Berlusconi's Chi magazine prints topless photos of Princess Catherine
Tabloid owned by Berlusconi prints pictures of duchess despite threat of legal action in France
An Italian gossip magazine owned by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi published a 26-page spread of topless photos of Prince William's wife Catherine yesterday, despite legal action in France against the magazine that published them first.
"The queen is nude!" read the front-page headline of Chi magazine, which featured a montage of photos taken while the duke and duchess of Cambridge were on holiday at a relative's home in the south of France last month.
They included the 14 pictures published by the popular French magazine Closer, which like Chi is owned by Berlusconi's Mondadori publishing house. But the Chi spread ran the whole sequence of photos as the couple sunbathed on a terrace, including a shot of the princess putting sun cream on her posterior that did not appear in Closer.
The couple is hitting back against the publication of the images, which Prince William's office called a "grotesque" invasion of their privacy. The publication of the pictures came hours before the royals embarked on a legal battle to try to stop the spread of the photos.
The prosecutor's office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said it received the complaint against persons unknown by which the royal couple aim to win compensation for the images of the royal couple at the French chateau.
The couple have said they want damages for the alleged breach of France's privacy law from both the weekly magazine Closer and from the photographer, whose identity the publication has not revealed.
They are also seeking an injunction to prevent Closer from reselling the images of Catherine dressed only in bikini bottoms and of William rubbing sun cream on her behind.
Chi editor Alfonso Signorini said he did not fear legal action since the photos were already in the public domain following their publication by Closer.
Signorini argued that the pictures represented "extraordinary reportage".
"For the first time, the future queen of England was appearing in a natural way, without the constraints of etiquette," he wrote.
The prince is furious over the images, which drew comparisons with press harassment of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi tabloid photographers.
No newspaper or magazine in Britain - whose racy, mass-selling tabloids have frequently been accused of unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of the rich and famous - has announced plans to publish any of the offending photographs.
However, the possibility of legal action failed to intimidate Irish or Italian titles, with the pictures of Catherine sunning herself also appearing on Saturday in a Dublin tabloid.
A royal spokeswoman declined to comment on Sunday on whether the royal family would launch legal action against either Chi or the Irish Daily Star.
"All proportionate responses will be kept under review," the spokeswoman said.
In 2006, Chi sparked outrage in Britain when it printed a photograph of a fatally injured Princess Diana being given oxygen at the scene of the high-speed crash in a Paris road tunnel in 1997, together with details from her post- mortem examination.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse