Angry royals take Kate's topless photo battle to court

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (CNN) -- More topless photos of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, spilled into public view Monday, September 17th as Britain's royal family asked a French court to stop further publication of the pictures.

The legal battle raged while the duchess and her husband, Prince William, carried on with an official tour of the South Pacific, including meetings with Solomon Islanders -- some of them topless.

The new photos were published Monday by the Italian gossip magazine Chi, which is owned by the same company that last week published several pictures of a topless Catherine sunbathing in private during a vacation at a private chateau belonging to William's uncle in Provence, in southern France.

The grainy images, shot from a distance, show Catherine on a balcony and appear to be no more revealing than those published last week by the French magazine Closer, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Editor Michael O'Kane was suspended Monday by Independent Star Limited, the publisher of the Irish Daily Star, pending an investigation into the circumstances that led to photographs being republished in the French magazine.

While some have questioned the furor over topless sunbathing, which is a common practice in parts of France and elsewhere, the issue is less about nudity than it is about privacy, royal biographer Christopher Andersen said.

William and his brother, Prince Harry, still blame the media for the 1997 death of their mother, Princess Diana, in a traffic accident as her driver fled paparazzi, Andersen said. French investigators concluded the driver of the car Diana was traveling in lost control while he was intoxicated.

The royal family is concerned about similar invasions, particularly if William and Catherine have a child, Andersen said.

"This is a deterrent. They're drawing a line in the sand," he said.

On Monday morning, the royal family filed a criminal complaint with French prosecutors seeking invasion of privacy charges against the magazine and possibly the photographer, a palace spokeswoman said.

Late Monday in civil court in Paris, lawyers for the royals asked for damages and a court order to prevent the photos from being published again. They also want existing photos taken offline, a palace spokesman said.

Lawyer Aurelien Hamelle denounced the published photos in court Monday calling them an infringement of privacy, CNN affiliates reported.

"It is a scene of married life, intimate, personal, that has nothing to do on a magazine" Hamelle said.

Chi, the Italian magazine, put out its special edition Monday with 26 pages of photos of William and Catherine on vacation.

As editors at Closer did last week, Chi executives defended publishing the photos despite the furor from London.

"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," Editor-in-chief Alfonso Signorini said in a statement.

Chi and Closer are owned by the Mondadori publishing company, which is headed by Marina Berlusconi, a daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"To see a future royal immortalized in a series of pictures, which are certainly neither morbid nor damaging to her dignity, renders her for sure more likable and less anachronistic and distant from of all of us," Signorini wrote.

A French judge is expected to issue a ruling by 6 a.m. EST Tuesday on the civil complaint, reporters from CNN affiliates ITN and BFM have said.

The criminal case in France involves claims of invasion of privacy against the magazine and possibly the photographer.

French law provides for "draconian sanctions" to protect against this kind of behavior, British lawyer Charlotte Harris 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.

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."

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

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.

William and Catherine's Pacific tour marks a celebration of the queen's Diamond Jubilee anniversary of her reign. They were scheduled to leave Honiara in the Solomon Islands on Tuesday and travel to Tuvalu for the first royal visit to that island nation since 1982. Their tour is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday.

Monday's legal actions in France are the only ones initiated by palace officials. British newspapers have not published the photos, although the Irish Daily Star did Saturday, in a move that palace officials slammed as greedy.

Editor Mike O'Kane told the BBC that Irish readers wanted to know what all the "kerfuffle" was about.

"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.

In a sign of how divisive the issue of royal privacy has become, the newspaper's co-owner, media group Northern & Shell, said it opposed he newspaper's decision to run the pictures.

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. Independent News & Media said the decision to publish was regrettable and an investigation into the decision was under way.

The British media are 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.

The controversy comes three weeks after the British royal family was caught up in a media furor over images of Prince Harry partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.

CNN's Alex Felton, Per Nyberg, Laura Smith-Spark and Hada Messia contributed to this report.