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Kate Middleton Pregnant Bikini Photos: Chi Magazine Editor insists Photos Are Harmless

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The editor of the Italian magazine which published pictures of a bikini-clad Duchess of Cambridge has defended his decision saying they did not "harm" her image.

Alfonso Signorini said the reaction to the photographs which show William and Kate on holiday on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique was "over the top".

The pictures were published in the gossip magazine Chi and were trailed on the front cover as showing the growing belly of Kate who is around four months pregnant.

Earlier, presenter Eamonn Holmes was forced to make an on-air apology on This Morning after an unblurred image of the magazine's front cover showing the Duke and Duchess in their swimwear "accidentally" appeared on screen.

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This Morning accidentally showed an uncensored front cover of Chi magazine (pixellation added by Huffington Post UK)

Mr Signorini justified his decision to publish the pictures of Kate and William on holiday in a series of interviews.

He told the BBC: "The photographs, which can in no way be considered scandalous, were bought from an international photo agency, do not harm the image of the protagonists and the reaction of the media seems to me wholly over the top.

"Moreover, the photographs can hardly be considered an invasion of privacy when the subjects are public figures in a public place, in the open air; specifically on a beach surrounded by other bathers."

The editor told Italian news website Corriere.it: "You can't compare it with the media persecution of Lady D (Diana, Princess of Wales). I repeat: the photos were taken in a public place."

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Photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge appeared in the press last year

The pictures have been condemned by St James's Palace, who said: "We are disappointed that photographs of the Duke and Duchess on a private holiday look likely to be published overseas.

"This is a clear breach of the couple's right to privacy."

After an uncensored image of Chi's front page was broadcast by This Morning during the programme's news review segment, Mr Holmes told viewers: "Unfortunately we accidentally showed an unblurred image of the magazine cover, which briefly showed the photographs.

"This was a deeply regrettable error and we are very sorry. We apologise unreservedly to the Duke and the Duchess."

The gaffe comes just months after This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield was roundly criticised after he confronted David Cameron with a list of alleged paedophiles.

He handed the prime minister a list of names which he said he had put together from internet rumours - it was understood to be Conservative Party figures - during the live show.

ITV apologised on the next day's show and emphasised it was not pointing the finger at anyone in particular. Schofield was later forced to apologise after the list was briefly exposed on screen.

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Meanwhile, the editor of an Australian magazine also defended her decision to print photographs of Kate in a bikini, saying her readers will "love" the images.

Woman's Day is the second publication to use the pictures of the pregnant royal and it also controversially published pictures of William and Kate's Seychelles honeymoon in 2011.

The Mustique pictures were reportedly taken from a boat using a long-lens camera, but Fiona Connolly, editor of Woman's Day, claimed a member of the public snapped the Duchess.

Speaking to Australia's Channel Nine network ahead of publishing the pictures in Monday's edition of the magazine, Ms Connolly said: "This is not a hard decision about these photos. Kate's on a public beach, there are other holiday-makers there and she looks fabulous."

She made a distinction between the new pictures and those taken while Kate was topless on holiday in France last year as the latest ones were not taken at a private location.

"Look, I think the British are very sensitive about this," Ms Connolly told Channel Nine.

"As Australians, we see this every day. We see pregnant women in bikinis on the beach - and a public one at that - so we are a lot less sensitive here in Australia."

A St James's Palace spokesman would not comment on whether William had been informed about the issue or if they were considering legal action against the magazine.

Chi has published controversial pictures of royalty before, producing a 26-page spread showing Kate topless last year.

On a website publicising the magazine - owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - Kate is pictured on the magazine's front cover in a blue bikini striding knee-high through the sea above the headline "the belly grows".

A second image shows the Duke, wearing shorts, with his left arm around his wife as they walk along a beach.

It is believed that the royal couple are still holidaying on Mustique and during their time on the island were reportedly joined by Kate's parents Carole and Michael Middleton and her siblings James and Pippa.