The editor of Australian Woman's Day has defended paying up to $150,000 for a photograph of the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge splashing about in a bikini on a public beach, claiming the image was not taken by a paparazzo but a fellow tourist.
St James's Palace has expressed its disappointment that the images will appear in the media, saying they breach the royal couple's right to privacy.
Several other magazines around the world have also been paying handsomely for the rights to the images, with Italy’s Chi, France’s Paris Match and America’s Star magazine paying what's believed to be a combined $700,000 for the rights to publish.
Picture controversy ... Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: Getty Images
British media outlets have restrained themselves, honouring a "gentleman's agreement" with the royal family not to invade their privacy.
"We are disappointed that photographs of the Duke and Duchess on a private holiday look likely to be published overseas," a St James's Palace spokeswoman said in a statement.
"This is a clear breach of the couple's right to privacy."
Magazine row ... the front cover of Chi with the picture of the Duchess of Cambridge blacked out.
Woman’s Day editor Fiona Connolly is believed to have paid around $150,000 for the Australian rights to the set of 39 shots showing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with her family, the Middletons, on a private holiday in Mustique, in the Caribbean.
Connolly told PS the photos were taken by "a tourist" and showed a "healthy, happy and glowing mum to be".
Other images in the set include shots of Pippa Middleton, also wearing a bikini, with an unidentified man described simply as her new "boyfriend", which alone would have commanded a handsome price for the photographer.
"There is a huge interest in Kate. Here she is on a public beach mixing with other holiday makers. These photos have not been taken by a professional photographer hiding in the bushes. They are not nude photos taken with a telescopic lens from inside a private villa. These are images showing her on a happy holiday ... and she looks amazing," Connolly said.
"The last time we saw Kate in public she was very ill. She was coming out of hospital, which means there is even more reason to celebrate her looking so healthy and glowing."
Woman’s Day was caught in a three-way battle for the Australian rights to the images, with arch rival New Idea and Who understood to be the underbidders.