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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 19:16 GMT
Another right royal embarrassment
Harold Brown
The trials have sparked intense media interest

Once again awkward questions are being asked over the collapse of a criminal prosecution involving a royal servant.

It is less than five weeks since the trial of Paul Burrell, formerly butler to the Princess of Wales, ended in sensational fashion.

The unprecedented intervention by the Queen, who suddenly recalled a conversation with Mr Burrell, saw him walking from the Old Bailey a free man.

Now another long-serving royal butler, Harold Brown, has been cleared of accusations of theft.

He was perfect...a top line butler

David Griffin
Royal chauffeur

Mr Brown worked for Princess Margaret until her death in March. But like Mr Burrell, he was previously on the staff of Princess Diana.

And like Mr Burrell, the charges he faced related to property owned by Diana.

Wedding gift

Mr Brown was accused of stealing a jewel-encrusted model of an Arabian dhow, said to be worth half a million pounds.

Harold Brown
Cleared: royal butler Harold Brown
It was a wedding present from the Emir of Bahrain to the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The butler was also charged with taking a diamond brooch, earrings and a bangle.

Facing trial with him was jeweller Jan Havlik, who was accused of dishonestly handling the items.

Like Mr Brown, he was at the Old Bailey to hear the prosecution throw in the towel on the morning the trial should have begun in front of a jury.

When charges were brought against him, Harold Brown was employed by Princess Margaret.

His friend, royal chauffeur David Griffin, recalls what happened.

"When Harold was first arrested he was rather shocked and the Princess was quite upset," he said.

"He actually went in to see her and explained the whole situation to her."

Shocked

The author Andrew Morton, whose book in 1992 revealed the depth of Diana's unhappiness, believes that recent events have changed people's perceptions of the Royal Family.

Jan Havlik
Cleared: jeweller Jan Havlik
"The public have been surprised and shocked about the revelations of life inside Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace," he told the BBC.

For a second time in a matter of weeks, a royal servant could have gone into the witness box in a criminal trial and given evidence under oath.

Once again, the trial has come to an end before the butler could have his say...testimony that might have been embarrassing for his masters.

That may be a source of relief in royal circles, and cynics will wonder if the collapse of the two cases is more than just coincidence.

But it is also clear that Mr Brown was a popular servant, and there was considerable shock when he was accused of theft.

Perfect

Until his appearance before magistrates in April last year, few outside royal circles had heard of Harold Brown.

The public have been surprised and shocked about the revelations of life inside Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace

Andrew Morton
Royal biographer

He was a trusted employee who had spent thirty years in royal service, working behind the scenes for "The Firm".

He was a footman at Buckingham Palace, before spending eleven years as butler to Charles and Diana. He then became butler to Princess Margaret.

Chauffeur David Griffin says Princess Margaret, in declining health, came to rely on Harold Brown.

"He was perfect," Mr Griffin told the BBC.

"If the plumber had to go and see the Princess he would introduce him the same way he would introduce the president of a country.

"A good royal servant is what I would call a 'non-person'. He is always there...never seen, never heard.

"With the Princess, she would lift her eyebrow and he would know exactly what she wanted. You can't take anything away from Harold - he really is a top line butler."

Conversation

At the Old Bailey today, it was made clear that the collapse of this latest trial was a consequence of the decision by the Crown to abandon the trial of Paul Burrell.

Paul Burrell
Crucial: Paul Burrell's talk with the Queen
Harold Brown told the police that he had been authorised by Mr Burrell to sell the half-million pound model boat at the heart of the case.

And because Mr Burrell had spoken to the Queen about looking after Diana's possessions, he had the power to do so.

So this trial has also collapsed because of Paul Burrell's now famous conversation with the Queen...a meeting she only recalled shortly before he was due to give evidence.

"The Queen came through for me," he said, after leaving court.

What might have emerged during the course of Harold Brown's trial can only be a matter of speculation, just as we can only guess at what Paul Burrell might have said from the witness box.

But the collapse of this latest trial will now place the royal household under even more intense scrutiny.

A year that witnessed the triumph of the Queen's golden jubilee is ending in a royal controversy.


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