Mystery Sex Scandal Taints Charles

updated 11/10/2003 at 12:00 AM EST

originally published 11/10/2003 11:09AM

Libel laws are still keeping the lips of British tabloid writers sealed, but enough lurid innuendo about Prince Charles surfaced in Sunday editions to set the entire populace's tongues to wagging.

In one of the strangest scandals yet to befall the royal family, Charles late last week denied doing something -- without saying what it is -- only no one can report what it is he says he didn't do.

Still, all that has surfaced is that whatever it was, it seems to have involved Charles and his valet, and what one of Charles's other servants claimed he saw the two men doing.

This weekend's Mail on Sunday teased on its front page: "World Exclusive -- Charles and His Valet: The True Story." But, as Reuters notes, the story didn't say what they were allegedly doing.

The News of the World -- which boasts the highest circulation of the scandal sheets -- asked in a bold-faced headline on page one: "Is Charles Bisexual?" Several paragraphs into its story, in small type at the bottom, it said: "emphatically NOT."

The prince, 55, reportedly returned to England this weekend after a two-week foreign trip with a stop in the Gulf state of Oman as guest of his friend Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Charles reportedly headed straight to his country house, while Charles Anson, a spokesman for Buckingham Palace (Charles's mother's residence), told BBC TV: "We're talking about a story that has been completely denied as rubbish, we're not talking about something that has actually happened. ... 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."

Charles may go on television this week to address the scandal, say reports.

According to the libel laws in Britain, publications that might be seen in the U.K. are not permitted to carry the story. Italian and Spanish newspapers have run with the allegation, and those editions are being kept out of England, a news distributor tells Reuters.

The source of the allegation has been confirmed to be a former palace servant, George Smith, who also 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 (which claims it has known about the allegation involving Charles and his valet for a year) said Smith recorded both his rape charge and the allegation that he witnessed an incident involving Prince Charles. He then reputedly gave the incriminating tape 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, thus sparking this latest frenzy.

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