The royal couple are taking legal action after French Closer (no relation to the UK version) published pictures of Kate Middleton topless sunbathing in a private villa in Provence.

However Closer’s editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau has claimed that her decision to print the pictures was, in fact, very restrained.

“There are more intimate pictures that exist that we haven’t published and will not publish,” she said.

Pieau has defended her decision to publish the topless photographs, claiming that they are not degrading and simply show a “joyous” young woman getting an all-over tan.

“There’s been an over-reaction to these photos,” Pieau told French BFM television.

“She’s a real 21st century princess.”

Copies of the Closer edition which published topless pictures of Kate Middleton are selling for £30 on eBay. The photographs, taken through a long-distance lens, are blurry, showing the duchess in bikini bottoms and sunglasses on a terrace with Prince William. The couple were staying at a chateau in Provence owned by the Queen’s nephew, Lord Linley.

A St James’s Palace official issued a furious statement, calling it “unthinkable” that the topless pictures were taken and suggesting that the incident was “reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.”

Italian magazine Chi has also pressed ahead with its plans to publish the topless pictures but today lawyers representing the royal couple will appear in a Paris court today in a bid to prevent further publication of the photos.