the view from the top of the pyramid of power
Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, UK
|Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 11:02 pm Post subject: Charles' strange mates: Michael Fawcett, George Smith
|Moment of madness that could destroy Charles
Richard Kay - 08 November 2003
USUALLY at this time, he would be expressing impatience to get home.
He never likes being away too long from Highgrove and his beloved garden. But as the Prince of Wales flies home from the Gulf tomorrow, he will probably be wishing he were somewhere else, anywhere but at the mercy of television cameras and shrieking headlines.
Ten days ago, when he left for India and Oman, his velvet-lined world was relatively calm. Today it is in crisis a crisis that dwarfs all the other crises of the last decade put together.
One moment of madness has changed what was no more than a problem driven by low-key gossip and rumour into a potential disaster that could imperil the heir to the throne's future.
That moment was when Sir Michael Peat, an accountant by trade who works for the Prince as private secretary, had the brilliant idea that the best way to stem the gossip was to 'go public'.
The gossip, in fact, had been restricted to a few hundred people at best, and the 'senior royal' had not been named in private court proceedings over an injunction obtained by Charles's former personal consultant Michael Fawcett to prevent claims by another servant being published.
Even so, the stiff Sir Michael, who sees himself as a shrewd public relations operator, good on television, went in front of the cameras.
And in a performance hollow in its execution and calamitous in its effect, he astonishingly opened the doors of the whole wretched business.
He revealed that the royal in question was Prince Charles and said that the 'rumour' was nonsense. He knew it was nonsense, he declared, because 'the Prince of Wales has told me it is untrue and I believe him implicitly'.
By the time he was finished, Sir Michael had talked around the unspecified rumour so much that no one of average intelligence could have been in any doubt that it was one of a sexual nature involving the Prince and a royal servant.
Thus was a royal prince damned by a wellmeaning but ill-judged intervention.
In one patrician flourish, Sir Michael had not only stoked up public curiosity but raised huge and unnecessary questions about Prince Charles.
' That man could destroy the Prince of Wales,' was the view yesterday of a senior palace observer.
Suddenly the troubles that have enmeshed the Royal Family since the fiasco of the Paul Burrell stolen property trial, which collapsed so ignominiously last November, had clawed their way up to new and unforeseen heights.
It revived memories of another seminal moment when some seven years ago Princess Diana sat down with one of the Prince's valets, George Smith, and tape recorded his allegation that he had been brutally raped while in royal service.
THE whereabouts of that 30-minute, Pounds 1 microtape are currently unknown. The Princess, in fact, did nothing with the tape. She mentioned it to her elder sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and to her butler Paul Burrell. And she told Charles, from whom her divorce was just being finalised and with whom her relationship was rapidly improving, about Smith's rape allegation. He instantly initiated an inquiry.
Then she put the tape in her box the inlaid mahogany box she kept locked (with the key hidden) in her apartment.
It lay there in the dark among other personal items known as the 'Crown Jewels', including James Hewitt's signet ring, letters to Diana from Prince Philip, a letter of resignation from her former private secretary Patrick Jephson and documents relating to her divorce.
Lady Sarah saw it, together with Burrell, when he was helping her pack up her sister's possessions after Diana's death on August 31, 1997.
But when the box arrived with other possessions belonging to the Princess at the family home, Althorp, Sarah found it empty.
She believed Burrell had the contents . . . including the explosive tape.
It was the tape that was the real reason why police went into Burrell's Cheshire home in a dawn raid three years ago. It wasn't there.
And were it not for his trial, when the whole issue of the missing 'Crown Jewels' emerged, its significance would have passed unnoticed.
In the meantime, there had been no less than two internal inquiries at St James's Palace, where the Prince then lived, as well as two police investigations, into the rape allegation.
None of these produced sufficient evidence for a prosecution. But although the tape was missing, Smith and his allegations were still very much alive.
In December 1996, after the initial internal inquiry headed by the Prince's then solicitor Fiona Shackleton, who handled his divorce, Smith had been paid off with a generous Pounds 30,000 plus his legal costs. The Prince also paid his medical bills.
For Smith, as Sir Michael said, has problems. In the Falklands War, he was aboard the troop ship Sir Galahad when it was bombed, and suffered post traumatic stress disorder.
Since then he has been in hospital three times and had a drink problem.
He says he was raped in 1989 when working for Charles as a travelling orderly. He claims he was invited to lunch by a more senior colleague.
His story is that he fell asleep after being plied with Bollinger champagne and gin and tonic.
He woke up, he says, to find he had been the victim of a gruesome assault.
However, it was not until 1995 that Smith made a complaint about the attack to Elizabeth Burgess, an assistant personnel officer at St James's Palace.
There was an internal inquiry that failed to confirm his claims and, later that year, Smith entered The Priory clinic in South-West London after a nervous breakdown.
Diana visited him there and told him: 'You will get over this I have been through worse.' SHE later invited him to Kensington Palace, driving him home to Twickenham, but it was not until a subsequent visit that she taped his claims.
Charles briefed Mrs Shackleton that he considered Diana was ' interfering' and that Smith was an alcoholic 'spreading untruths' about one of his servants.
This was a period when things below stairs in Charles's household were not always harmonious.
