What may possibly be the most bizarre story to come out of the scandal-plagued British royal family, the heir to the throne denied on Thursday being involved in an "incident" that has been hinted at - but never revealed - in the country's scandal-mad press.

"I just want to make it entirely clear, even though I can't refer to the specifics of the allegation, that it's totally untrue and without a shred of substance," Charles's private secretary Sir Michael Peat said in televised remarks.

"It is risible. It is totally untrue. Although having said that, even allegations which are untrue can cause distress, great distress," he said.

The denial was apparently an attempt to kill off the mystery scandal, but it could just fuel public curiosity as to just what on earth it was that the prince says he did not do.

For months, several British newspapers have said Britain's tough libel laws prevent them printing the details of the supposed scandal, but that if the public knew the story it could bring down the monarchy.

Michael Fawcett, a former servant of Prince Charles, made use of those laws to win a court order against the Mail on Sunday tabloid this week to prevent it printing a story the paper said concerned "matters of the deepest public interest".

The British royal family has been
plagued by scandals for years

Another newspaper added to the pressure earlier on Thursday by winning the right to publish Fawcett's name.

Until Thursday, the royal family never commented, while speculation and innuendo continued unrelentingly in the media as to just what the story might be.

In its denial, Charles's office filled in some of the holes.

'Unprecedented denial'

"In recent days there have been 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," it said in a statement.

"The allegation was that the Prince of Wales was involved in the incident. This allegation is untrue."

The royal family has been battered by scandal for years, most recently over Princess Diana's butler Paul Burrell, whose tell-all memoir appeared last week. Burrell has said he knows a great deal more than he has published so far, tempting tabloids to seek out more skeletons in the royal closets.

Royal biographer Una Mary Parker said the decision by the royal family to come forward and deny the mystery allegation was a change of tack for the embattled palace.

"They have been accused of being like ostriches and putting their heads in the sand," she said.

"But I think if you're going to make a statement you've got to go all the way and make a full statement. Because people are not even sure what the allegations are. It's confusing to the
general public."