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Saturday, November 7, 1998 Published at 11:24 GMT


Palace approved abdication claims says LWT

Welcome distraction: Prince Charles with Bulgaria's president

A senior Palace aide gave the go-ahead for a documentary to claim that the Prince of Wales wants the Queen to abdicate, the TV company LWT has said.

BBC Court Correspondent Jennie Bond reports on the prince's eventful day in Bulgaria
In a strongly worded statement on Friday, Prince Charles said it would be "ludicrous" to believe the "outrageous and hurtful" claims made in the LWT documentary, Charles at 50, to be broadcast on Sunday.

The television company said four briefings had been held with the Buckingham Palace official and all the main topics of the programme, including abdication, were discussed and approved.

LWT is standing by its production but is considering adding the prince's complaints to the programme.

[ image: Mrs Parker Bowles: Will never be Queen, claims programme]
Mrs Parker Bowles: Will never be Queen, claims programme
A spokeswoman said producer Louise Norman and the programme's production consultant, former Sun editor Stuart Higgins, carried out the talks with the aide - the last as recently as this week.

She said: "The question of abdication was raised with the senior palace aide this week.

"It would have been brought up in the briefing, reiterated twice and checked again this week.

"None of it was refuted."

'Completely wrong'

In the rare statement issued jointly on Friday by Buckingham and St James's Palaces, Prince Charles moved quickly to dissociate himself from the contents of an LWT press release about the programme.

He rejected the suggestion that he would be privately "delighted if the Queen were to abdicate".

The prince said: "The claims made in LWT's press notice are not only deeply offensive but completely wrong. They in no way reflect my views."

LWT's press release also said that the programme will assert that even if Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles, she will never become Queen.

The programme also says:

  • The Princess Royal would become the King's Royal Partner, accompanying him on official engagements - and not Mrs Parker Bowles.

  • The prince believes the monarchy needs radical modernising and that he, not the Queen, is the person to do this.

  • Charles wants to streamline the Royal Family, with the Duke of York and Prince Edward becoming "non-working Royals" and no longer receiving public money.

Prince's biographer astonished

Prince Charles's biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, came to the prince's defence, saying the abdication claim was "quite fantastic".

Jonathan Dimbleby: Charles is "entirely mortified" by "quite fantastic" claims
"I can't believe for a moment that he would have allowed himself to speak of this, to intimate this, in any way to intimate to friends, let alone to a senior aide, however much he trusted that aide," Mr Dimbleby told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Earlier, the historian and royal biographer, Professor Ben Pimlott, told BBC Radio that although he understood the prince's anger, he thought abdication was not a bad idea.

"There is certainly, in my view, quite a strong case for the Queen announcing that at a certain age she will indeed retire in a dignified way."

Historian Ben Pimlott: "The Queen should announce that at a certain age she will retire"
He added: "But the fact is she shows no indication of going down that road and Prince Charles obviously supports that position."

Saturday's press devoted much front page coverage to the issue.

The Sun newspaper editorial expressed sympathy with the prince, who recently issued a joint statement with long-time friend Camilla Parker Bowles denying allegations about his marriage to Princess Diana published in a new book.

Its rival The Mirror took a tougher line, saying his aides "would not dream of sounding off if he had not given them the OK".

The Daily Telegraph said the TV documentary had "touched a very raw nerve" at the palace and that LWT had "committed royal blasphemy".

As newspapers in Britain debate the abdication reports, Prince Charles continues his three-day visit to Bulgaria.

On Saturday he was guest of honour at a gypsy wedding of a Christian bride and a Muslim groom in Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city.

He studiously ignored journalists' questions about the LWT programme.

According to BBC Court Correspondent Jennie Bond, tours like this are an important part of the prince's work, a role in which - as he has emphatically made clear - he is happy to continue.

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