The French edition of Closer magazine is part of Silvio Berlusconi's media empire, raising the prospect of a legal battle between the Italian tycoon and the British Royal Family.
Closer France, a spin-off of the British entertainment magazine of the same name, is published under a licensing agreement between Bauer Media and Italy's largest magazine publisher, Mondadori, which bought the title in 2006.
Berlusconi, 75, who is currently facing criminal charges of sex with an under-age prostitute and abuse of office, is no stranger to rows involving topless photos and invasions of privacy. When in 2009 Spain's El Pais newspaper published photos from the media mogul's luxury villa in Sardinia showing topless women and even a semi-aroused former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, frolicking at a naked pool party, his lawyers were quick to step in.
Mr Berlusconi's legal team successfully argued in a Sardinian court that the images – taken like the Closer photos of the Duchess of Cambridge with a long-range lens – were an invasion of the then-prime minister's privacy.
At the time, Mr Berlusconi described the publication of the photos as "an unacceptable violation of privacy and a scandalous attack". Mondadori's headquarters failed to respond to The Independent's request yesterday for a comment on the publication of the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The publisher is part of the Fininvest holding group, in which Mr Berlusconi owns a controlling stake. The publisher is chaired by Marina Berlusconi, his eldest child. The mogul gave it to her to run after prising it from the grip of another controversial mogul, Carlo De Benedetti, following a long courtroom battle marred by corruption.
In 2003, Cesare Previti, Mr Berlusconi's former personal lawyer, was found guilty of bribing a judge, Vittorio Metta, in order to ensure his client won the takeover battle.
Bauer Media, the publisher of the British magazine Closer, yesterday began a firefighting exercise to prevent damage to its own brand from the actions of the French. "The two magazines make entirely independent editorial decisions," it said.