By Antonella Ciancio
MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian magazine ignored the protests of Britain's royal family on Wednesday to publish pictures of Prince William's pregnant wife Kate in a blue bikini on a private island.
The gossip magazine Chi, owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, defended its decision to splash pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge showing off her "rounded belly" by implying they were taken in public.
"It is not possible to talk about a breach of privacy when public personalities are photographed in a public, open place such as (a) beach, attended by bathers," Chi editor Alfonso Signorini said in an emailed statement.
Wednesday's six-page insert headlined "Kate & William - Honeymoon for three" is not the first time Chi has earned the ire of the British royals. In September it published topless pictures of the duchess, who was known as Kate Middleton before she married a future king of England.
The images, which were condemned by William's office, St James's Palace, as a "clear breach of the couple's right to privacy", show the duchess walking on a beach on the island of Mustique with a visible "baby bump".
"The reportage portrays a couple in love in a happy moment as they walk on the seashore...Where is the scandal?," Signorini said.
In one picture Kate is seen pulling up her hair as she walks on a Mustique beach, an island favored by the British royals for its secluded, palm-fringed shores and a favorite of the Queen Elizabeth's late sister Princess Margaret.
"A rounded belly can now be seen and the princess has a softer silhouette compared to how she was during their honeymoon in the Seychelles in 2011," one of the captions read.
Another shot showed Kate walking with her arm on the shoulder of her 30-year-old husband William, second in line to the British throne. He is wearing thigh-length shorts in matching blue.
"After initial problems, the pregnancy is now proceeding serenely," the magazine writes.
Signorini did not provide details about the source of the pictures but said they were bought from an international agency.
MailOnline, the online edition of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper cited media reports that the pictures might have been taken by a holiday maker on a public beach or from a boat using a long-lens camera.
The British media have refrained from publishing the pictures as they fight stricter regulations recommended by a judge-led inquiry following a phone-hacking scandal centered on Rupert Murdoch's tabloids.
The shots have surfaced on tabloids and websites worldwide, prompting a debate on social media.
"Here's an Idea: If you don't want photos published of you pregnant in a bikini, DON'T go OUTSIDE in one!", a tweet by @fashionoffice read.
Chi's publications have stirred memories of the world media's relentless pursuit of William's mother, Princess Diana who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 as she was being chased by paparazzi.
MailOnline said publishers in the United States, France and Germany had lined up to publish the pictures, saying they could fetch a total of over 100,000 pounds ($156,600).
Kate's sister Pippa, 30, her brother James Middleton and friend James Matthews were also pictured in the magazine as they walked the beach in colored beachwear.
Chi is controlled by Berlusconi's publishing company Mondadori.
(Reporting by Antonella Ciancio, editing by Paul Casciato)