Furious Duke and Duchess of Cambridge launched legal proceedings against a French magazine last night to stop it re-printing topless photographs of Kate taken while the couple were on holiday.
The publication was compared by St James' 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 actions of the French magazine Closer, which left Kate and William feeling anger and disbelief.
And last night the palace announced that lawyers would be pursuing thematter through the French courts. It is understood that the royal couple's aim is to prevent further use of the images and to seek damages.
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 statement, St James' 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."
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.
The photographs were taken last week while the couple were staying in Provence at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen's nephew.
St James' 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 the Queen."
A source added the publication of the pictures had left them feeling "anger and disbelief" but the legal proceedings were the result of the royal couple feeling they had tomake a stand.
The source said: "This is a clear and unjustifiable, grotesque breach of privacy. If we don't take a stand against this, then when would we make a stand?"
The royal couple had spent the day in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur completing a busy schedule of events which saw them break new ground by visiting a mosque for the first time.
They later left the mainland and flew to Kota Kinabalu, capital of the state of Sabah on Borneo, and today will travel to the region's rainforest.
Publishers of the UK edition of Closer distanced themselves from the French magazine.
Chief executive Paul Keenan, of Bauer Media, said his firm deplored the publication of the intrusive and offensive pictures and had complained in the strongest terms to the firm which licensed the title in France.
In 2009, when still William's girlfriend, Kate was photographed playing tennis on Christmas Eve while on holiday in Cornwall and the image was syndicated by a picture agency to foreign media outlets. The Duchess later won [pounds]5,000 in damages and an apology from Rex Features for invasion of privacy.
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