The British royals are filing a lawsuit against a French magazine for publishing topless photos of Prince William’s wife Kate, The Canadian Press reported.

St James’s Palace said Friday that “legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France” by the royal couple.

French magazine Closer published Friday a series of photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, sunbathing topless.

Franco-American lawyer Christopher Mesnooh said the magazine would almost certainly lose if sued in court but the fines it would face would not be enough from preventing its publication.

Mesnooh spoke as a commentator, not acting on behalf of any of the parties involved in the controversy.
       
Friday’s pictures deal 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 Margaret.

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.

“Well, it’s clearly an invasion of privacy because the royal couple was on vacation in the south of France and they had a legitimate expectation to take the vacation privately, without the invasion of cameras from outside the chateau where they were staying. Under French law this would probably be qualified as an invasion of privacy. Or an invasion of private life, more particularly, and also an attack on their image as two individuals on a private holiday,” Mesnooh told Reuters.

The fines incurred from a lawsuit could be as low as 15,000 euros, which would not deal too significant a blow to the magazine given the number of copies of the edition it would sell, he said.

“I believe that the French courts — if this is brought to their attention — the French courts would condemn the magazine for invasion of private life and invasion of your right to protect your private and public image,” Mesnooh said.

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.

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 sunbathed topless.

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.