.

Now, it seems, Kate Middleton could be following in their footsteps after her lawyers responded to misleading coverage surrounding the duchess' relationship with Meghan. The legal action is unusual for the Royal Family, causing much speculation that the Royal Family's relationship with the press could be set to change drastically. The duke and duchess have previously taken legal action in only the most extreme cases, such as when a French magazine published topless photos of the duchess. - The Daily Express

No woman wants to be presented like this

I think it's far too close to the bone for comfort. She [Pasternak] manages to completely lift Kate onto a pedestal and then completely knock her off it. She manages to slag off [harshly criticize] her mother, makes William look weak and makes Kate look so dull.No woman wants to be presented that way. The fact the articles attacked her family are probably what will have really got to her. - Ingrid Seward, speaking to Newsweek.

Royals suing could make papers more cautious

[On Prince Harry and Meghan] The newspaper had no issue with infringing Markle's privacy after already being sued by another royal in a similar incident. Therefore, it's difficult to believe this particular publication will cease actions like this in the future. However, if Markle and Harry make a habit of taking legal action — as Harry's statement implies —  this could make the remainder of the press proceed with more caution when it comes to the couple's privacy. - Mikhaila Friel, Insider.

Most royal reporting is hard to judge

[On Prince Harry and Meghan] It is unusually difficult to judge the reliability of most royal reporting because it is a world almost devoid of open or named sources. So, in order to believe what we’re being told, we have to take it on trust that there are currently legions of “aides”, “palace insiders”, “friends” and “senior courtiers” constantly WhatsApping their favourite reporters with the latest gossip. It has been known to happen. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. We just don’t know. - Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian.