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 the 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 holidayed last week.
The magazine said the chateau was owned by Viscount Linley, the son of the Queen's late sister Princess Margaret.
The couple are 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.