British royal offensive seeks to stem topless Kate pics

PARIS - Britain's royal family takes to the courts Monday to try to stop the spread of topless photos of Prince William's wife Catherine, but an Italian magazine plans to devote 26 pages to the grainy snaps.

The royals are seeking an injunction and damages from the French gossip magazine Closer that first published the candid shots last week.

The couple will also lodge a criminal complaint with French prosecutors seeking charges against the photographer who snapped the topless photos and the French magazine Closer that printed them.

However the legal action comes the same day as Italian magazine Chi plans to devote a special issue to the paparazzi photographs taken suring a royal holiday in France this month.

"We can confirm that a criminal complaint is to be made to the French Prosecution Department tomorrow (Monday)," a St. James's Palace spokeswoman said late Sunday.

She said it would be up to French prosecutors to decide whether to investigate and pursue the complaint.

In court Monday lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will seek an injunction at a hearing in the Paris suburb Nanterre to prevent the magazine Closer from re-selling the pictures of Catherine's semi-naked sunbathing, which they argue breached her privacy.

They hope in the longer term to win damages from Closer, part of Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's media empire, for publishing the photos taken with a telephoto lens as the couple holidayed in southern France.

They will also seek to block Closer from printing more copies of the edition that appeared Friday with the story on the front page and spread across five pages inside under the headline: "Sex And Sun En Provence". The prince 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 threat of legal action failed to intimidate Irish or Italian titles, with the pics of Catherine sunning herself in bikini briefs appearing Saturday in a Dublin tabloid and Chi magazine promising to publish and be damned.

"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.

Both Closer and Chi are published by Berlusconi's Mondadori Group, which has backed both magazines' decisions to print the photos of the pair as they relaxed at a private chateau.

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