Topless Kate Middleton pics spark furious backlash

Number 10 "echoes the sadness of the Palace"
Try MP: This will bring back painful memories
Closer editor defiant: 'These photos are not in the least shocking'

The publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge has sparked a furious backlash by the press, many commenting on the worrying echoes of the treatment of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Figures from politics, showbiz and the law hit out at the decision to use the photos, expressing concern over the invasion of William and Kate's privacy.

Publicist Max Clifford said: "I'm surprised, particularly considering what happened in France to William's mother 15 years ago. That adds to the concern and upset it will have caused them.

"The good thing is no editor in this country has published them. If Kate was doing something dangerous or something that would upset the British public, then you could justify it. But her sitting by a private pool topless doesn't come into that."

The royal family could help prevent similar pictures being printed in future by taking legal action,Clifford said, adding that he hopes they sue both the photographer and the magazine.

"If the publisher knows that publishing a picture of Harry, William or Kate in a private setting will cost them a lot of money then they won't do it.

"If they pursue the French magazine and the photographer and successfully sue them, and it costs a lot of money, it's going to put everybody else off and that is why I hope it will happen," he said.

A source close to David Cameron said Number 10 "echoes the sadness of the Palace".

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The view from Downing Street is that they are entitled to their privacy."

Asked whether the PM would urge British newspapers and magazines to refrain from reprinting the photos, she said: "Clearly editors are there to make their own decisions, but you know that there is a process ongoing in this country which is looking at the media, and that is the Leveson Inquiry."

On the question of whether the photos strengthen the case for a privacy law, she said: "The Leveson Inquiry is looking at issues regarding the media in this country. Let's see what the conclusions of that inquiry are."

'Gross violation of privacy'

Michael Ellis, Conservative MP for Northampton North, described the situation as "nauseating" and said it would bring back painful memories for William and Harry.

"I'm concerned about the effect of this gross violation of privacy on the whole Royal Family, and particularly Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as the Duchess," he told Sky News

"William and Harry lost their mother in circumstances in France where the press, at that time, were completely out of control. This will bring back painful memories.

"She (Kate) is entitled to privacy. She is entitled to basic human treatment. She has not received that on this occasion. It is an appalling breach of her privacy."

He said it was clearly a private set of circumstances.

"It is no more than voyeurism. The Duchess was clearly in a private place, she was not expecting to be photographed and it's a cheap act on the part of this magazine to make money. It's as simple as that. There's no public need for these photographs to be taken or printed. It's an attempt for this magazine to make money out of it."

Labour MP and former journalist Denis MacShane said he deplores the pictures but pointed out that it was a best-selling UK daily newspaper that published pictures of Prince Harry naked, while other papers also printed intrusive pictures of British royals and others in public life.

"Sadly the British and French media are obsessed with salacious, sensationalist intrusions of privacy and such privacy laws that exist in France do not stop publication, though they allow some castigation and fines after the event."

Yesterday the magazine's editor posted a series of titillating messages on Twitter, telling followers Prince Harry would feel "less alone" when the controversial edition hit the shelves.

Taking a seemingly light-hearted approach, Laurence Pieau said readers could expect the "hot Provence version of the crown jewels".

And she wrote: "With regard to English reprisals, we will keep you updated … but Kate in Provence in #Closer is so pretty".

Pieau told the AFP news agency: "These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches."

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