The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reacted with “anger and disbelief” after the publication of topless photos of Kate in a French magazine, believing “a red line has been crossed”.
The couple “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”, Clarence House said.
The magazine, Closer, has exclusive pictures of Kate topless on the terrace of a private chateau owned by the Queen’s nephew Lord Linley.
Its website shows an image of the front cover with the Duchess in a bikini about to remove her top.
Closer magazine in France belongs to Mondadori, owned by Italy’s former president Silvio Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest – not the same company as the British title.
Closer magazine UK, published by Bauer Consumer Media, said in a statement: “Closer magazine UK would like to make it clear that the two publications make entirely independent editorial decisions.
“Closer magazine UK was not offered any pictures of this nature and certainly has no intention of publishing the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge which have been published in France this morning.”
St James’s Palace has confirmed that the topless pictures are of Kate but have yet to comment further about the images, which are likely to over shadow the royal couple’s visit.
A source said the reaction by the Duke and Duchess to the images appearing was “anger and disbelief”, although the couple, who have had a busy day of events in Kuala Lumpur, had not seen the actual topless photographs.
It added “They can’t believe the pictures were taken, they can’t believe anyone would publish them. The level of intrusiveness means a red line has been crossed.”
The couple may seek redress thought the French legal system as the source added: “We are consulting with French lawyers at the moment.”
The source said once they had a break in their schedule the couple would “turn their minds to what, if any, action they wish to take”.
The BBC’s royal reporter Nicholas Witchell said it appeared British newspapers were offered the alleged photographs of the couple last week, but turned them down.
Alluding to the death of Princess Diana, William’s mother, killed in a Paris car crash in 1997 as she was chased by paparazzi, a source told the Daily Mail: ‘This incident turns the clock back 15 years.’
The pictures were taken while Kate was on holiday with her husband in France last week.
The couple were staying at the Provence chateau, ahead of their current Diamond Jubilee tour of south-east Asia and the South Pacific on behalf of the Queen.
The publication would restart the row over privacy which raged around Prince Harry last month, when embarrassing images emerged of him frolicking naked in a Las Vegas hotel.
The Sun was the only British newspaper to defy a Press Complaints Commission advisory note not to publish photos of Harry in the nude with an unnamed woman.
The Mail said that the pictures of the Duchess were clearly taken on private property using cameras with extremely long lenses, which means no British newspaper would publish them.