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The sequel to the Paul Burrell scandal which brought the practices of Prince Charles' royal household into the open in the autumn of 2002, and questioned whether Charles could ever be a credible successor to the throne. The investigation by the prince's private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, brought down Charles' most trusted aide, Michael Fawcett, implicated in the reselling of official gifts.

Over four months, Peat and his barrister assistant Edmund Lawson interviewed 159 members of Charles' staff in connection with the headline allegations which had enlivened the British press no end after Burrell's trial for stealing some 300 items belonging to Princess Diana had collapsed when it transpired that the Queen had already known he was holding on to them for safe keeping.

The collapse of the trial itself was under scrutiny, as were the disposal of official gifts and an allegation of male rape made against a senior official at Saint James' Palace. The News of the World's claim, gleefully splashed across the front page at the height of the Burrell furore, that the former butler and Diana's 'rock' had made sexual advances towards the disgraced presenter Michael Barrymore, was evidently too Popbitch-worthy to trouble the courtiers.

Try Before You Buy

The report's chief casualty was Fawcett, a former footman whose official responsibilities eventually extended to organising Charles' social diary. Whether this entailed setting up his trysts with Camilla Parker-Bowles on the quiet is unknown, but Fawcett's extracurricular duties included squeezing Charles' toothpaste on to the brush for him every morning and, on one occasion, holding a bottle for the Prince to wee into when he was required to give a urine sample. Still, there are worse things a servant could be asked to hold.

According to Peat, Prince Charles received over 2,000 official gifts between 1999 and 2001, with those of highest value coming almost exclusively from Middle Eastern royals and businessmen. (The same ostentatious generosity had landed Lady Di with a foot-high porcelain kingfisher, one of the trinkets appearing on Burrell's charge sheet.) The breakdown included more than a thousand books, 53 pens, 249 CDs and videos, 46 items of kitchenware and fifteen sets of arms and armour.

Peat refuted suggestions that large quantities of gifts were sent to Charles by companies desirous of a royal warrant, presumably on a principle of try before you buy. Draft guidelines from August 2002, applying to royals the same rules that cabinet ministers must obey, insisted that every gift be recorded and accounted for, but this appears not to have been done.

Charles' somewhat inexplicable fan club may continue to send the Prince of Wales their bric-a-brac with confidence: flowers, perishable foodstuffs and 'stamps for the Royal Collection' are to be gratefully accepted, as are the gift-giver's own books provided that they do not have 'controversial subjects'. So much for your exposé of precisely what Wallis Simpson got up to with the Nazi ambassador.

The Prince, apparently, organises charity auctions among his staff for some of the less valuable items, cited by Peat as books, toys, clothing and CDs. Understandable, perhaps: there are only so many Elton John compilations a man can take. Prizes he is awarded at polo matches are often passed directly on to whichever lucky groom or chauffeur is at his side at the time.

Some official gifts were re-routed to a store, maintained by Fawcett, from which they would be recycled as presents for Charles' friends and relatives. Haven't I seen that kingfisher somewhere before? On ten identifiable occasions since 1996, big-ticket items from the Middle East were in fact sold on.

Peat was unable to find any evidence which might convict Fawcett of financial misconduct, although signalled one instance where a payment of £2,500 from a candle manufacturer had gone unrecorded and, according to Fawcett, simply forgotten about. His euphemistically 'robust' manner of relating to staff, said the report, might account for the prevalence of rumour against him.

When the report was published on March 13, 2003, Fawcett immediately resigned from his salaried post in the royal household, although announced that he was setting up an event management company and would continue to be employed by the Prince. Funny, that.

The Rape Tape

Separate allegations of male rape made by a former valet and Falklands War veteran, George Smith, were also investigated by Peat, although the findings were presented amid a smokescreen of warnings that Smith had been known for drunkenness and unreliability. The identity of the rapist was widely known in the media, and printed in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, but could not be repeated in the UK.

Charles, according to the report, helped to fund his treatment for depression at the exclusive Priory clinic, although aggravation in the Prince's household grew after Smith began making his claims to Diana and receiving her trademark sympathetic ear.

A cassette recording of one of Diana's conversations with Smith, the so-called rape tape, provided one of the Burrell trial's entertaining sidelines when it became known that the tape, hidden away in a jewellery box, was supposed to have disappeared with Burrell but had not been included in the charges against him, giving rise to speculation that the Palace had hoped to cover up the affair.

Charles' solicitor Fiona Shackleton, who had handled his divorce from Diana, was the only member of staff to insist that the rape claim be fully investigated, but was ordered by her superiors to deal with Smith's dismissal and tell Diana to 'stop interfering' in an internal household matter.

Regarding the Burrell trial itself, Peat unearthed a letter the ex-butler had written to Prince William which revealed that the royals knew as early as August 2001 that he had held on to certain of Diana's possessions and was intending to return them to the young princes. Charles' household nonetheless did not oppose Burrell's prosecution, not least after police had implied to them that Burrell had sold on some of Diana's goods and that certain members of the palace staff liked to dress up in Diana's clothes. Did anyone mention casting the first stone?

The British press, privy to more intimate detail than the UK's restrictive libel laws would allow them to make public, was left somewhat bewildered by the content of the report, which found little concrete evidence against Fawcett but flagged up serious loose ends in the resolution of Smith's claims of sexual assault, for which no arrest had yet been made.

The Palace, meanwhile, remained on the defensive in case a reported £1 million deal should entice Fawcett to tell his side of the story, and Charles sensibly decamped on a state trip to Bulgaria coinciding with the publication of the report. One trusts a full account will be made of the proud Bulgarians' gift to their royal visitor, a jar of traditional honey.

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