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EDITIONS
Monday, 11 November, 2002, 18:08 GMT
From triumph to trauma
Royal family on Buckingham Palace balcony for 2002 trooping the colour
Jubilee year was meant to boost the royals
Peter Hunt

One million people in the Mall; two successful concerts in the Royal backyard; back in June the Golden Jubilee appeared a copper-bottomed triumph.

What a difference a few months make. The once loyal subjects are restless. There are damaging allegations in the air. Plenty of questions and few regal answers.

Senior officials at Buckingham Palace and St. James's Palace - where Prince Charles is based - met on Monday morning.

Both gatherings were billed as regular events. But the subject matter under discussion was far from their normal fare.

Ten days after the collapse of the Paul Burrell trial the fallout from the case is still dominating the news agenda.

Crucial questions

Amid all the claim and counter claim, there are two crucial issues the Palaces may choose to address.

The first is the nagging question of royal interference in the conduct of a criminal trial.

There is no evidence, but plenty of speculation.

Was the sudden recall by the Queen of a five-year-old conversation with Paul Burrell a convenient means of collapsing the trial?

The timing of her intervention was crucial, just before Mr Burrell went into the witness box and potentially revealed too much.

Paul Burrell
Paul Burrell's claims have rocked the Palace
The Palace has consistently argued everything was above board.

One way they could re-inforce that message would be to permit an independent inquiry into their conduct.

Conspiracy theories

That would be unprecedented. Courtiers would be uneasy about the prospect, but it could lay to rest the conspiracy theories.

The second troubling issue is the allegation of male rape by George Smith - a former royal valet - who waived his right to remain anonymous when he spoke to a Sunday newspaper.

He has accused an unnamed aide to Prince Charles of attacking him. The aide, through his solicitor, has denied the offences ever took place and branded them "wholly untrue allegations."

The spotlight has focused on the way these allegations were dealt with by St James's Palace when they first surfaced eight years ago.

The police were not called in. A spokeswoman bullishly defended their conduct.

She said Mr Smith would not repeat the allegation and did not want to pursue the matter further.

The former Falklands veteran, speaking to the Mail on Sunday, said he was never asked about the rape accusation in 1996 when he left Prince Charles' household with a pay-off of 38,000.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles' role has been questioned
The police only stumbled across the accusations five years later during the Burrell inquiry.

After a seven month investigation the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Officials in both Palaces said they were considering a number of options.

The tried and tested one in the House of Windsor is to say nothing and hope the storm blows over.

In the absence of any fresh damaging material, it may well do so by the weekend.

One courtier dismissed talk of "crisis summits" and "mounting Palace panic" though she insisted they were not complacent.

"Crisis management is something we're quite experienced at", she went on.

They will probably need such skills in the days to come.

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