* French magazine splashes topless Kate Middleton photos
* Royal couple said to be angry and saddened
* Buckingham Palace talking to French lawyers, sources say
PARIS, Sept 14 French magazine Closer published
a series of photos of Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate
Middleton, sunbathing topless on Friday, dealing a fresh blow to
the royal family as it tries to move on from a scandal over
naked shots of Prince Harry.
Closer, a weekly round-up of celebrity gossip, ran a
five-page spread of photos of Middleton relaxing topless with
Prince William on a balcony at a 19th century hunting lodge in
southern France it said is owned by a son of the late Princess
Under the headline "Oh my God!", the photos show the Duchess
removing her bikini top then relaxing on a sun lounger,
apparently oblivious to paparazzi lurking nearby as the pair
vacationed at the property in early September.
The publication reopens a debate over the privacy of
Britain's royal family and the freedom of the press just weeks
after a U.S. website published grainy photos of William's
younger brother Harry cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.
"Harry started the fashion: these days the Windsors take
their clothes off," the French magazine quipped in the photo
spread, which it claimed as a world exclusive.
The royal couple, who are on a tour of southeast Asia,
learned of the magazine spread while in Malaysia and were angry
and sad their privacy had been breached, a royal source said,
adding the pictures were believed to be genuine.
A second source said Buckingham Palace planned to contact
French lawyers to see what options were available.
"There is a feeling of anger and disbelief about these
photographs," the source said. "We feel there has been a red
line crossed with regard to publishing these images."
There was no immediate comment from Closer magazine.
The photos of Harry stained a positive image the Royal
family has carefully crafted as it worked to turn the page on
Princess Diana's death in 1997 and a raft of scandals at the
time including Prince Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson
photographed having her toes sucked by a U.S. businessman as she
The first royal source said Friday's photos in Closer, taken
at a private location and in breach of French privacy laws, had
"turned the clock back 15 years."
William and Kate were on a short vacation at the Chateau
d'Autet near Aix-en-Provence in the Luberon region, whose
picture-postcard villages, rolling lavender fields and vineyards
have made it a favourite getaway spot for wealthy foreigners.
At one point the Duchess, clearly recognisable in the
slightly fuzzy images, stands up and partly peels down her
bikini bottoms as William rubs sun lotion on her back.
"The last time we saw Kate and William on a balcony it was
for their wedding. But they had more clothes on," reads one
photo caption. Another says: "People always say she doesn't need
to dress up to look good. Well ... Kate is proving this."
Closer also said Kate was spotted smoking a cigarette as the
couple walked out of nearby Marseille airport where they arrived
on a commercial flight.
(Reporting by Catherine Bremer in Paris and Tim Castle in
London, editing by Paul Casciato)