Topless Kate: Irish paper shows pic, Italians to follow

Kate's topless snaps won't tarnish royal brand: experts

Britain's royal family were struggling Sunday to prevent the spread of topless photographs of Prince William's wife Catherine, after the threat of legal action failed to intimidate Irish and Italian titles.

In a fresh blow to the royals a day after they began legal proceedings against French magazine Closer, the first to publish the long lens pictures of Catherine sunbathing in her bikini bottoms, the images appeared again in Saturday's Irish Daily Star.

"There can be no motivation for this action other than greed," said a spokeswoman for Catherine and her husband, the second-in-line to the British throne.

Italian gossip magazine Chi, meanwhile, is planning to devote 26 pages to the grainy paparazzi photographs in a special issue on Monday -- a move the palace said would heap "unjustifiable upset" on the former Kate Middleton.

Both Closer and Chi are published by the Mondadori Group, part of the media empire of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The company backed both magazines' decisions to print the photos, which were taken with a long lens while William and Catherine, both 30, were holidaying at a private chateau in the south of France.

"The editors of both titles decided to publish the photos because their content is a clear expression of the news, they depict a true event, and they do not undermine the people photographed," Mondadori said in a statement.

"The publisher respects the arguments of the editors of both publications."

Chi magazine's editor Alfonso Signorini said the pictures were "a scoop" he could not afford to miss.

"If I wasn't capable of recognising the true value of a scoop I would do better to go and sell artichokes at the market," he told the ANSA news agency.

He did not ask Berlusconi's permission to print the images, he stressed.

Signorini added that he had published topless pictures of his boss Marina Berlusconi -- the former premier's daughter -- without any problems two years ago.

A palace spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the royal family was launching legal action against either Chi or the Irish Daily Star.

"All proportionate responses will be kept under review," she said.

Closer magazine confirmed to AFP that there would be a hearing on the complaint on Monday at a court in Nanterre, north-west Paris.

Unlike Mondadori, the two media groups that jointly own the Irish Daily Star condemned its the decision to run the pictures.

Britain's Northern and Shell group said it was taking "immediate steps" to shut down the joint venture with Dublin-based publisher Independent News and Media which runs the Irish Daily Star.

"The decision to publish these pictures has no justification whatever and Northern and Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms," said the company's chairman Richard Desmond.

Independent News and Media said it had no prior knowledge of the decision, which it described as "regrettable and in poor taste".

The Irish Daily Star's editor Mike O'Kane admitted that he was running the pictures to sell more papers, and said he had treated Catherine as he would any other celebrity.

"The duchess would be no different to any other celeb pics we would get in, for example Rihanna or Lady Gaga," he told the BBC on Saturday.

"She's not the future queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK."

The photos would not appear in the British or Northern Irish editions of the Daily Star, he added.

William and Catherine, who are currently in Malaysia as part of a tour to mark Queen Elizabeth II's sixty years on the throne, put on a brave face for the cameras on Saturday during a visit to the Borneo rainforest.

The prince is said to be furious over the images, which drew comparisons with press harassment of his mother Diana who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while pursued by paparazzi.

The Prince is believed to blame the press photographers for his mother's death.

In a strongly worded statement, palace officials described the pictures as a "grotesque" breach of privacy.

"The incident is 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," they said.

This is the second furore over scantily-clad British royals in a month, after nude pictures of William's brother Harry, frolicking with a mystery woman in a Las Vegas hotel suite, went viral on the Internet.

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