French Closer page
French Closer page Reuters

A French magazine has revealed it is to publish topless pictures of Kate Middleton, prompting outrage at Buckingham Palace.

The images are being treated as a breach of privacy by the royal family, whose UK-based lawyers are currently talking to their French lawyers and exploring ways to prevent publication.

The Duchess and her husband Prince William discovered over breakfast that the French version of Closer is planning to run the pictures, which were taken during the royal couple's holiday in France last week. The Prince is said to be "furious", according to the BBC, and the royal couple believe a "red line" has been crossed.

William's mother, Princess Diana, was killed in August 1997 when her car crashed in Paris as it was being pursued by paparazzi photographers, and the fact that Palace sources alluded to the Princess's death showed the depth of their anger at the controversy, which threatens to overshadow the couple's foreign tour.

The shots were captured with a long lens while the royal couple were relaxing by a swimming pool at Chateau d'Autet, a secluded 19th century hunting lodge in Provence owned by the Queen's nephew Lord Linley.

Sources who have seen the snaps say they are blurry, but there is no doubt about who is in them.

A selection of the images have already been uploaded to the Closer website in a pixellated 'teaser' format, just hours before the magazine's publication.

Officials said the William and Kate were "saddened and disappointed" by the news.

It has also emerged that several British newspapers were offered the pictures, but turned them down.

The images of Middleton come hot on the heels of snaps showing Prince Harry totally nude during a holiday to Las Vegas with pals.

Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, said Prince Harry, who was photographed naked during a holiday in Las Vegas earlier this month, would feel "less alone" when the pictures were published.

Closer magazine is part of the Mondadori media group, owned by the disgraced former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.