Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge looked happy and relaxed as they explored the jungles of Borneo during their tour of Malaysia, despite enduring the most difficult days yet of their life together.With Buckingham Palace planning to issue legal proceedings against the French magazine Closer which published pictures of the Duchess sunbathing topless during their recent holiday in Provence, in what it described as a “grotesque” invasion of privacy, the Royal couple appeared determined to enjoy the rest of the tour.
William and Catherine visited the Borneo Rainforest Research Centre, in Danum Valley, nearly 50 miles west of Lahad Datu on the island of Borneo.
They walked through the verdant Sabah rainforest, chatting happily to each other and gazing up at the overhanging canopy of trees.
Although the walk took place as news began to filter through that the Italian magazine Chi had declared that it now intended to devote 26 pages to the topless pictures in its edition on Monday, the couple betrayed no hint of the tension they must be feeling.
On display was a show of professionalism typical of the couple since they began their public life together. The Duchess listened intently as one of the centre’s scientists explained its work in researching and protecting Borneo’s rainforest.
At one stage the couple both strapped on safety harnesses and helmets and were hoisted 45 metres into a tree to view the canopy of the rainforest, before walking through the forest to meet a team of researchers working at the field centre in Danum Valley, where they viewed some of the plant specimens and animals under study.
They then walked further into the rainforest to a 300-metre long canopy walk, before retiring to a nearby lodge for a private lunch and returning to Kota Kinabalu for an overnight stay.
The Duke and Duchess decided to visit Sabah to pursue William’s long-standing interest in conservation. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, whose South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme was launched in 1985 in response to growing concern over the future of the region’s forests.
Buckingham Palace last night issued an angry statement over the photographs, which was understood to have been drafted with Prince William’s personal involvement, in which it denounced the incident as “reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the Duke and Duchess for being so.”
In-between their public engagements William and Catherine have held long meetings with aides to discuss how best to proceed over the matter of the photographs and the continued threat to their privacy.
William has vowed to protect his wife against the prurient curiosity of the press and the public about their most intimate personal details and insisted he would not allow her to be hounded in the way his mother was.
But questions are also being asked as to Royal Protection Squad officers who accompany the couple did not anticipate paparazzi photographers would attempt to take photographs of them on holiday, particularly any showing them sunbathing.
The controversial photographs, which show Catherine and William rubbing sun bathing cream on each other, with the Duchess taking off her bikini top and sunbathing, were taken as the couple relaxed at Chateau d’Autet, Viscount Linley’s property in Provence.
They are understood to have been taken using powerful, long lenses, by photographers standing on a public road or footpath at a distance of between 500 and 600 metres from the house.
However it is not thought the Duchess could have been seen clearly by the naked eye from someone passing on the road, as claimed by the editor of Closer. The magazine last night claimed to have “more intimate” photographs of the Duke and Duchess.
Both Closer and Chi, which claims a readership of over three million, belong to the Mondadori publishing group, which is owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister.
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