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Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Explosive headlines for Sophie
Front pages 8 April
A field day for the tabloids but broadsheet fodder too
Almost all the front page of the Sunday papers carry the story of secretly taped conversations between the Countess of Wessex, her business partner and undercover journalists.

The most explosive revelations come in the News of the World, whose reporters posed as an Arab sheikh and his entourage to carry out the sting.

Countess of Wessex and Murray Harkin
The row has extended to Sophie's business partner Murray Harkin
While the NoW last week ran an intimate interview with Sophie - given in exchange for the paper not publishing the transcript of the tapes - two other Sunday papers published accounts of the countess's "indiscretions".

But now the NoW carries not only the transcripts of Sophie's remarks on senior Royals and politicians but also of Murray Harkin - co-owner of her public relations firm RJH - allegedly confessing to the occasional use of illegal drugs.

The Mail on Sunday picks up this angle with the headline "Sophie's aide, gay sex and drugs", and the Mirror takes a similar stance with a front page screaming "Sophie's ecstasy and cocaine shock".

Ministers' fury

Inside, the Mirror quotes unnamed friends of Mr Harkin commenting on his "colourful life" and while Buckingham Palace has yet made no official response to Sunday's revelations, the paper says the Queen is "in a state" about the affair.

And the Mail alleges that the Countess has launched another company called the British Luxury Council which has already had to apologise over suggestions that it is officially endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Independent on Sunday has a different take on Mr Harkin's reported comment that he allegedly quite likes "the odd line of coke".

The IoS says ministers are furious with the disclosures because they could undermine the government's latest anti-drugs strategy.

But according to the Observer, it is Buckingham Palace which is angry with Downing Street.

Senior Royal aides accused ministers of deliberately "fanning the flames" of the affair in order to keep the story in the public agenda, the paper says.

This is so the government can use it to bring forward the issue of monarchy reform, the Palace is said to believe.

Career questioned

The role of Sophie as a career-woman and a member of the monarchy is examined by several papers.

The Sunday Express thinks the Countess is "snubbing" the Queen by planning to turn her PR firm into an "international empire".

It says the Palace has been pleading with her to stop working and become a "full-time royal wife".

Prince Edward Earl of Wessex
Edward has defended his role as a working royal
In the Sunday Times, however, it is Prince Edward who defends the couple's role as working royalty.

Touching on allegations that both he and his wife exploited their royal status in their business lives, the paper says that Edward revealed his company was now making money after seven years of losses.

But The People thinks Sophie's relationship with Prince Edward is "in crisis" because of the scandal.

Under the headline "Ed & Sophie's sheiky marriage" it says Edward is appalled by the row and the Countess has spent "the last 48 hours in tears".

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