The lead Sunday story on The News of the World’s front page then answered its own question several paragraphs later in small type: “emphatically not”.
But Britain’s heir to the throne returned home from a Gulf trip on Sunday to a flush of tabloid tales employing lurid innuendo about an alleged sexual incident involving him and a former servant.
Scandal-hungry Britons scoured the nation’s famously sensational tabloid newspapers for any detail of what the alleged incident might be.
But this is where the story ends.
Scandalous lack of facts
Despite a tabloid promise to tell all, a court order is banning the publication of the allegations.
In one of the weirdest scandals yet to befall the House of Windsor, the prince has denied doing something – without saying what it is – and a court has banned publishing the story.
Another paper, The Mail on Sunday, which set off the bombshell a week ago with a promise of: “WORLD EXCLUSIVE – CHARLES AND HIS VALET: THE TRUE STORY” then failed to give any story at all.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper
Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen, described the newspapers’ behaviour as a “feeding frenzy”.
“We’re talking about a story that has been completely denied as rubbish,” he told journalists on Sunday. “It’s a slightly unreal situation – I think we need to have a reality check. These things haven’t happened, and yet the story runs and runs.”
Details of the alleged incident have appeared in newspapers abroad and on the Internet, but publishing them in Britain is banned.
The banned allegation comes from a former palace servant, George Smith, who sparked an earlier scandal by saying another male servant had raped him many years before. An investigation found no evidence to support that charge.
The Mail said Smith recorded both his rape charge and the allegation that he witnessed an incident involving Prince Charles on a tape he gave to Charles’s ex-wife Princess Diana.
Diana’s former Butler Paul Burrell discussed the tape without revealing its contents in his memoir, published last month, helping to whet tabloid appetites.
Smith’s story about Charles isn’t new. The Mail says it has known about it for a year, but previously didn’t think it reliable enough to print. What is new is the ban – imposed on behalf of a royal servant.
The Sunday Telegraph said Charles had hired a law firm to see whether he could sue Smith.
In the absence of new facts, British papers may need to continue to rely on innuendo.