The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Annus horribilis again dogs royals

London, Nov. 11 (Reuters): Revelling in public affection just months ago, Britain’s royal family was struggling to retain its dignity today as a rape claim and week of embarrassing tales by a butler enveloped them in fresh scandal.

Royal aides — who coordinated Queen Elizabeth’s successful Golden Jubilee celebrations over the summer — were holding “emergency” meetings at London’s Buckingham and St James’ Palaces to plot a way of stemming the unwelcome media fest.

The man at the centre of it all, Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, was out of the country in New York. But his planned interviews with US media were sure to keep the unwelcome spotlight on the royals. In a week of Burrell’s “downstairs” tales of life with Diana, who died in a 1997 Paris car-crash, the most serious allegation to emerge was of a gay rape involving royal servants.

Following the butler’s revelation that Diana made a tape of remarks by the alleged victim, ex-royal servant George Smith came forward at the weekend to claim he was raped by one of Prince Charles’ servants in 1989 and the man tried to assault him again in 1995.

In a newspaper interview, he accused Charles of trying to cover up the incident by thwarting an internal inquiry into the allegations. The unnamed man at the centre of the allegations denied that and denounced “the current media frenzy”. Whatever the truth, the rape claim has further whipped up a scandal-hungry media, already full of Burrell’s stories of Diana’s romantic liaisons, squabbles over her possessions after death, and other shenanigans in the royal corridors.

The stories have been a personal nightmare for the queen in the year she marks 50 years on the throne. “All the good done by the Golden Jubilee is diminishing day-by-day,” wrote one of Britain’s best-known royal-watchers, columnist Richard Kay. “The image of the Windsors has been blackened by each twist, from the widespread flogging off of royal gifts to the rampant promiscuity of gay palace staff.” The Burrell saga, plus the death earlier this year of the queen’s mother and sister, are threatening to turn 2002 into a repeat of her famous “annus horribilis” in 1992.

Then, her son Charles split from Diana and a fire ravaged her castle at Windsor outside London.

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