Italian magazine says will print Kate topless snaps

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Prince William's wife Catherine on Saturday faced growing embarrassment over topless photos after an Italian magazine said it would follow its French sister publication in printing them.

The British royals launched legal action on Friday against French magazine Closer -- which is part of the media empire of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi -- after it published paparazzi snaps of Catherine sunbathing with her husband.

The royal family may have hoped to contain the scandal by swiftly suing Closer -- but Chi, an Italian weekly also published by Berlusconi's Mondadori Group, announced late Friday that it plans to print a special issue on Monday devoting 26 pages to the candid pictures of the former Kate Middleton.

Closer said the pictures were taken on the terrace of the Autet Chateau in Provence, southern France. The magazine said the chateau is owned by Viscount Linley, the son of Queen Elizabeth II's late sister Princess Margaret.

Closer's editor Laurence Pieau was quoted by British tabloid The Sun on Saturday as saying her magazine had more pictures that it had not printed yet.

"Intimate pictures exist that we haven't published and will not publish," she told the newspaper. "Probably other newspapers will choose to publish them."

Pieau has insisted Closer has no regrets about printing the pictures.

"These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches," she told AFP.

A version of the front cover of Chi showed some of the photos with the headline "The Queen is Naked!"

"The fact that these are the future rulers of England makes the article more interesting and topical," editor Alfonso Signorini told reporters.

"This is a deserving topic because it shows in a completely natural way the daily life of a very famous, young and modern couple in love," he said.

Closer is published under a licensing agreement between Bauer Media and Mondadori, which bought the title in 2006.

Berlusconi, who part-owns the Mondadori Group, is himself no stranger to scandals involving revealing photos taken by paparazzi.

He launched legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Pais in 2009 over pictures of topless women lounging at his holiday villa.

William and Catherine are suing Closer for invasion of privacy over the pictures, which show Catherine sunbathing in just her bikini bottoms by a pool and William rubbing suncream onto her.

Palace officials said the royals, who are currently visiting Malaysia, considered the pictures published by Closer to be a "grotesque" breach of privacy.

"Their Royal Highnesses have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner," their office at St James's Palace said.

"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."

William is believed to blame the paparazzi for his mother's death.

The palace said the royal couple "remain focused" on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu to mark the diamond jubilee of William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

Later, the royal family confirmed that "legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the publishers of Closer Magazine France".

The British press rushed to the defence of Catherine on Saturday.

Many of Saturday's newspapers drew a comparison between Catherine, 30, and William's mother Diana -- who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 after being pursued through the streets by paparazzi.

"I won't let Kate suffer like my mother," was the Daily Mirror tabloid's headline.

Denouncing Closer as a "Peeping Tom", it declared: "Public figures who behave well have the right to a private life. A long lens prying on Kate sunbathing topless on a private estate is a clear breach of this right."

Like several of its competitors, it juxtaposed images of Catherine wearing a white veil on Friday on her current trip to Malaysia, and Diana wearing a similar veil during a trip to Cairo in 1992.

The Daily Mail tabloid blasted Closer's decision to print the images with the headline, "Grotesque!", echoing the palace's own words on the matter.

It described the publication of the photos as "an indefensible intrusion of privacy".

Several British newspapers took a wider swipe at French media ethics and privacy laws.

"A French media which chose not to expose the love child of President Mitterrand and the behaviour of Dominique Strauss-Kahn shouldn't be hounding a British royal," said the Mirror.

The Sun added: "The final irony is that it is France -- smug, privacy-obsessed France -- that has published grossly intrusive pictures that no decent British paper would touch with a bargepole."

Like its competitors, The Sun declined to print the photos -- in sharp contrast to the storm it caused last month when it defied royal orders and printed nude pictures of William's brother Prince Harry during a wild night in Las Vegas.

"The Sun has no intention of breaching the royal couple's privacy. The circumstances are very different to those relating to the photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas," editor Dominic Mohan said.

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