Sep 14, 2012, 1:34 am455 pts
St James Palace says a red line has been crossed as French magazine Closer publishes paparazzi pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge topless
Prince William is said to be furious and very, very angry after a French magazine published topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Officials at St James Palace said "a red line had been crossed" after the French version of celebrity magazine Closer published what it described as exclusive pictures of Kate topless under the headline: "Seulement dans Closer: Kate et William, leurs vacances tres hot en Provence."
They were apparently taken on the terrace of a guest house during a brief holiday with William in France last week.
The couple were staying in Provence at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen's nephew, ahead of their diamond jubilee tour of south-east Asia and the South Pacific on behalf of the Queen.
Officials who are touring with Prince William in Malaysia said the Duke and Duchess were furious and hurt by the publication of the photographs.
They did not know anything about the photos until the magazine's website showed an image of its new front cover with a heavily-pixellated image of a woman with dark hair that it claimed was the Duchess, in a bikini, apparently about to remove her top.
On Friday morning, the magazine emerged on the streets of Paris with the pictures of Kate.
Sources said that royal officials did not make contact with Closer in Paris last night, because the magazine had already come off the printing presses.
But St James's Palace was consulting French lawyers, with royal officials saying the publication was "turning the clock back 15 years" to when Princess Diana was pursued by paparazzi.
It was reported that the photos were offered to British papers last week, but they all turned them down.
However, one picture desk executive on a national tabloid said the set of photos being touted around last week were different. "They were also long lens, but you couldn't see anything. These pictures nobody has seen, as far I am aware," the executive said.
The publication of the topless pictures of Kate will not just reignite memories of Princess Diana but will also feed into the Leveson report on the ethics of the press.
Lord Justice Leveson is currently drafting his final report and recommendations and this controversy will underline the difficulties any future British regulator will have in controlling overseas press and internet publication.
Closer's audacious decision to go to press comes just weeks after the US showbusiness website TMZ published photos of a naked Prince Harry cavorting in a Las Vegas hotel room.
William and Kate were told about the allegations on Friday morning before they visited the Assyakirin Mosque and had also looked at the images on the Closer website.
Speaking about the royal couple, a source said: "They're saddened their privacy has been breached – if it has been breached.
"We will talk to our lawyers in London and counterparts in Paris to see what options are available. We're not aware of anyone [in the UK] seeking to publish so the Press Complaints Commission is not coming into it."
The Sun was the only British newspaper to defy the palace's request not to publish photos of Harry in the nude with an unnamed woman.
Prince Charles had issued the request to newspapers, via the PCC, along with a letter from his personal lawyers at Harbottle & Lewis warning them that he had an expectation of privacy under English law, saying there is no possible justification for printing the photos apart from prurience.
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Preview Image By John Pannell (Flickr: DSC_1418 - Version 2) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons