An Italian magazine has today published the topless pictures of Kate Middleton.
The publication, in a special editon of Chi magazine, comes on the same day that William and Kate are to file legal charges in a French court against Closer magazine, in an apparently futile attempt to stop the pictures being reproduced around the world.
Indeed many now believe that William's decision to press charges and the statement from Buckingham palace which equated the pictures with the hounding of Princess Diana have backfired, stimulating yet further interest in the pictures.
No British outlet has yet published the photographs, at a time when the journalists’ behavior is under scrutiny after the phone hacking scandal, but scans of Closer magazine were reprinted in an Irish newspaper on Saturday. Scans are widely available on the internet. Mainstream photo agencies are now carrying images of the French magazine on sale and being read in France and Italy (see below).
Chi magazine today published 18 photographs spread over 19 pages of the royal couple sunbathing at a villa in southern France after the editor, Alfonso Signorini, tweeted over the weekend that "not even a direct call from the Queen" would stop him.
However rumours that there were more explicit photos to come have proved unfounded, with the editor of the magazine saying, "If I had had more scandalous photos I would have willingly published them."
Instead, the pictures are no more compromising that those published last week by French magazine Closer, and show the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of the villa in various states of undress. In one picture Kate is pulling down her bikini bottoms and William appears to be rubbing sun cream into her lower back. Chi states they look, "like a normal couple in love".
Lawyers representing the royal family are due in court in Paris today seeking damages from Closer magazine's publisher, Mondadori, and an injunction against further publication of the photos.
However, when contacted by the Royalist this morning, courtiers were unable to say if a decision had been made on legal proceedings in Italy. The editor has stated he has no fear of being sued because Italian law allows for paparazzi to take photos from public property, even if they are photographing people on private property.
The photographs were taken from a hidden spot beside a public road which passes in front of the chateau.
Mondadori, which is controlled by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also owns Chi magazine.
Berlusconi's daughter Marina, who manages Mondadori, defended the publication of the photos on Sunday, claiming the publishing firm was exercising its editorial freedom and "doing its job".
She denied her father had been consulted about publishing the photos, claiming "my father is in politics, and with all respect has more to think of than a photo shoot".
In its article accompanying the photos, Chi magazine compliments Kate's "practically perfect" physique, while a separate article by a plastic surgeon speculates if she has had any cosmetic surgery.
In his editorial, editor Signorini argues that "instead of getting angry with the media, who are just exercising their right to report, the royal family should, in my humble opinion, run with the ball and react with typical Anglo-Saxon humour, saying 'So what?'".
The Royalist agrees.