ROME (AP) — An Italian gossip magazine owned by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Saturday it plans to publish topless photos of Prince William's wife Kate, despite legal action against a French magazine that published the images first.
Chi is part of Berlusconi's publishing house Mondadori, which also owns Closer, the popular French magazine that hit newsstands Friday with the photos - and was immediately slapped with a lawsuit by the royal couple alleging privacy violations.
The photos, taken while Kate and William were at a private estate in southern France last month, are the first to show Britain's likely future queen with her bosom exposed.
Chi said it plans to publish a 26-page spread with the photos on Monday. The cover, featuring three pictures of a topless princess, was unveiled Saturday in Italian newspapers and television under the headline "The Queen is Nude!"
In an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, editor Alfonso Signorini said he didn't fear legal action since the photos were already in the public domain following Closer's publication.
"Closer's position is different, they were the first ones to publish," he said.
He defended the decision to publish them in Italy, saying the photos are tasteful and respect Kate's dignity.
"I don't see anything morbid or damaging in them," he said. "Chi pays attention to respecting people's dignity. I don't think they hurt Kate's image."
He added in a statement that the pictures actually were in line "with the modern concept of the monarchy."
"It shows in its total naturalness the daily life of a young, famous, modern couple in love," he said.
A spokeswoman at St. James's Palace, Prince William's office, said the palace was reviewing "all proportionate responses" to Chi's planned publication.
The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with palace policy, said publication of the photos served 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."
The blurry photos, called a "grotesque" abuse of privacy by royal officials after they were published Friday by Closer, show Kate - the Duchess of Cambridge - wearing only a skimpy bikini bottom and sunglasses.
In one of the three on Chi's cover, she appears to be rubbing suntan lotion on William's shoulder.
St. James's Palace officials compared the intrusion on the young couple's privacy to the tragic paparazzi pursuit of William's mother Princess Diana, which many believe was a contributing factor to her early death in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.
That two magazines in Berlusconi's media empire were responsible for the distribution of the images of a topless Kate is remarkable, given the former premier's own problems with paparazzi and his privacy.
In 2009, he threatened legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Pais after it published photos of topless women and a naked man lounging at his Sardinian estate. Italian prosecutors seized the photos and placed the photographer under investigation for alleged violation of privacy.
The photos came to light at the start of Berlusconi's downfall: They were published amid a scandal involving Berlusconi and a Naples model, whose 18th birthday party the then-premier attended.
Berlusconi, who was forced from office in November after financial markets lost faith in his ability to steer Italy out of its debt crisis, is currently on trial in Milan on charges he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan girl and then used his office to try to cover it up. He denies wrongdoing, and both he and the girl say they didn't have sex.
Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
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