Kate Middleton

Ever since the royal wedding last April, the male population writ large has been obsessed with Pippa Middleton’s greatest asset. (Seriously, there’s an entire website dedicated to it.) How dare she steal the spotlight from her sister, Kate Middleton, the blushing bride. But now, more than a year later, it seems that the Duchess of Cambridge herself has given British blokes something to inspire late night thoughts in their bachelor pads, albeit inadvertently: topless pictures.

A French magazine, Closer, took the photos while Kate was vacationing with Prince William, and published them in its latest issue for all the world to see. Needless to say, the royals are positively pissed, because this is the third instance of noble nudity in less than a month. Palace officials took a break from their tea and crumpets to threaten legal action for what they’re calling a “grotesque” invasion of privacy.

But given their celebrity status, are the royals really deserving of the same privacy rights as we commoners?

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It takes a while to get over squandering an empire. As our habit of placing the prefix “Great” before “Britain” suggests, we’re still not quite there yet. But deep down we know we blew it. The evidence is everywhere: from our dentists, who don’t really know what they’re doing anymore, to our universities, which are crumbling, just like our schools, hospitals, and public transport.

Somehow, though, the U.K’s legal system has avoided being dragged into this spiral of decline. Yes, we’re still good at law — so good, in fact, that London is the top destination in the world for international companies to settle disputes, and English law the most popular among international in-house counsel (40% use it, with just 14% opting for New York law). And, in spite of the relatively tiny size of the British domestic legal market, our law firms manage to give yours a run for their money, with the Magic Circle quartet of Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields and A&O outdoing most of their U.S. rivals in terms of turnover and profits.

Doubtless part of this success stems from the fact that Britain is the home of the Common Law, which, unless some joker on Wikipedia is deceiving me, was invented around the 1150s by King Henry II. And as we saw during the April nuptials between Prince William and his bride Kate, our “Ye Olde Ingland” nostalgia sells very nicely to foreigners….

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Ed. note This is the final installment in London-based journalist Alex Aldridge’s series of stories for Above the Law about the royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. You can read the prior posts here and here.

Well, they got married.

Best man Prince Harry remembered the ring. None of Wills’ disgruntled exes opted to speak now rather than forever hold their peace. And Kate — who has been made a Duchess rather than a Princess — even smiled. So now for the party!

Unless, that is, you work at one of London’s U.S. law firms, where lawyers staffing American deals are missing out on the public holiday everyone else in Britain is enjoying. “There are no celebrations here,” one cheery soul told me this morning in that weird Madonna accent Yanks acquire when they’ve been in London too long.

Don’t worry, though, the joke will be on us on next week, when we enter the existential crisis that customarily follows royal hysteria.

“What the hell happened there?” we’ll mutter, warm beer still on our breath.

“Oh no, we’ve only gone and got over-excited about that bunch of royal weirdos again,” we’ll groan, as we remove our commemorative Wills & Kate mugs from view and pour our tea into alternative vessels.

“Why do we, the country that brought the world the rule of law, have a royal family at all?” we’ll wonder indignantly, gnashing our yellow teeth and feeling a touch murderous….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Royal Wedding: A Legal Look (Part 3)”

Ed. note This is the second in a series of posts that Alex Aldridge, a London-based journalist who covers legal affairs, will be writing for Above the Law about the upcoming royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton. You can read the first post here.

In Britain, middle-class people who don’t know what to do with their lives have the option of trying to wed a royal.

If that doesn’t work, the situation is much the same as in the US: they become lawyers. A case in point is Prince Harry’s on-and-off girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, who will begin a traineeship with “Magic Circle” law firm Allen & Overy in September, having failed to secure the ginger hell-raiser on a permanent basis. Had Kate Middleton’s 2007 split with Prince William proved final, our future queen — whose ex is an in-house lawyer — may well have gone down the same route.

Needless to say, royals don’t do law. It’s too aspirational. They don’t even sue; one lawyer who has had dealings with The Firm once told me (in jest, possibly): “The royal family don’t take people to court, they kill them.”

Perhaps this explains why they’re so keen on the military: Wills and Harry have followed family tradition by going into the air force and army, respectively. They probably won’t stick around long, though. Like Princes Charles and Andrew before them, the pair will soon be eased into a middle age of government handouts and state-provided housing. Royals, bless ‘em, are basically very rich poor people.

So is a union between a very rich poor person and a member of the middle class likely to work?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Royal Wedding: A Legal Look (Part 2)”

Ed. note This is the first in a series of posts that Alex Aldridge, a London-based journalist who covers legal affairs, will be writing for Above the Law about the upcoming royal wedding of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton.

So, you wish you had a royal family, eh?

Judging by the content of your media, royal wedding fever is even hotter in the US than in the country to which Wills and Kate belong (that’s the United Kingdom, by the way, for the 90% of you without passports who think London is in France). To an outsider, it seems you’re doubting the wisdom of that decision you took to go independent from your colonial forebears and start a republic.

You knew almost before us about the Kate Middleton jelly bean, the emotional pre-wedding visit to Diana’s grave, and the plans of our many extremist groups to hijack the big day in an assortment of eye-catching ways.

But I have stuff you don’t have: namely, on-the-ground insights into the mood of the British legal intelligentsia….

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Breaking: Scion of fatuous family which contributes absolutely nothing to society chooses a mate.

Sorry, if we were living in Britain, that sentence would have read “Prince William to wed Catherine (Don’t call me Kate) Middleton.”

Thank you, George Washington, for saving me from the horror of actually having to care about the British Royal Family. Obsessing over the Britney Spears is much more respectable. At least she can dance.

But there is an interesting wrinkle to the massive waste of time, money, and ink about to be spent on the royal nuptials. For the first time, U.K. laws would appear to hold pre-nuptial agreements enforceable. Which leads to the obvious questions: should the royal couple sign a prenup?

I think the answer is yes, and not to protect the crown jewels from a spurned future Catherine. See, it turns out that Kate Middleton is a “commoner” only in the insulting, archaic, British sense of the word….

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