LONDON (Reuters) - The Sun tabloid on Friday published photographs of Prince Harry naked in Las Vegas, becoming the first British publication to defy a request from the royal family's lawyers.
On Thursday, newspapers in Britain did not publish the images of the Queen's grandson naked with an unnamed woman while on holiday in Las Vegas, following a request from St James's Palace, the official residence of the prince, through the Press Complaints Commission to respect his privacy.
But, almost half of the front page of Friday's Sun newspaper shows a photograph of the naked prince covering up his genitals with his hands while an apparently naked woman hides behind his back in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The Sun, part of the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, said millions of people around the world had already seen the pictures and its readers had a right to see them.
David Dinsmore, managing editor of the Sun, said in a video on the paper's website that the decision to publish was not taken lightly, but the issue had become one of "the freedom of the press."
"This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the Internet but can't be seen in the nation's favourite paper read by eight million people every day," Dinsmore said.
"This is about our readers getting involved in the discussion with the man who is third in line to the throne - it's as simple as that," he said.
Two pictures of the naked prince, who has a reputation as a partying playboy, were first published on the celebrity gossip website TMZ on Wednesday.
Their publication has since caused an ethical dilemma for British editors reeling from a judge-led inquiry into press conduct.
St James's Palace had contacted the Press Complaints Commission on Wednesday over concerns about the prince's privacy being intruded upon, in breach of the editors' code of practice.
"We have made our views on Prince Harry's privacy known. Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make," the BBC quoted a spokesman for the royal family as saying on Friday.
Thursday's edition of the Sun carried a mocked up photo using their features picture editor and an intern in place of Harry -- son of heir-to-the throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana -- and the unnamed woman.
(Reporting by Stephen Mangan; Editing by Sandra Maler)