Irish newspaper publishes topless royal photos

Story highlights

NEW: Owners of the Irish Daily Star "profoundly dismayed" by its publication of images

Palace: "There can be no motivation for this action other than greed"

Editor of the Irish Daily Star says Catherine is no different to any other celebrity

Italy's Chi magazine will run a 26-page special with the topless photos, publisher says

London CNN  — 

Palace officials slammed the decision of the Irish Daily Star newspaper Saturday to print pictures of Prince William’s wife Catherine sunbathing topless on vacation as driven only by greed.

The Irish Daily Star’s move comes a day after the royal couple launched legal action against the French magazine Closer over the images, and as Italian magazine Chi says it will publish the photos on Monday.

“There can be no motivation for this action other than greed,” a St. James’s Palace spokeswoman said of the Irish tabloid’s decision.

But editor Mike O’Kane told the BBC that outrage over the images was only felt in Britain and that readers in the Republic of Ireland wanted to know what all the “kerfuffle” was about.

He was “a little taken aback by the reaction in the UK,” he said, saying the newspaper was treating Catherine no differently to any other celebrity.

“She’s not the future queen of Ireland so really the only place this is causing fury seems to be in the UK,” he said, suggesting that the British press were behaving with some hypocrisy.

O’Kane said the Irish Daily Star was reproducing the images as published in Closer on Friday rather than buying them itself directly. The pictures are not being published in the Northern Ireland edition.

Pacific welcome awaits William and Kate

The publication of the photos in the French Closer magazine, owned by the same parent company as Chi, the Mondadori Group, sparked an angry response from the royal couple and palace officials.

William and Catherine were said to be “hugely saddened” by what palace officials called a “grotesque” invasion of privacy while they were on a private vacation.

The latest controversy comes only three weeks after the British royal family was caught up in a media furor over images of William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, partying naked in his Las Vegas hotel room with a group of girls.

In a sign of how divisive the issue of royal privacy has become, a co-owner of the Irish Daily Star, media group Northern & Shell, said it in no way backed the newspaper’s decision to run the pictures of Catherine.

In a statement, the company – which runs the Irish Daily Star in a joint venture with Independent News & Media, but does not exert editorial control over it – said it was “profoundly dismayed” by the move.

“We abhor the decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish these intrusive pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which we, like St James’s Palace, believe to be a grotesque invasion of their privacy,” Northern & Shell’s communications director Mimi Turner said.

Northern & Shell also owns the Daily Express and the Daily Star, among other British publications, which have not run the pictures of Catherine, nor of Prince Harry.

William, who is second in line to the throne, and his wife are on an official tour of southeast Asian nations. They were in Borneo Saturday, where they escaped from the outside world on a rainforest trek.

They will travel on to the Solomon Islands Sunday on the next leg of a tour that has been overshadowed by the furor over the photographs.

Catherine was “upset” with Closer magazine, a palace source told CNN.

Mondadori told CNN it plans to run 26 pages of photographs of William and Kate on vacation in an “extraordinary” special edition to go on sale in Italy on Monday.

Chi’s front cover will also feature three revealing pictures of Catherine, according to a copy of the page and statement sent by Mondadori spokeswoman Carmen Mugione via e-mail.

“It is a story worth publishing in an extraordinary edition because it shows in a natural light the everyday life of a very famous contemporary young couple in love,” Chi’s editor-in-chief, Alfonso Signorini, is quoted as saying in the statement.

“The fact that they happen to be the future king and queen of England certainly makes it more interesting and current, and in line with today’s concept of monarchy.”

A St. James’s Palace spokeswoman said: “We will not be commenting on potential legal action concerning the alleged intended publication of the photos in Italy save to say that all proportionate responses will be kept under review.

“Any such publication would serve 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 palace confirmed Friday that legal proceedings for breach of privacy had been launched in France by the couple against the publishers of Closer in France.

Opinion: British privacy should start with British press

According to Mondadori’s website, Closer has an average weekly circulation of about 414,000, while Chi sells more than 340,000 copies a week. Marina Berlusconi, daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been chairwoman of the media group since 2003.

Legal analysts suggest the company hopes to recoup any legal costs and fines it may incur by increasing sales, thanks to the revealing pictures.

The grainy pictures published by Closer in France appear to have been taken with a long camera lens while the couple was staying at a private chateau belonging to William’s uncle in Provence, in southern France.

The new privacy controversies have dredged up the royal family’s often rocky relationship with the press and put a spotlight on how the palace deals with the media after the tragic death of William’s mother, Diana, as she fled photographers in Paris 15 years ago.

William and Catherine were “hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner,” a St. James’s Palace spokesman said Friday.

“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 spokesman said.

“Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them.”

Laurence Pieau, editor-in-chief of Closer in France, defended the decision to publish the images in an interview with CNN affiliate BFM-TV, saying: “We were just doing our job.”

Pieau said that there had been no debate at the magazine over whether to publish the photos, and that they show the royals “are just like any other couple in love.”

The website of Closer on Friday showed the front cover of the magazine with blurry images of William and Kate, along with the headline “Oh My God!” but did not link to the four-page spread.

UK tabloid prints naked Prince Harry pictures

But by Saturday that was replaced by a statement from the management of Closer, which said the photos it chose to publish “are in no case degrading.”

“They show a young couple on vacation, beautiful, in love and modern, in their normal life. The article recounts the time the couple recently spent in southern France,” it said. It also made clear the magazine is not linked with the UK publication of the same name.

William and his wife were in Malaysia when the news broke, part way through a nine-day Southeast Asian tour of Commonwealth nations, which started in Singapore and will conclude with a stop in Tuvalu.

The Asia tour forms part of diamond jubilee celebrations for the queen, William’s grandmother.

British lawyer Charlotte Harris said Friday that Closer’s decision to publish was a clear breach of French legal codes and was out of line with current views on people’s right to privacy.

“The perception of the French was that they are less aggressive, that they have a culturally different opinion of where privacy laws should lie. Here they appear to have gone right over the other way,” she said.

French law provides for “draconian sanctions” to protect against this kind of behavior, she said, including orders to take magazines off shelves and the imposition of serious fines.

But even if distribution of the images is contained to a degree, Harris said, the damage is done to the extent that very private information about the duchess has now become public knowledge.

No UK newspaper has so far published the photographs of Catherine.

In the case of Prince Harry, the photographs were widely circulated online but were published in only one UK tabloid, The Sun, after palace officials asked UK media not to run them.

The Sun has made clear that it won’t publish the pictures of Catherine, however. Editor Dominic Mohan tweeted: “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.”

The Press Complaints Commission, the UK press watchdog, received about 3,800 complaints from the public over the Prince Harry photos but said it was inappropriate for it to take any action in the absence of a formal complaint from the palace.

Royal officials appear to be taking publication of the photographs of William and Catherine much more seriously.

The British media is currently under close scrutiny after revelations of phone hacking and other abuses. The conclusions of an independent judge-led inquiry, which may recommend greater restrictions on media freedoms, are expected by the end of the year.

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CNN’s Hada Messia contributed to this report.