London: The publication by a French magazine of topless pictures of Prince William's wife Catherine is "grotesque and totally unjustifiable", their office St James's Palace said on Friday.
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", the palace said in a statement.
A French magazine on Friday published topless pictures of Prince William's wife Catherine taken while the pair were on holiday in France, in a move met with dismay by the royal couple.
Announcing a world exclusive, Closer magazine invited readers on its website to pick up he new edition to enjoy "the photos that the world can't wait to see; the Duchess of Cambridge topless on a guesthouse terrace".
Splashed on the front cover and inside on five pages, many of the grainy photos feature what appears to be Catherine wearing just the bottoms of a black and white bikini and looking so fit that the magazine said "Victoria's Secret angels can stand aside."
In one, William is rubbing sunscreen on the lower end of Kate's backside, in another the couple laugh as they lounge in chairs near a folded red parasol, in a third Catherine holds the top of her bikini across her chest, either taking it off or putting it back on.
The pictures were sure to create a worldwide media frenzy and further embarrass the royal family, already reeling from the recent publication of nude photos of William's brother Harry.
The snaps were taken on the terrace of the Autet Chateau in the southern French region of Provence where William and Catherine were said to have vacationed last week.
The magazine said the chateau was owned by Viscount Linley, the son of Queen Elizabeth's late sister Princess Margaret.
The couple are currently in Malaysia and a source travelling with them said that "their royal highnesses were saddened to learn about the alleged photos".
"The incident, if true, turns the clock back 15 years," the source said, referring to the intense media attention on William's late mother Diana, who died in a car crash while fleeing paparazzi in Paris in 1997.
The royal source added that the monarchy was investigating the authenticity of the photos and would then "make a decision about what to do".
The story was picked up in the British media on Friday, less than a month after the publication of naked pictures of Harry in a Las Vegas hotel.
Britain's younger royals are touring the globe throughout 2012 as part of celebrations marking the 60-year reign of William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
They are now on a nine-day trip that started in Singapore. They arrived in Malaysia on Thursday, and will move on this weekend to the Solomon Islands and later Tuvalu.
On Friday, they will make a highly-anticipated public appearance at a park in central Kuala Lumpur before visiting a nature conservation site in the Borneo jungle Saturday.
But the photo row threatened to overshadow the tour, which was meant to help introduce the couple overseas after their pomp-filled marriage last year.
The April 2011 ceremony was watched by up to two billion TV viewers around the world, sparking fresh excitement in Britain's monarchy after years of crisis.
Last month a US celebrity gossip website published grainy camera-phone pictures of William's brother Harry cavorting naked with a mystery woman during a wild party in a Las Vegas hotel suite.
Harry, the third in line to the throne and a military helicopter pilot, has since been deployed to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty.
Story first published:
September 14, 2012 14:37 IST