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Last Updated: Friday, 7 November, 2003, 07:24 GMT
Charles: Heir to the throne
Prince Charles
Prince Charles has had to deny involvement in an "incident"
As the Prince of Wales continues an official visit to India and Oman, rumours at home are rocking his household.

Prince Charles revealed himself on Thursday as the senior member of the Royal Family accused of involvement in an alleged incident witnessed by a servant.

The claims were strenuously denied.

Prince Charles, who turns 55 next week, is still in that peculiar limbo which all Princes of Wales have to face.

While other men might dream of early retirement, his greatest challenge - to be King - is yet to come.

The Queen may never abdicate in her son's favour, but she has been gradually handing over more of her royal duties, such as investiture ceremonies, to him.

His title, though ancient, carries no established or formal role and he has had to create his own - which he has done by active involvement in his organisations.

Respected beliefs

Though criticised for what some call his anachronistic lifestyle, especially his love of hunting, in other ways the prince is remarkably modern.

He takes a keen interest in architecture, young people, the environment and health, believing people should have access to both complementary and orthodox medicine.

Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles
The prince's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles has become more accepted
His espousal of organic farming pre-dated the current huge interest in the subject.

Charles' vociferous, almost evangelical, belief in the benefits of conservation is often ahead of the times.

The prince's thought that, when King, he might change his title of "Defender of the Faith" to "Defender of Faith", in order to more closely reflect the multi-cultural nature of modern Britain, cheered many.

No longer seen as a crank, Charles is now generally widely respected for his honesty and sincerely-held beliefs.

His public reputation, severely damaged during his estrangement and eventual divorce from his late wife, has in recent years been slowly but surely rebuilt.

That was due in no small part to the efforts of his former deputy private secretary, Mark Bolland.

But Mr Bolland has since undone some of his own good work, with a frank interview with the Guardian explaining how he spun media stories in Charles's favour.

Burrell revelations

The seeming acceptance by the Royal Family of the prince's companion, Camilla Parker Bowles, has also been hard won.

She had begun accompanying him on some official duties, and even occasionally wins applause and cheers.

Paul Burrell
Fomer royal butler Paul Burrell sparked a recent bout of negative publicity
But recent revelations about his marriage to Princess Diana, made in a book by her former butler Paul Burrell, have threatened to undo everything the prince has been working to achieve.

It was said, in Burrell's book, that the Duke of Edinburgh had said he could not imagine Prince Charles preferring Camilla to Diana.

Earlier this year, the collapse of the trial of Mr Burrell for theft led to an internal inquiry into the way the prince's household was run.

The report led to Prince Charles' trusted aide Michael Fawcett being cleared of financial impropriety, but he was accused of bending the rules on royal gifts, and resigned.

He has now hit the headlines again, with the surfacing of the latest allegations.

The prince once said of his future role "the most important thing will be to have concern for people and give some form of leadership."

But he also once quipped that, if he so wished, he could "simply go off and spend the rest of my life skiing".

If the negative publicity surrounding his household continues, that prospect may seem even more tempting.

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