The Prince of Wales is suing the tabloid Mail on Sunday newspaper after it published revelations in November from his private diaries quoting him as describing China's communist leaders as "appalling old waxworks".

The diaries were reportedly leaked to the paper by a "disloyal former employee", who was named in court as Sarah Goodall, one of his former secretaries.

The remark was made in a diary the prince kept of a trip to Hong Kong in 1997 for the handover of the former colony to Chinese sovereignty, a moment he described as "the great Chinese takeaway".

 

The prince is seeking damages in Britain's high court, accusing the Mail on Sunday of breach of confidentiality and copyright.

 

Mark Bolland, his deputy private secretary from 1996 to 2002, gave an insight into how the prince views his role in society.

 

Role in society

 

In a witness statement on Wednesday, Bolland said: "He often referred to himself as a 'dissident' working against the prevailing political consensus."

 

He recalled that Charles, 57, regularly wrote letters to politicians about issues of the day, defying an unwritten rule that British royals are above politics.

 

"A good example of this is his vigorous campaign against genetically modified foods," Bolland said. Charles is a well-known advocate of organic farming, even marketing his own Duchy of Cornwall brand of organic products.

 

British royals are expected to
be above politics

"Despite our best efforts, he did not always avoid politically contentious issues, if he felt strongly about particular issues or government policies," said Bolland, who was giving evidence for the Mail on Sunday.

"In fact, he would readily embrace the political aspects of any contentious issue he was interested in and this is an aspect of his role which the Prince saw as particularly important."

 

Bolland's statement also confirmed that Charles boycotted a banquet hosted by Jiang Zemin, then president of China, during a state visit to London in 1999.

 

"He did this as a deliberate snub ... because he did not approve of the Chinese regime and is a great supporter of the Dalai Lama," he said.

 

Direct instruction

 

Bolland said he was given "a direct and personal instruction" by the prince to draw the media's attention to the boycott.

This allegation was disputed in court on Tuesday by the prince's current private secretary, Sir Michael Peat.

 

"Despite our best efforts, he did not always avoid politically contentious issues"

Mark Bolland,
former royal aide

"I am informed by him that he gave no instruction to draw the media's attention to his failure to attend the banquet or to publish any material critical of the Chinese government," Peat said.

In a witness statement to the court, Peat said there were "many factual inaccuracies" in the evidence presented by the Mail on Sunday and its owner, the British media conglomerate Associated Newspapers.

He said Charles avoided making public statements "on matters which are the subject of disagreement between political parties," and only "occasionally raises questions about matters which he regards as being of public concern".

"Speeches and articles are cleared beforehand with the relevant government department as requested," Peat added.