Under the headline, "Court Scandal: The Queen is Nude," Chi magazine hit newsstands today with a 26-page photo spread of the Duchess of Cambridge, 30, reportedly sunbathing on the terrace of a secluded chateau in the south of France before beginning a tour of the Far East and South Pacific to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
The photos, which were first published in the French magazine Closer and later ran in the Irish Daily Star, include at least one shot of the duchess applying sunscreen to herself that did not appear in previous publications.
Chi, like Closer, is published under the Mondadori publishing house owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Chi is also the same magazine that, in 1997, published photos of Princess Diana's dying in a tunnel in Paris after a high-speed car chase with paparazzi that ended in her death at age 36.
The palace has invoked the memory of Diana, the mother of Prince William, in taking swift legal action against the photographs, which St. James's Palace called a grotesque and totally unjustifiable" invasion of the young couple's 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," the palace said in a statement Friday.
Lawyers for the royal family were scheduled to appear today in court in France, where they planned to ask a judge for an injunction to prevent further publications from printing the photos. There are as many as 200 photos of Middleton sunbathing alongside Prince William, according to TMZ.com.
In addition to seeking damages from Mondadori, St. James's Palace said Sunday, the couple's lawyers would also file a criminal complaint against the photographer or photographers who took the photos, leaving it up to French prosecutors to pursue a criminal case for either breach of privacy or trespassing.
"There can be no motivation for this action other than greed," a St. James's Palace spokesperson told the BBC this weekend in regard to the Irish publication, while also commenting that the magazines' decisions to publish the photos "will lead to a longer court case where damages will be sought."
Northern and Shell, the owners of the Irish Daily Star, said they disagreed with the newspaper's decision to publish the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge and "very much regret the distress it has caused," The Associated Press reported.
The editor of Chi stood behind his decision to publish the photos, telling the AP that he did not fear legal action and writing on Twitter that "not even a direct call from the Queen" could stop him from publishing the photos.
Despite the swirl of legal action around them, Middleton and Prince William have kept up appearances throughout their week-long tour of Asia. The pair strapped into harnesses to view the rainforest in Borneo this weekend and then traveled to the Solomon Islands where they were treated to a ceremonial welcome and canoe ride.
They are scheduled to end their trip with some downtime, staying at a luxurious private estate in the island nation of Tuvalu.
The scandal blew up Friday, a day after Middleton marked an important first as a royal, delivering her first official speech overseas. The well-received speech was delivered to staff and patients at the Hospis Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and focused on the importance of specialized medical care for seriously ill children. Middleton is a Royal Patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices in England.
The royal couple were reportedly told about the photos as they ate breakfast Friday before visiting a mosque in Malaysia. A palace source told ABC News that the couple were, at first, simply saddened. But as the day wore on, the sadness turned to shock and anger and, ultimately, resulted in a decision to take legal action against the magazine.
Closer, which featured the photos under the headline, "Oh My God!" defended the decision to publish the photos, saying in a statement on its website that the photos would only appear in the French, not the British edition, and were not degrading.
The prince had expressed his concerns after they were engaged about the paparazzi and said he had given Middleton the chance to get out of the relationship if she thought the attention would overwhelm her.
"I wanted to give her a chance to see in and to back out if she needed to before it all got too much. I'm trying to learn from lessons done in the past and I just wanted to give her the best chance to settle in and to see what happens on the other side," the prince said.
Nude photographs of Prince William's younger brother, Prince Harry, partying in a Las Vegas hotel surfaced online last month and made headlines around the world. In that case, the palace contacted the Press Complaints Commission, which advised British newspapers to not publish the photos.
ABC News' Lauren Sher and Anthony Castellano contributed to this report.
- Royal Families
- Prince William
- Irish Daily Star