UK Royals Fight to Stop Topless Duchess Photos

(Courtesy: Mario Testino / MGN Online)

(Courtesy: Mario Testino / MGN Online)

By Max Foster

Per Nyberg and Laura Smith-Spark

LONDON (CNN) — Britain’s royal family will go to court Monday to stop the publication of more topless photos of Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge, a palace spokesman told Britain’s Press Association on Sunday.

Lawyers for the royals will be seeking damages and a Paris court order preventing the photos from being published again.

The French magazine Closer ran photos last week of Prince William’s wife sunbathing topless in private last week.

Chi, an Italian gossip magazine owned by the same company, has said it will put out a special edition on Monday with photos of William and Catherine on vacation.

The palace expressed outrage last week that the French magazine published the pictures, comparing the invasion of privacy to those suffered by William’s late mother, Diana, princess of Wales.

William and Catherine were said to be “hugely saddened” by what palace officials called a “grotesque” invasion of privacy while they were on a private vacation.

But the Irish Daily Star went on to print the pictures on Saturday.

Palace officials slammed the newspaper’s decision as driven only by greed.

But editor Mike O’Kane told the BBC that outrage over the images was only felt in Britain and that readers in the Republic of Ireland wanted to know what all the “kerfuffle” was about.

He was “a little taken aback by the reaction in the UK,” he said, saying the newspaper was treating Catherine no differently from any other celebrity.

“She’s not the future queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK,” he said, suggesting that the British press were behaving with some hypocrisy.

O’Kane said the Irish Daily Star was reproducing the images as published in Closer on Friday rather than buying them itself directly. The pictures are not being published in the Northern Ireland edition.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

The latest controversy comes only three weeks after the British royal family was caught up in a media furor over images of William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, partying naked in his Las Vegas hotel room with a group of girls.

In a sign of how divisive the issue of royal privacy has become, a co-owner of the Irish Daily Star, media group Northern & Shell, said it in no way backed the newspaper’s decision to run the pictures of Catherine.

In a statement, the company — which runs the Irish Daily Star in a joint venture with Independent News & Media, but does not exert editorial control over it — said it was “profoundly dismayed” by the move.

“We abhor the decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish these intrusive pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which we, like St James’s Palace, believe to be a grotesque invasion of their privacy,” Northern & Shell’s communications director Mimi Turner said.

Northern & Shell also owns the Daily Express and the Daily Star, among other British publications, which have not run the pictures of Catherine, nor of Prince Harry.

William, who is second in line to the throne, and his wife are on an official tour of southeast Asian nations.

They were due in the Solomon Islands Sunday on the next leg of a tour that has been overshadowed by the furor over the photographs.

Catherine was “upset” with Closer magazine, a palace source told CNN.

Mondadori told CNN it plans to run 26 pages of photographs of William and Kate on vacation in an “extraordinary” special edition to go on sale in Italy on Monday.

Chi’s front cover will also feature three revealing pictures of Catherine, according to a copy of the page and statement sent by Mondadori spokeswoman Carmen Mugione via e-mail.

“It is a story worth publishing in an extraordinary edition because it shows in a natural light the everyday life of a very famous contemporary young couple in love,” Chi’s editor-in-chief, Alfonso Signorini, is quoted as saying in the statement.

“The fact that they happen to be the future king and queen of England certainly makes it more interesting and current, and in line with today’s concept of monarchy.”

A St. James’s Palace spokeswoman said: “Any such publication would serve no purpose other than to cause further, entirely unjustifiable upset to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were enjoying time alone together in the privacy of a relative’s home.”

According to Mondadori’s website, Closer has an average weekly circulation of about 414,000, while Chi sells more than 340,000 copies a week. Marina Berlusconi, daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been chairwoman of the media group since 2003.

Legal analysts suggest the company hopes to recoup any legal costs and fines it may incur by increasing sales, thanks to the revealing pictures.

The grainy pictures published by Closer in France appear to have been taken with a long camera lens while the couple was staying at a private chateau belonging to William’s uncle in Provence, in southern France.

The new privacy controversies have dredged up the royal family’s often rocky relationship with the press and put a spotlight on how the palace deals with the media after the tragic death of Diana, as she fled photographers in Paris 15 years ago.

Laurence Pieau, editor-in-chief of Closer in France, defended the decision to publish the images in an interview with CNN affiliate BFM-TV, saying: “We were just doing our job.”

Pieau said that there had been no debate at the magazine over whether to publish the photos, and that they show the royals “are just like any other couple in love.”

On Saturday the management of Closer said the photos “are in no case degrading.”

French law provides for “draconian sanctions” to protect against this kind of behavior, Briitsh lawyer Charlotte Harris said, including orders to take magazines off shelves and the imposition of serious fines.

But even if distribution of the images is contained to a degree, Harris said, the damage is done to the extent that very private information about the duchess has now become public knowledge.

No UK newspaper has so far published the photographs of Catherine.

The British media is currently under close scrutiny after revelations of phone hacking and other abuses. The conclusions of an independent judge-led inquiry, which may recommend greater restrictions on media freedoms, are expected by the end of the year.

CNN’s Alex Felton and Hada Messia contributed to this report.