London, Nov. 8 (Reuters): Britain’s Prince Charles wrapped up a foreign trip today while the palace worked behind the scenes to defuse newspaper frenzy over a mystery incident the prince says never took place.
In one of the more bizarre scandals to befall the hapless House of Windsor, Charles has denied a rumour without ever saying what it was about. The details have appeared in an Italian newspaper and on the Internet, but publishing them in Britain is banned by a court’s gag order. Under arcane libel laws, any news organisation that can be seen in Britain and is aware of the ban is bound by it.
The prince spent the last day of a two week foreign trip in Oman, guest of friend and polo partner Sultan Qaboos bin Said. In television pictures with Omani schoolchildren, Charles looked entirely unfazed by the swirling scandal. But the palace in London was laying careful plans for the bombshell’s inevitable detonation back home.
The Mail on Sunday tabloid has gone to court seeking permission to run its scoop “of the deepest public interest” but has so far failed to persuade a judge it can back up its story well enough to lift the ban.
In an apparent bid to take the wind out of the sails of the feisty Sunday papers, Charles’ office signalled to The Times newspaper, known as “the voice of the establishment”, that he would not object if it aired essential details today.
“The prince believes the allegations are so ludicrous it does not merit legal action,” the Times quoted a palace official as saying. The paper said the “potentially damaging but unsubstantiated rumours” concerned an “alleged sexual incident involving the Prince of Wales and a former royal servant”, and named another ex-servant who says he saw the tryst.