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The Duchess of Cambridge waves as she disembarks an airplane upon arriving in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island as part of a royal tour of Canada with her husband, the Duke of Cambridge, Sunday, July 3, 2011.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Some telling privacy distinctions emerged as a French tabloid published photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless on a guesthouse terrace in Provence.

No major British publication published the photos Friday – not even The Sun, which last month splashed photos of a nude Prince Harry partying in a Las Vegas hotel room on its front page.

It seems Harry was fair game because he was prancing naked among the (cell phone-wielding) strangers he'd invited to his hotel room. Meanwhile, the images of Kate's sunbathing ritual on a "remote" property – including Will applying sunscreen to her thonged-rear end – have been widely slammed as an invasion of privacy.

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Now, Prince William and his wife have launched a lawsuit against Closer, the French magazine, for breaching their right to privacy, according to AFP.

In France, where the shots were taken, "magistrates take into account the victim's behaviour, when the person is flaunting themselves on camera. Kate Middleton will get damages because she's not behaving in this way," an expert in French media law told AP.

Last month, a Paris judge ordered the weekly tabloid VSD to pay Valérie Trierweiler €2,000 euros for breaching her privacy and image rights when they published a photograph of the French First Lady in a bikini on the French Riviera. Here, the judge ruled the image was neither "necessary for legitimate public information" nor "harmless."

Beyond privacy, Trierweiler and Middleton's cases raise the possibility of a gendered element to the uproar: Would people be as incensed were it Will's rump on the cover of the French tab?

Globe commenters were divided, but one posited this unsettling scenario: "This is invasion of privacy. This is what the monarchy have to put up with along with movie stars. ... That camera lens could just as easily be a rifle scope lens."

(Reps from The Mail said photos of the Duchess were snapped using cameras with extremely long lenses, meaning no British newspaper will be publishing them.)

Other readers brushed it off, suggesting the younger Royals are simply naturists. "Who cares? Everybody is topless in Europe," wrote another.

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St. James Palace issued its own terse statement, describing the incident as "grotesque and totally unjustifiable."

Editor's note: The original version of this article referred to the Royals as "naturalists," quoting online commenters. This version has been changed to refer to them as naturists.

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