Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, came to world attention when, as Kate Middleton, she was dating Prince William, whom she married last year.

With her winning smile, charmingly demure manner and elegant fashion sense, Kate quickly became a worldwide sensation, not to mention a regular on best-dressed lists.

Well, if there is a 2012 best-undressed list, the duchess is sure to be on it as well. The royal family and much of Britain has been all a-tizzy since a French magazine published photos of Kate sunbathing topless at a villa in the south of France where she was vacationing with her husband, who it should be noted was also bare from the waist up.

The photo spread was particularly unwelcome at Buckingham Palace because it came not long after photos and video emerged featuring William’s younger brother romping naked in a Las Vegas hotel suite. The commoners got a full-frontal view of Prince Harry’s physical assets as he engaged in a game of “strip billiards.”

Queen Elizabeth must be pining for the days when this sort of affront could be handled with a sharp ax and a sturdy chopping block. But royal prerogatives not being what they once were, the duchess and her husband had to settle for going to court in France, claiming a privacy violation. Last week, a French court ruled against the magazine and ordered it to give up all its digital copies.

As long as they’re engaged in hopeless pastimes, though, why don’t Kate and Williams get started on drinking the Thames dry? By now, the grainy images have spread irretrievably across the globe via the Internet, easily available to anyone bored with videos of adorable kittens and “Call Me Maybe” covers.

Before the court had issued its edict, publications in Italy and Ireland had also published their own spreads. The implacable royals are considering action against those, and they are also pursuing a criminal complaint in France.

But it’s not as though the paparazzi are solely to blame. Kate set the girls free while lounging on a balcony that apparently provides an unobstructed line of sight to a public road half a mile away. Anyone with a set of binoculars and a dirty mind could have gazed at length on her uncovered torso. Nor was it exactly a secret to the couple that wherever the British royals go, nosy photographers are sure to follow.

Persisting in legal action sounds like a rewarding option for lawyers on either side but a waste of time and money for the House of Windsor. And we can recommend a far simpler remedy for modest, camera-shy royals: When you’re anywhere that an unnoticed camera might be present, keep your clothes on. If you can’t do that, make sure to smile — and use sunscreen.

Editorial by the Chicago Tribune

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