It’s easy to forget the St James’s Palace scandals that almost toppled Prince Charles.
Here’s a little reminder:
” Prince Charles has ordered a full-scale probe into the scandals surrounding his own household.
St James’s Palace announced last night that Sir Michael Peat, the prince’s private secretary, will conduct the inquiry.
The investigation into the rumours and allegations that surfaced after the collapse of former royal servant Paul Burrell’s theft trial is seen as a way of avoiding a full public inquiry.
The Royal Family have been damaged by claims that the Queen’s intervention in Burrell’s trial – which saw him walk free before giving evidence – was intended to stop embarassing secrets coming out.
But she will not be interviewed as part of the inquiry and she will not see an advance copy of the report.
Shocking revelations about life in the royal households emerged after Burrell sold his story to a newspaper
.Among them were the alleged gay rape of a servant by one of Prince Charles’s own staff.
And it was alleged details of a gay encounter between a royal and a member of staff are contained on a secret tape recorded by Princess Diana .
Peat’s inquiry will focus on four key questions.
He will try to discover whether there was a cover-up following the alleged gay rape in 1996.
He will also look at whether there was any improper conduct among Prince Charles’s household at the end of the Burrell trial in the Old Bailey.
The investigation will also examine whether any official gifts have been sold for profit and if any staff were given improper gifts or other benefits.
The report’s findings are expected to be made public and should be published by Christmas.
Barrister Edmund Lawson, QC, will assist Peat, but critics say the probe will be a waste of time if it is carried out by someone connected to the Royal Family.
Peat claims he already knows the Queen’s side of the story, and last night he offered an explanation as to why she did not come forward earlier in the investigation into Burrell.
She told lawyers just before Burrell was to give evidence that she remembered a private conversation with her former footman in 1997 when he told her he was holding on to some of Diana’s possessions for safekeeping.
Peat claimed the Queen did not know her vital information would cause the trial to collapse.
He said: “The Prince of Wales has instructed me to undertake this inquiry without fear or favour. Concerns have been raised in the newspapers.
“Underlying it may be some matters that may well be of concern to people and therefore we are going to look into these matters. “I, and, more importantly, the Prince of Wales are totally committed to openness and accountability.”
The senior aide said an external inquiry may be held but it was not for the palace to call for one.
As Buckingham Palace issued a detailed chronology of the Queen’s involvement in the Burrell case, Peat answered questions about what she knew and when.
Two thirds of the British public believe she intervened to prevent embarrassing disclosures coming out of the trial, according to a weekend opinion poll.
But Peat responded: “I can give you my 100 per cent assurance that there was no interference at all. “The Queen remembered some information and it was passed on to the police in the normal course.” ”
No one – the Queen, the Prince of Wales, members of the household – knew whether this information would stop the trial or not.” He added: “The conspiracy thing is a little absurd because, even if there was an intention to stop the trial, why leave it till then, why not do it earlier?”
He admitted that an external inquiry may be held, but added that it would probably have to be ordered by the Government.
Peat said: “It would be difficult to have an independent external review of this office in isolation because some of the questions, such as the termination of the Paul Burrell trial, involve others as well as ourselves, such as the police and the CPS. ”
If it is decided in due course that there should be an external review then we would be delighted to help in any way we can.”
Last night, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “All the information regarding the Queen’s involvement has been widely published by the media. There will be no meeting between the Queen and Sir Michael because he already knows what the Queen said and did.”
Burrell’s revelations in an English newspaper sparked a frenzy in their rivals. The married father-of-two was exposed as being gay and a former lover, Australian Greg Pead, released letters Burrell had written him which included royal gossip and details of the Queen’s movements.
Last weekend, George Smith, a 42-year-old former valet to Prince Charles, said one of the prince’s senior staff raped him in 1989.
He claimed the same man tried to rape him again in the British embassy in Cairo during a royal tour of Egypt. Initially, St James’s Palace said neither an internal or a police investigation found any evidence to support his claims.
The royal aide at the centre of the claims, who was named in an Italian newspaper, issued an denial.
Smith made the claims in 1996 – seven years after the alleged attack – and the police investigation only took place last year when the claim resurfaced.
Peat will also investigate allegations that gifts to the royals were sold on for cash after claims one personal assistant has been selling Charles’ unwanted presents and pocketing 20 per cent of the profits.
The internal probe is unlikely to put paid to the rumours and gossip which are now posing a real and serious threat to the future of the monarchy.
Glasgow Pollok MP Ian Davidson, a leading critic of the royals, questioned the credibility of the inquiry.
He said: “They have identified the main areas of concern and where questions have to be asked. “But it very much depends on how the inquiry is conducted. “In relation to the Burrell case for example, will they be able to bring the police and the Crown Prosecution Service before them to get the details of what happened and when.
“I doubt, given the nature of the inquiry they will have the power to do that, and if it doesn’t then it won’t be satisfactory.”