It was against a background of suspicion, envy and distrust that Diana decided to record Smith's allegations. Some now suspect she held on to the tape as ' insurance' against the awesome power of the Palace.
What she feared most was an attempt to take the young Princes away from her after the drip-drip-drip of propaganda suggesting she was unstable.
But when Diana died the tape went missing.
Three years later in 2000 a royal butler was arrested.
Harold Brown, who had worked for Diana but who was then on Princess Margaret's staff, was accused of the theft of a wedding gift to the Waleses a gold and bejewelled dhow that had been spotted in a dealer's shop window.
Like Burrell, Brown's trial also collapsed in farce, but it had triggered a string of events in which the police sought the help of Diana's family, the Spencers.
Through them, they learned of the mystery of the missing 'Crown Jewels'.
From there it was just a short step to the home of Paul Burrell.
The butlers' trials unearthed the rather grubby royal practice of selling unwanted gifts for cash.
And so to the High Court last weekend, when attempts to reveal the latest royal saga were blocked by an injunction by yet another former royal servant, Michael Fawcett.
From Clarence House, where Charles now lives, there was a deafening silence. And why not? After all, they surely had nothing to fear.
The royal figure mentioned in the legal wrangling had not been named and rumour, after all, is something the Royal Family lives with every day. But they had a problem because Charles was away in a part of the world where communications can be difficult.
The usual Palace procedure when the media is getting excited over a potentially embarrassing story is to put its head in the sand, and keep it there until the crisis blows over.
And for a while it looked as though they would do the same this time. For despite the obvious difficulties for the Palace, Fawcett was fighting on his own, and at his own expense.
Fawcett is no longer on the Prince's staff. After a payoff and the continuing use of a graceandfavour house, he left to become a freelance events organiser.
His departure followed Sir Michael Peat's report that resulted from the Burrell-fiasco, though Charles remains his principal client.
But behind the royal silence, there was considerable concern and activity.
There have been endless meetings between senior staff, including Sir Michael, and Charles's lawyers.
Every day, as legal pressure in the High Court grew and rumours continued, Sir Michael was becoming increasingly uneasy.
He is a money man who saved the Queen millions and who has done much the same for Charles. But one thing he is not is an expert on the media or an accomplished TV performer. Last November, in the wake of the Burrell trial, Sir Michael went on television and comically assured everyone ahead of his own investigation that he would find nothing improper.
He added that, despite the Queen's last-minute intervention, disclosing a 'forgotten' conversation with Burrell that precipitated the collapse of his trial, he saw no reason to 'interview' her.
By Thursday, however, when details were being published on the Internet and he feared the full story was about to appear in foreign newspapers, Sir Michael had convinced himself that he had to make one more TV appearance.
OTHER courtiers plus Camilla Parker Bowles countenanced caution and suggested a different strategy. They felt the ludicrous rumour would best be 'swept aside magisterially', as one put it, by saying nothing yet.
Next week, with the Prince back on home territory, he could offer himself to scotch the nonsense. He should appear on television ready to answer prepared but pertinent questions with candour.
In the event, Sir Michael phoned the Prince in Oman to seek his permission to go on TV himself. The Prince agreed.
His appearance produced almost unanimous disapproval among professional communicators. But last night Clarence House was defiant. 'We think it went well,' said one senior figure.
What else could they say?
timetable of a royal rumour
A Palace servant tells Diana he was raped by another servant six years earlier, but her attempt to record conversation fails.
Diana records the Palace servant repeating claims and Palace launches inquiry but police not called in. He makes further sensational allegations on tape. Newspaper royal correspondents hear rumours of secret tape without knowing details.
Royal butler Harold Brown arrested over theft allegations, charges later dropped. Royal correspondents hear renewed speculation about existence of sensational tape.
Detectives investigating Paul Burrell theft allegations learn of secret tape, but box in which Diana stored it has disappeared. Police investigate rape allegation, but Crown Prosecution Service finds insufficient grounds to proceed.
Burrell trial collapses amid rumours that royals wanted to prevent him revealing contents of secret tape in open court. Mail on Sunday publishes interview with a servant claiming he witnessed 'shocking incident' involving a royal and Palace servant. Paper says 'legal reasons' prevent it from revealing details.
Peat Inquiry investigates rape claims and criticises St James's Palace handling of situtation.
Paul Burrell says Diana told him contents of notorious tape but he doesn't know whereabouts.
'Whatever is on the tape I will never tell anyone'. He hints he may hand over to Prince William items once
Michael Fawcett obtains injunction barring the Mail on Sunday from publishing sensational claims made by unnamed royal servant.
Michael Fawcett's lawyers obtain injunction aginst the Guardian from naming him as servant who got injunction against Mail on Sunday.
Guardian successfully challenges injunction, naming Michael Fawcett as man who gagged Mail on Sunday. Sir Michael Peat, Prince Charles's private secretary, says Prince is royal involved in unspecified alleged incident, but denounces claim as 'risible' and 'untrue'. He says accuser is victim of posttraumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.
Details of alleged incident, including names of those involved, circulated on Internet and published by foreign press.
Secret Rulers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsyyBgdIZ4g
||All times are GMT + 1 Hour
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group