Paris. Britain’s royals went on the offensive Monday with a criminal complaint in Paris against a magazine that published photos of Prince William’s wife Catherine sunbathing topless on the balcony of a French chateau.
The legal action came as an Italian publication splashed the blurry pictures of Catherine frolicking in bikini bottoms across a special edition with a front-page headline that read: “The queen is nude!”
As the furore over the exposed royal breasts continued in Europe, the couple appeared unperturbed when they were introduced to a group of topless South Pacific women during a visit to the Solomon Islands.
The prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb Nanterre said it had received a complaint against persons unknown from the royal couple.
The pair have said they want criminal charges for the alleged breach of French privacy law pressed against both weekly magazine Closer and the photographer, whose identity the publication has not revealed.
They are also seeking an injunction to prevent Closer — which is owned by Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — from re-selling the images of the future queen in bikini bottoms and of William rubbing suncream on her behind.
The injunction request, which would force Closer to withdraw Friday’s edition from newsstands as well as barring further distribution, was to be considered at an emergency hearing from 1600 GMT on Monday.
The prince, who is second-in-line to the British throne, is 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.
No newspaper or magazine in Britain — whose racy, mass-selling tabloids have frequently been accused of unwarranted intrusion into the lives of the rich and famous — has announced plans to publish the offending photographs.
But the possibility of legal action failed to intimidate Irish or Italian titles, with the pics of Catherine sunning herself appearing Saturday in a Dublin tabloid and Chi magazine publishing them on Monday.
Chi, which like Closer is owned by Berlusconi’s Mondadori group, produced a special edition featuring the grainy photos along with a series of articles over 28 pages on topics such as “Kate’s breasts, natural or fake?”
The magazine’s editor Alfonso 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.
In 2006, Chi sparked outrage in Britain when it printed a photo of a fatally injured Diana being given oxygen at the scene of the high-speed crash in a Paris road tunnel in 1997, together with details from her autopsy.
A palace spokeswoman hinted Sunday that the royal family could also launch legal action against both Chi and the Irish Daily Star.
Unlike Mondadori, the two media groups that jointly own the Irish paper condemned its 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.
It was unclear Monday whether Independent News would seek to keep the paper going.
Last month photos emerged of William’s brother Prince Harry cavorting naked with women at a Las Vegas party.
The two images of Harry are widely available on the Internet but in Britain only The Sun newspaper published them.
The palace has said the couple “remain focused” on their nine-day southeast Asian and Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne.
They seemed at ease in the company of the topless women they were introduced to on Monday in the Solomons, where bare breasts are a normal part of life.