Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is topless in the French magazine Closer - and it is too close. The duchess is no feminist, or anything like one.
She is a semi-silent, semi-saintly doll – the recent photographs of her in a headscarf touring the Far East invite comparison with plastic madonnas. In her engagement interview, she clutched her husband's hand and called him "a good teacher".
To me, her choices are inexplicable. Why educate a woman to be a publicist for a less equal society, where her loveliness is a distraction from other less lovely things? Instead of a topless duchess on a sun lounger, Britain needs a sensible debate about the royal family and its corruption. Its income has risen in this recession, thanks to Finance Minister George Osborne, and they are as profligate as ever.
The duchess deserves criticism for her perfect interpretation of a surrendered wife, a wilting companion to William's barely disguised rage, and also for her obvious materialism. But this is too naked a punishment, even if the editor in chief of Closer (a self-serving monster called Laurence Pieau) calls it great fun. "What we see is a young couple, who have just got married, who are very much in love, and who are splendid," Pieau said.
Why could Pieau not just tell the truth and admit that Kate's breasts are profitable? Any defence of these photographs is nonsense, including the tired press-freedom argument.
Others disagree. Kate's body is an object of fascination, and why not when she lives inside an institution in which individuality is a curiosity, possibly a problem? What else is there to discuss? Her mind? That will remain a mystery, unless she cracks up, which is a damning indictment of this arcane monarchy – only the mad ones tell the truth. I would believe the narrative that they do what they do for duty more readily if they were less profligate, less often spotted in the best seats at Wimbledon or the Olympics, or on loungers in Provence.
Dressed and undressed
The dress was the story of Kate's wedding. In the British and other media, stories about her clothes surpass stories about the Middle East in volume. It was the same with Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson: both dressed and undressed in a spotlight, and both left their marriages unhappier than when they arrived.
The next story will be her pregnancy or non-pregnancy. Someone would stick the lens in the womb if they could; obsession with monarchy is always faintly sadistic in its desire for intimacy. I used to think that Diana died because she did not wear a seatbelt; now I think she was invaded, like Belgium.
Perhaps the most offensive thing is that all this breasts-and-bums business will do the monarchy no harm, because it is a love of sorts. The worst nightmare for monarchy is indifference. Fascination, no matter the vessel, no matter how squalid, is essential.
It is grating to ascribe victimhood to a woman so privileged – especially now, when other victims are so many, and growing. But she is a victim.
The London Evening Standard's front-page headline last Thursday was "Kate's kindness", accompanied by a photograph of the duchess sitting with a child who has leukaemia. The next step is obviously to imbue her with healing powers, like the old monarchs, who "cured" with touch. Her trajectory whizzes on to who-knows-where. No one can live for long in a euphoric dream, as WH Auden wrote. It will end badly. – © Guardian News & Media 2012