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Video: Royal family suing over topless photos of Duchess Kate

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    >>> prince william and kate middleton continue their tour of southeast asia , but it is photos that were taken halfway around the world and published in a french magazine that have created an international scandal. nbc's duncan golestani is outside the palace.

    >> reporter: the duke and duchess of cambridge will take legal action against the french tabloid which posted topless pictures of the princess. there has been a furious response, a level of anger rarely seen. kate and william 's tour of southeast asia has provided countless images of the royal couple. but now the most talked about pictures are the ones they can't control. printed across five pages of a french gossip magazine , intimate photos taken on vacation last week in which the duchess can be seen topless.

    >> for me, those pictures are not shocking. just beautiful couple and in love couple.

    >> kate and william disagree. first they were said to be saddened. later that changed to furious. the palace called publication grotesque and totally unjustifiable, saying it's reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of diana, princess of wales . it was also in france she spent her last days. it is a harsh reminders about the pearls of the paparazzi.

    >> i would think that he would be absolutely furious. absolutely livid. how could he not be? because it will bring everything back to him and what his mother went through. i do not want that to happen to the duchess of cambridge . i saw what it did to diana and it's absolutely hideous.

    >> reporter: "closer" magazine rejects the comparison and insists they weren't trying to hide themselves. no british tabloid plans to use the pictures, unlike the nude photos of prince harry , which made front page news. this morning, kate and william had a tree top adventure to keep them busy. but they know a far greater challenge is waiting for them when they return home. legal experts agree it won't be too difficult to win a court case in france . the problem is already an italian gossip magazine says it too will print the nude pictures . that means they are spreading around the world and there's no stopping them. kate ?

    >> thank you. martin bashir , longtime royal follower. this is really the first time the palace has taken legal action about a photo. why is this so different?

    >> if you put it in its historical context, it's 30 years to the day virtually that a telephone conversation between princess diana and james gilby was reported on in the sun newspaper . it's 20 years since sarah ferguson was photographed having her toes sucked by a texan millionaire. 15 years since princess diana died being chased by paparazzi. on none of those occasions did the royal family take any legal action . this is unprecedented and an indication of how appalled they are.

    >> does it have anything to do with what we saw just last month with prince harry and the partying photos? are they feeling an intrusion, a deeper intrusion than before?

    >> i don't think so. i think this is william , as princess diana 's friend said in the piece, this is william deciding he has to establish some red line . the problem with this is that "closer" magazine is a french magazine and the version that published these images is in france . but it's owned by the italian former prime minister. so the anxiety is that this is going to be a contagion. i think the hope is that by issuing some kind of litigation, it may have the effect of slowing down what will eventually become a wildfire and spread.

    >> this is so personal for prince william , isn't it? i mean, he's spoken before in the past about his mother and how deeply he felt about how her life went.

    >> to be perfectly honest, prince william has been unhappy with the media and the press since he was born. he still harbors the belief that the paparazzi killed his mother. and therefore, this is a terrible echo of the experience of his mother being chased and pursued. the idea that they went to a private residence owned by a relative and assumed that it was miles from anybody else, nobody else was nearby, and they still couldn't have any privacy, to him must be deeply disturbing.

    >> and quickly, kate middleton has had this reputation of never putting a foot wrong. does this tarnish that in any way, topless photos?

    >> i don't think so. i think the issue becomes one of the fact that she has to understand, i guess, that as a member of the royal family , she has no privacy whatsoever.

    >> even on the balcony of your vacation home .

    >> in a private residence owned by a relative. and that's the lesson from this. it was never her fault. it was down to the fact that they made an assumption that they wouldn't be photographed and they were.

    >> always great to have you. thank you so much.

    >> great to see you, kate . thank you.

NBC News and news services
updated 9/14/2012 3:30:08 PM ET 2012-09-14T19:30:08

Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have filed a lawsuit against French magazine Closer for printing photos of what appears to be Kate, sunbathing topless. 

The suit alleges that Closer breached the couple's right to privacy, though the magazine insists it did not. St. James Palace confirmed Friday that "legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France," reports the Associated Press.

Video: Topless Duchess Kate photos sadden royal family (on this page)

Blurry, long-lens shots of Kate, taken while she and William were on vacation in Provence, in the south of France last week, were printed in the gossip magazine on Friday.

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A statement from the palace said the pair were "hugely saddened" by the publication, adding that William and Kate "had every expectation of privacy in the remote house" where they were sunbathing at the time the pictures were taken.

According to a report in Reuters, Closer's editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau defended the "beautiful series" of photos.

"There's been an over-reaction to these photos. What we see is a young couple, who just got married, who are very much in love, who are splendid," Pieau told French BFM television, adding that the magazine had more 'intimate' shots from the same series that it chose not to publish.

Story: William, Kate gear up for whirlwind Asia-Pacific tour

The news comes as the couple makes an official tour of Southeast Asia. Kate has been basking in the glow of rave reviews for her performing during her second overseas tour as a duchess — and just 24 hours after her heralded first public speech on the international stage.

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William and Kate, who were in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early Friday, were told at breakfast about the embarrassing photographs, according to ITV News' Royal Correspondent Tim Ewart.

"The pictures almost certainly won't be published in Britain, although The Sun did print photographs of Prince Harry naked in Las Vegas," he reported. "It hardly matters, though. They will be readily available on the internet."

Story: A royal frizz-fixer? Meet traveling Team Kate

The statement issued by St James’s Palace in London on Friday 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.

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William, who was devastated by the death of his mother Princess Diana following a high-speed car chase by paparazzi in 1997, had hoped to shield his wife from the darker side of a life lived in public.

See more news on the Royals from TODAY.com

For the couple, who were vacationing at the home of a friend, the end of their honeymoon with some quarters of the media is sure to spark wider anger, especially given her pitch-perfect performance on this high-profile tour.

"The Duke and Duchess remain focused currently on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu," a palace spokesperson said.

Sara James, NBC News, and ITV News contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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