Skip to main content

Paris pistol pic: 'Wake-up call' for Pippa

By Peter Wilkinson, CNN
April 18, 2012 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
  • Storm of outrage over photos of Pippa Middleton in car with man apparently wielding gun
  • Royal watchers say incident should act as a wake-up call to Prince William's sister-in-law
  • Photo is causing a stir, after a spate of gun violence in France recently
  • Royal experts say Middleton must avoid further incidents for risk of damaging royal family

London (CNN) -- A storm of outrage provoked by photos of Pippa Middleton showing her in a car with a man wielding what appears to be a gun in France should act as a wake-up call, royal watchers have warned Prince William's sister-in-law.

"This story is very damaging for her," veteran London-based public relations expert Max Clifford told CNN.

"There has been nothing but a honeymoon for Pippa since last year's royal wedding so this is dreadful," Clifford said. "It comes particularly at a time when guns in Paris are such a sensitive issue. The reality is she could have been shot by police."

Middleton has been a target for tabloid newspapers and paparazzi since her sister married Prince William last April. Shortly after the wedding, personal pictures of the 28-year-old began to leak out to the press, including a photo showing her in a bikini while on vacation in 2006 with her sister and Prince William. A photo of Middleton sunbathing topless on that trip was also made public. Later, undated photos from a private party showing her dancing in her bra were also leaked.

The latest incident happened as paparazzi were taking pictures of Middleton who was being driven to a Paris train station in an Audi convertible. The car's driver wielded a gun, apparently pointing it in the air and then at a photographer, who was following them and captured the shot, according to The Sun. It is unclear if the gun was real or fake.

Lawyers told CNN that Middleton was unlikely to face charges unless it could be proved she encouraged the driver to point the gun on public streets, but the driver could face charges of threatening with a firearm if French authorities wanted to do so.

Pippa Middleton draws scandal in Paris

Middleton is the sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who married Prince William last year. William is second in line to the British throne behind his father, Prince Charles.

Buckingham Palace said it would not comment on the photo because Middleton is not a member of the royal family.

The photo is causing a stir, after a spate of gun violence in France recently, including a series of attacks last month that killed seven people, including three children.

The incident took place while security was heightened ahead of France's presidential election.

"Pippa must understand she's in the middle of a media spotlight and she can't just turn the attention on and off," Clifford added. "I assume she has PR advice but either she's getting incredibly bad advice or she's not listening."

The story has been splashed across newspapers around the world, and on Tuesday royal experts warned that Middleton must avoid further incidents for risk of damaging the royal family.

"Pippa is surprised at how high-profile she now is," one royal newspaper correspondent, who has met Middleton on several occasions, told CNN. "Part of her enjoys the attention: she's always mixed with high-society characters and she loves partying but she's not off the rails by any means.

"This prank in a Paris street will come as a real wake-up call for Pippa," the correspondent, who declined to be named, told CNN. "She must now realize that it just takes one person waving a gun around to seriously dent her public image. She'll be gutted by how badly this has reflected on the royals."

The reality is she could have been shot by police
PR expert Max Clifford

But the correspondent said he believed Paris authorities would have no choice but to investigate the incident, while Middleton would be forced to issue a public apology.

The photographer who snapped the shot was "considering his options" about a formal police complaint, The Sun reported.

The Daily Express's royal correspondent Richard Palmer commented that ever since Middleton became last year's most celebrated bridesmaid at the wedding of her sister Kate to Prince William, she has been "riding the crest of a wave of popularity. Some think she has also been riding for a fall."

Palmer said Middleton was popular at high-society events, but she and her friends needed "to learn how to behave in front of the cameras in return."

The incident "will have embarrassed her sister Kate, her brother-in-law Prince William, and also the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year."

"She needs to explain herself and apologize."

Part of complete coverage on
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Diamond Jubilee celebrations reached a colorful climax Tuesday as the queen appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
June 12, 2012 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
Her outfits don't send fashion watchers into a frenzy like those of the Duchess of Cambridge, but the queen has her own signature style.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Buckingham Palace transformed into a rock venue on Monday as some of the biggest names in music celebrated the diamond jubilee.
June 20, 2012 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
Who is your favorite Royal? What is your message to the Queen? Londoners report for CNN!
June 4, 2012 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
Celebrate the queen's Diamond Jubilee with this specially-created CNN jigsaw puzzle of royal pictures.
August 16, 2012 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)
The longest serving consort, the Duke of Edinburgh has been a constant companion at the queen's side for over 60 years.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 1025 GMT (1825 HKT)
The Thames became a sea of red, white and blue Sunday, as tens of thousands celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Excitement is building for what are expected to be jubilant festivities to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 60th year on the throne.
June 3, 2012 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
CNN iReport celebrates the British monarchy ahead of the Diamond Jubilee this weekend from June 2-5.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 1024 GMT (1824 HKT)
When Queen Elizabeth II takes to the Thames it won't be the first time the royals have made merry on the river.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Our world today is almost unrecognizable compared with 1952, the year Queen Elizabeth took her coronation oath.
Queen By Numbers
From the amount of letters she has received during her reign to the distance she has traveled, we take a quirky look at the Queen's life in numbers.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 1032 GMT (1832 HKT)
The queen's diamond jubilee celebrations show how proud Britons are to have Elizabeth as their head of state.
2012 marks the 60th year in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. CNN will be in London celebrating with the British royal family. Follow the coverage of this majestic event with CNN.