Charles returns to UK media frenzy
( 2003-11-10 09:26) (Agencies)
Britain's Prince Charles returned home from a trip to the Persian Gulf on Sunday to a media frenzy of pages of lurid innuendo about an alleged sexual incident involving him and a former servant.
But they were forced to read between the lines, with the tabloids ¡ª despite promising to tell all ¡ª sticking to a court order banning the publication of the allegation.
In one of the weirdest scandals yet to befall the hapless House of Windsor, Charles has denied doing something ¡ª without saying what it is ¡ª and a court has banned publishing the tale.
The Mail on Sunday, which set off the bombshell a week ago with an announcement it had been barred from running a scoop ¡°of the deepest public interest,¡± promised on this week¡¯s front page: ¡°WORLD EXCLUSIVE - CHARLES AND HIS VALET: THE TRUE STORY.¡±
But the story failed to say what it was that one of Charles¡¯s servants says he saw the prince doing with the valet.
A relaxed-looking prince flew into Heathrow airport from Muscat after visits to India and the United Arab Emirates. He could be seen chatting to the cabin staff and flight crew.
Once on the tarmac he smiled and spoke to airport officials, but made no comment to reporters before being driven away.
Charles Anson, former press secretary to the queen, described the newspapers¡¯ behavior as a ¡°feeding frenzy.¡±
Details of the alleged incident have appeared in newspapers abroad and on the Internet, but publishing in Britain is banned. Under arcane libel laws, any news organization that can be seen in Britain and is aware of the ban is bound by it.
The banned allegation comes from a former palace servant, George Smith, who sparked an earlier scandal by saying another male servant had raped him many years before. An investigation found no evidence to support that charge.
The Mail said Smith recorded both his rape charge and the allegation that he witnessed an incident involving Charles on a tape he gave to the prince¡¯s ex-wife, Princess Diana.
Diana¡¯s former Butler Paul Burrell discussed the tape without revealing its contents in his memoir, published last month, helping to whet tabloid appetites for royal gossip.
Smith¡¯s story about Charles isn¡¯t new: the Mail says it has known about it for a year, but previously didn¡¯t think it reliable enough to print. What is new is the ban ¡ª imposed on behalf of a royal servant.
The Sunday Telegraph said Charles had hired a law firm to see whether he could sue Smith.
In the absence of new facts, papers relied on innuendo.
The News of the World asked in a bold-faced headline on its front page: ¡°IS CHARLES BISEXUAL?.¡± It answered the question several paragraphs into its story in small type at the bottom: ¡°emphatically NOT.¡±
No royal family has had worse press than the Windsors, especially Charles. He became an object of ridicule in 1993 when a paper intercepted a phone call in which he told lover Camilla Parker Bowles he wanted to be reincarnated as her tampon.
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