“The queen is nude!”

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ROME: The Italian gossip magazine Chi, owned by the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire, on Monday published a special edition featuring grainy topless photos of Prince William’s wife Catherine.

“The queen is nude!” read a large-font headline on the magazine’s front page that also featured three of the photos published last week by the French publication, Closer, also owned by Berlusconi’s firm Mondadori.

The decision to run the images has incensed the royal family, whose lawyers are seeking a civil injunction and criminal charges in Paris.

Chi editor Alfonso Signorini claims the pictures represent “extraordinary reportage.”

“For the first time, the future queen of England was appearing in a natural way, without the constraints of etiquette.”

The photos were taken through a powerful telephoto lens as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge relaxed in private at a luxury chateau in the south of France.

In 2006, Chi sparked outrage among the British press when it printed a photo of a fatally injured Princess Diana being given oxygen at the scene of the high-speed crash in a Paris road tunnel in August 1997, together with details from her autopsy.

Chi’s Monday edition dedicates 38 pages to William and Kate and the photos. One of the stories poses the question: “Kate’s breasts, natural or fake?”

Mondadori is chaired by Berlusconi’s daughter Marina Berlusconi, who on Sunday defended running the pictures as a matter of editorial freedom.