Royal Denial Leaves Britons in the Dark

From Associated Press

Prince Charles said he didn't do it -- though few Britons knew exactly what it was he didn't do. Still, newspapers and airwaves hummed Friday with hints and denials.

Charles took the highly unusual step Thursday of issuing a statement naming himself as the senior royal at the center of unreported but persistent rumors and denying that the alleged incident -- which was not described -- ever took place.

A royal aide said the "totally ludicrous" rumors had to be denied because they were so widespread. But some observers said that by responding to gossip, the prince could be ensuring that the allegation eventually gets published.

British newspapers ran long -- if vague -- stories Friday. The Independent referred to "an allegedly compromising incident," and the Times wrote of "a sexual incident involving a former royal servant."

The statement by Charles referred to recent "media reports concerning an allegation that a former Royal Household employee witnessed an incident some years ago involving a senior member of the Royal Family.

"The allegation was that the Prince of Wales was involved in the incident. This allegation is untrue. The incident which the former employee claims to have witnessed did not take place."

The Mail on Sunday newspaper said it had planned to publish a story based on claims by a former royal servant. A former aide to Charles won an injunction to stop the story. The Guardian identified the aide as Michael Fawcett.

Charles' private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, said on British Broadcasting Corp. radio Friday:

"I want to make it entirely clear, even though I can't refer to the specifics of the allegation, that it is totally untrue and without a shred of substance. For anyone who knows the Prince of Wales, the allegation is totally ludicrous."

The statement by Charles, who was visiting Oman on Friday, said the servant making the allegations had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism after serving in the military in the Falklands War.

Senior lawyer Anthony Scrivener said that the more the allegations were reported, the harder it would become to keep them under legal injunction.

"They have taken a rumor that a few hundred people were aware of and turned it into a rumor that millions of people are asking about," celebrity publicist Max Clifford told BBC radio.

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