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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 14:49 GMT
Glimpse into world of royal gifts
Prince Charles at polo match
Prince Charles gave staff polo match prizes
An intriguing glimpse of the gifts given to the Royal Family and the way they are treated has emerged from the inquiry into Prince Charles' household affairs.

Between 1999 and 2001, Sir Michael Peat's report says, the heir to the throne received a staggering 2,394 presents.

They included five animals, 15 items of "arms and armour", 249 CDs, videos and tapes and 12 toiletry items.

What happened to many of them after they were given is the subject of fierce criticism from Sir Michael.

He found no evidence staff had sold gifts without permission or took commissions.

But the Prince of Wales did approve the sale of many unwanted items for charity and gave others such as pens, watches and champagne won at polo matches away to staff.

Gifts destroyed

It was a perk the most famous ex-royal butler, Paul Burrell, said was "as old as the monarchy".

Sir Michael also found that small gifts and those unable to be sold for charity such as bedding, clothing, drawings and home-recorded tapes were destroyed for lack of space.

They included presents given at the time of Prince Charles' wedding to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Defined as those received during or in connection with an engagement recorded in the Court Circular
Also included gifts sent in by the public
Should not be sold, exchanged, or given away other than to charity
But many staff unaware of the unwritten rules
But there was confusion among staff about what constituted an "official" as opposed to private gift, according to the Peat report, and records were inadequate.

Attempts were made to trace gifts estimated to be worth 150 or more with staff, royal warrant holders and other suppliers all asked to supply information.

In the end 180 official presents were identified, but 19 could not be accounted for.

The report says: "We believe it is unlikely that the Prince of Wales would have asked for any of these items to be exchanged or sold; however, it is possible that they have been given to or taken by staff or destroyed, but we have no evidence to this effect."

Three other gifts were identified as having been sold or exchanged since April 1996, two of which it was not realised at the time were official and a third which would only be classified as official under new guidelines introduced by the inquiry for St James's Palace.

'Deficient' policies

In addition, seven gifts classed as private were sold or exchanged.

Sir Michael's concluding analysis is clear.

"The policies and procedures in the Prince of Wales's household to record and control the receipt, maintenance and disposal of official and other gifts, including the maintenance of inventory records, have been deficient," he says.

"This was not, we believe, intentional, but the result of pressure of work and limited resources and in part because those involved had become accustomed to the informal practices then in operation."

Gift guidelines

The new rules include "the provision that all official gifts received by the Prince of Wales should be regarded as having been received by him on behalf of the Queen".

They also say any official gifts should now be either:

  • Used or consumed by a member of the Royal Family

  • Displayed in a royal property

  • Added to the Royal Collection held in trust for the nation

  • Placed on loan

  • Given to a registered charity or sold for charity

  • If perishable and worth less than 50, given to third parties, including staff

From now on the destruction of official gifts should be avoided "if at all possible", and then occur only with the Queen's permission.

A simplified gift registration system will be introduced and storage facilities extended.

In total, the report adds, the new rules and arrangements will cost an estimated 50,000 a year to implement.

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