LONDON — Topless photos of Prince William's wife Catherine and nude ones of Prince Harry have reddened cheeks at the palace -- but experts say they won't do lasting damage to the British royals' reputation.
The former Kate Middleton and her husband are struggling to keep a lid on the paparazzi shots of her sunbathing in her bikini briefs, despite launching legal action on Friday against the French magazine that first published them.
The Irish Daily Star tabloid re-printed them on Saturday, while Italian gossip magazine Chi says it is planning to devote 26 pages to the grainy snaps in a special edition on Monday.
The intimate shots -- taken while the couple were on holiday in the south of France this month -- come hot on the heels of images of a naked Harry, frolicking in a Las Vegas hotel suite with a mystery woman, that went viral on the Internet last month.
But while the twin scandals have generated millions of column inches, royal-watchers say they will do little to dent the wave of popularity the British monarchy is riding in the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.
In fact, royal expert Kate Williams told AFP, many Britons are indignant over the photos on popular Kate's behalf.
"She's a great asset to the royal family," Williams said of the royal family's newest recruit, who married the second-in-line to the throne in a glittering ceremony in April last year.
"I think people are very sympathetic," she added. "Many of us run naked in our own home, of course we do. They were just having a normal holiday."
Williams added the death of William's mother Diana in a 1997 car crash, pursued by paparazzi through Paris, compounded the lack of public appetite for photographs seen as invading 30-year-old Kate's privacy.
"Diana was hunted by the press," she said. "They do not want to see it again."
Like many commentators, Williams drew a distinction between the photographs of Harry -- taken by other revellers at a wild party -- and the images of Kate captured with a long lens as she relaxed at a secluded private residence.
While the top-selling Sun tabloid printed the shots of Harry in defiance of royal orders and other British papers grumbled about the restrictions, no major British publication has run the topless shots of Kate.
"Harry had no realistic expectation of privacy," The Sun said in an editorial on Saturday. "The pictures of Kate fall into an entirely different category."
Clarissa Campbell Orr, president of the Society for Court Studies at eastern England's Anglia Ruskin University, said the topless photos reflected more poorly on the paparazzi than on the royals themselves.
"I think the pictures do not reflect badly on any member of the royal family, particularily not on the queen -- who is extremely popular after the celebration of her jubilee and her contribution to the Olympics," she told AFP.
Keen to prolong the burst of public enthusiasm for the monarchy since the huge diamond jubilee celebrations, the palace's slick public relations campaign included a quirky cameo role for the queen in the Olympic opening ceremony.
She played an unprecedented speaking role as a "Bond girl" in a mini-film co-starring current 007 Daniel Craig, before they both appeared to jump out of a helicopter into London's Olympic Stadium.
Campbell Orr said William, Kate and Harry will increasingly shoulder some of the responsibilities of the 86-year-old queen and her 91-year-old husband Prince Philip, who has suffered two health scares this year.
It has been business as usual for the young royals, despite the storm over the photos.
Army helicopter pilot Harry, serving a second tour of duty in Afghanistan, celebrated his 28th birthday on Saturday at Camp Bastion in the restive south of the country.
The heavily fortified base was attacked by Taliban fighters armed with suicide vests, guns and rockets on Friday, though officials confirmed that Harry was never in danger.
William and his wife, meanwhile, are continuing their diamond jubilee tour of Singapore, Malaysia, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu -- with Kate appearing unruffled on a visit to the rainforests of Borneo on Saturday.
A special announcement, Kate Williams suggested, could help the scandal blow over.
"If there is a royal baby announced soon, all this will be forgotten," she said.
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