An Italian magazine is set to follow a French publication in printing topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge, it was reported today.

Gossip magazine Chi is understood to be planning a 26-page photo special of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on holiday in the south of France, to run in an edition next week, the BBC said.

Despite St James's Palace describing the publication of the photos of Kate in French magazine Closer yesterday as a "grotesque and totally unjustifiable" invasion of privacy, and the announcement that the royal couple will sue its publishers, unconfirmed reports said Chi still planned to print the images.

Editor Alfonso Signorini said: "The fact that these are the future rulers of England makes the article more interesting and topical.

"This is a deserving topic because it shows in a completely natural way the daily life of a very famous, young and modern couple in love."

Both Chi and the French edition of Closer are published by the Mondadori media group, which is owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The British edition of Closer has distanced itself from the decision made by its French counterpart, which is run by a different company.

A number of British newspapers have been offered the photos but so far are unanimous in their condemnation of them being published.

In an editorial comment today The Sun said they were "grossly intrusive pictures that no decent British paper would touch with a bargepole".

Royal aides have drawn parallels between the late Princess of Wales' most upsetting encounters with certain elements of the press and the "unthinkable" actions of Closer, which left Kate and William feeling "anger and disbelief".

The royal couple had spent yesterday in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur completing a busy schedule of events including visiting a mosque for the first time.

They later left the mainland and flew to Kota Kinabalu, capital of the state of Sabah on Borneo, and today will travel to the region's dramatic rainforest to learn about the wildlife - something that is likely to be a welcome relief from the distressing events.

But last night the palace announced that lawyers would be pursuing the matter through the French courts. It is understood that the royal couple's aim is to prevent further use of the images and to seek damages.

In a short statement issued yesterday the palace said: "St James's Palace confirms that legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced today in France by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge against the publishers of Closer Magazine France."

The royal couple have the sympathy of Downing Street, with a source close to David Cameron saying that Number 10 "echoes the sadness of the palace" over the publication of the pictures.

In a strongly-worded statement St James's Palace said: "Their Royal Highnesses have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.

"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.

"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.

"Officials acting on behalf of their Royal Highnesses are consulting with lawyers to consider what options may be available to the Duke and Duchess."

But Laurence Pieau, the editor of Closer, was unrepentant, defending her decision to publish the pictures during an interview with the French radio station Europe 1, insisting there was "nothing degrading" about the photographs and claiming she could not understand the couple's reaction.

Ms Pieau also told the AFP news agency: "These photos are not in the least shocking. They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches."

William and Kate are midway through a Diamond Jubilee tour of the Far East, which had been going well until now.
The photographs were taken last week while the couple were staying in Provence at a chateau owned by Lord Linley, the Queen's nephew, ahead of their trip.

St James's Palace said the royal couple would not let the controversy distract them.

A spokesman said: "The Duke and Duchess remain focused currently on their tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu on behalf of HM the Queen."

A source added the publication of the pictures had left them feeling "anger and disbelief" but the legal proceedings were the result of the royal couple feeling they had to make a stand.

The source said: "This is a clear and unjustifiable, grotesque breach of privacy. If we don't take a stand against this, then when would we make a stand?"

The publication of the pictures was described as "nauseating" by Michael Ellis, the Conservative MP for Northampton North, who said the incident would bring back painful memories for William and his brother Prince Harry, as their mother Diana had died following a car crash in France when the vehicle was being pursued by paparazzi.

Mr Ellis said: "It is no more than voyeurism. It is in my view frankly close to criminal conduct. If a person was in a state of undress and had photographs taken of them, they would be rightly offended and appalled, and quite frankly the person taking the photograph could be subject to arrest. I don't see the difference in this case."

Legal experts said the royal couple would have a strong case.

Thomas Roussineau, who specialises in privacy law, said publication of the photos undoubtedly breaks French privacy laws .

"It is totally forbidden," he said. "The castle is not the street, it is in a private place, and they are intimate pictures."

But he said it was likely the magazine had weighed up the potential cost of a fine against the revenue the photos would bring.

Caroline Jan, solicitor at London-based firm Kingsley Napley's media group and active member of the Franco-British Law Society, said it would be the "biggest Franco-British privacy clash since Princess Diana's death".

She added: "The French magazine publishing pictures of the Duchess is clearly testing the water in a country where privacy laws are stricter than in the UK."

But media lawyer Mark Stephens suggested William and Kate might not have the ability to take effective action over the photographs.

He said: "It is obviously highly intrusive but as they have published the pictures the genie is out of the bottle."

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  • William Kate

    Britain's Prince William, left, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge speak to each other during their visit at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Prince William, left, and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk through the rainforest in Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian, Pool)

  • Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Prince William, left, and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk through the rainforest in Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian/ Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk through the rainforest in Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian, Pool)

  • William Kate

    Britain's Prince William, left, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge look down on the three-hundred meter in length Canopy Walkway during their visit at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge

    Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, walks on a canopy walkway at the Borneo Rainforest Research Center in Danum Valley, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo, Malaysia, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Malaysia is part of the royal couple's tour to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Britain's Prince William, left, and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk through a bridge at the Borneo Rainforest Research Center in Danum Valley some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, right, waves to the crowd as Britain's Prince William looks on before they leave Lahad Datu Airport on the island of Borneo Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Danum Valley Research Center in Danum Valley, Sabab, Malaysia, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/ Vincent Thian/ Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Britain's Prince William, back row second right, and his wife Kate, right, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk for a tour at the Borneo Rainforest Research Center in Danum Valley some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • William, Kate

    Britain's Prince William, right, and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the Borneo Rainforest Research Center in Danum Valley some 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Lahad Datu, on the island of Borneo, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohd Rasfan, Pool)

  • Men ride in the back of a truck as they drive past a billboard showing Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, as people prepare for a royal visit. The Royal couple arrive Sunday on an official trip. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

  • Children, from left to right, John Lamon, 12, Sarah Lalie, 10, Mary Nalke, 11, JJ Steven, 5 and Louisa Lui, 9, fish from a jetty in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, as people in the islands prepare for a royal visit. Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive Sunday on an official trip. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

  • Two men ride in the back of a truck as they drive past a billboard showing Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, as people prepare for a royal visit. The Royal couple arrive Sunday on an official trip. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

  • Two young men ride in a dug out canoe just off shore in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, as people prepare for a royal visit. Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive Sunday on an official trip. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

  • Young women walk past a billboard showing Queen Elizabeth II in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, as people prepare for a royal visit. Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will arrive Sunday on an official trip. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)