A furious Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have launched legal proceedings against a French magazine to stop it re-printing topless photographs of Kate taken while the couple were on holiday.

The publication was compared by St James’s Palace to the worst experiences of Diana, Princess of Wales at the hands of the paparazzi.

The palace led a chorus of protests, describing the invasion of privacy as “grotesque and totally unjustifiable”.

Royal aides drew parallels between Diana’s most upsetting encounters with certain elements of the press and the “unthinkable“ actions of the French magazine Closer, which left Kate and William feeling “anger and disbelief”.

And the palace announced lawyers would be pursuing the matter through the French courts. It is understood the royal couple’s aim is to prevent further use of the images and to seek damages.

In a short statement yesterday, the palace said: “St James’s Palace confirms that legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the publishers of Closer Magazine France.”

The royal couple have the sympathy of Downing Street with a source close to David Cameron saying that Number 10 “echoes the sadness of the palace” over the publication of the pictures.

In a strongly-worded statement St James’s Palace said: “Their Royal Highnesses have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.

“The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the Duke and Duchess for being so.

“Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them.

“Officials acting on behalf of their Royal Highnesses are consulting with lawyers to consider what options may be available to the Duke and Duchess.”

But Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, was unrepentant, defending her decision to publish the pictures during an interview with the French radio station Europe 1, insisting there was “nothing degrading” about the photographs and claiming she could not understand the couple’s reaction.

Ms Pieau also told the AFP news agency: “These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches.”

William and Kate are midway through a Diamond Jubilee tour of the Far East, which had been going well until now.

The photographs were taken last week while the couple were staying in Provence at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen’s nephew, ahead of their trip.

St James’s Palace said the royal couple would not let the controversy distract them.

A spokesman said: “The Duke and Duchess remain focused currently on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu on behalf of HM the Queen.”

Publishers of the UK edition of Closer distanced themselves from the French magazine.

Chief executive Paul Keenan of Bauer Media said his company deplored the publication of the “intrusive and offensive pictures“ and had “complained in the strongest terms” to the firm which licenced the title in France.

He said Bauer had asked Closer France to remove the pictures and refrain from publishing any more.

Legal experts said the royal couple would have a strong case.

Thomas Roussineau, who specialises in privacy law, said publication of the photos undoubtedly breaks French privacy laws.

“It is totally forbidden,” he said.

“The castle is not the street, it is in a private place, and they are intimate pictures.”

But he said it was likely the magazine had weighed up the potential cost of a fine against the revenue the photos would bring.

The West Australian

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