A French court is set to decide tomorrow whether to order an injunction halting any further publication of topless photographs of Kate the Duchess of Cambridge.
The row over the publication of images of the Duchess of Cambridge escalated today as the royal couple began court proceedings, and police prepared to begin a hunt for the paparazzi photographer responsible.
Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess asked French criminal prosecutors to consider charges against the as yet unnamed photographer who took pictures of Kate Middleton topless.
A freelance photographer, who admits taking photographs of the couple was today reportedly in hiding.
Valerie Suau admits taking pictures of the couple but denies taking anything "explicit" - including the images of Kate published last Friday.
Under French law the consequences of publishing the pictures could be a one-year prison sentence for the editor of the magazine, Laurence Pieau, and the same for the photographer.
The royal couple are seeking to have the relevant issue of the French magazine 'Closer', that first published the images, withdrawn from sale.
There is also likely to be an application for a fine, which could run up to £36,000; as well as an apology.
The legal action today came as an Italian magazine editor defended the publication of 20 pages of images in the magazine 'Chi'.
The special edition of the magazine, which hit Italian news stands this morning, runs the 18 images of the Duchess under the headline: “Kate Middleton Court Scandal – The queen is nude!”
The magazine, which is owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's company Mondadori, includes three pictures of Kate Middleton topless on the cover, followed by 20 pages of images of her on holiday in the south of France.
The images include her sunbathing topless, and rubbing suntan lotion on her husband's back.
Alfonso Signorini, the editor of Chi, defended the publication of the images in an editorial saying they showed, for the first time, a future queen of England in “a natural way”.
The editorial also says: “The fact that these are the future rulers of England makes the article more interesting and topical.
“This is a deserving topic because it shows in a completely natural way the daily life of a very famous, young and modern couple in love.”
Over the weekend Alfonso Signorini, tweeted that “not even a direct call from the Queen” would stop him from publishing the photographs.
Similar images of the couple were first published in French magazine 'Closer' last week - and today the couples' lawyers will ask French prosecutors to lay charges against the photographer responsible.
The palace said that no decision has been made on whether any action should be taken in Italian courts.
A palace spokeswoman said: “The complaint concerns the taking of photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge whilst on holiday and the publication of those photographs in breach of their privacy.”
Lawyers for the couple will also be in the civil courts seeking damages and an injunction preventing further publication.
The case will be heard in Paris at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nanterre.
The French edition of 'Closer' is also published by Silvio Berlusconi's company Mondadori.
It caused outrage when it printed the images of the couple enjoying private holiday moments at Chateau d'Autet, near Aix-en-Provence.
French Closer also defended the publication of the pictures saying: “The photos we selected are by no means degrading.
”They show a young couple on vacation, beautiful, love, modern in their normal life.“
The Irish Daily Star's decision to also subsequently publish the images drew anger from its joint owners Northern and Shell and Independent News and Media (INM) who both denied responsibility.
Speaking about the case today noted privacy and reputation management lawyer, Amber Melville-Brown of Withers law firm said: "If we are to condone the publication of any private information simply on the grounds that it is commercially beneficial, then the private lives of none of us - celebrity or civilian - are all at risk.
"With nearly seven billion people on the planet, we all need to have some private time and space into which to escape, perhaps none more so than those who are constantly in the public eye because of their role in society. We should be shocked and ashamed to justify such an outrageous privacy invasion in the guise of free speech."