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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 June, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
William in 'road rage' chase
William at the wheel of his car
William was driving his Golf when the "cat and mouse" chase began
Prince William has been involved in a driving dispute with an irate member of the aristocracy - which led to his armed bodyguards stepping in.

An officer from the Royal Protection Squad spoke to the Earl of Bathurst, 76, after a brief "cat-and-mouse" road chase on Saturday afternoon.

The earl later said that the Prince of Wales, Prince William's father, had apologised over the incident.

The spat happened when the prince's VW Golf overtook the earl's Land Rover on a country dirt track in Lord Bathurst's 15,000-acre estate in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

William had just left a polo match at Cirencester Polo Club, on the estate.

There are rules in the polo club about driving on the estate and people have to stick to them
Lord Bathurst

A spokesman for the club said William had been driving on the one-way system of dirt tracks when he came up behind Lord Bathurst's vehicle, travelling much more slowly.

"Basically, Prince William overtook him and the police cars following him behind did as well, probably because it is their job to stay with the prince all the time," said the spokesman.

"It was on Lord Bathurst's property and so he hit his horn and gave chase. He wanted to overtake the police car but, instead, it stopped him.

"Prince William drove on but the police officer had strong words with Lord Bathurst."

Girlfriend rumours

From his farmhouse home in Sapperton on Sunday, Lord Bathurst said the Prince of Wales had apologised to his son, Lord Apsley, about the incident.

He added: "There are rules in the polo club about driving on the estate and people have to stick to them."

Officials confirmed the incident had taken place, but said it never became serious.

William and his father Prince Charles (foreground), playing polo on Saturday
The incident followed a polo match at Cirencester Polo Club
A spokesman for St James's Palace said: "This was a very minor incident in which no one was injured and as far as we are concerned the matter is closed."

The Daily Mail, which puts the incident on its front page, said the chase took place at speeds of up to 60mph.

The paper also claimed William has a girlfriend - 21-year-old Jessica 'Jecca' Craig, whom it says the prince met in Kenya two years ago.

But St James's Palace rejected the claims, saying the two were just friends.

"St James's Palace denies that there is or ever has been any romantic liaison between Prince William and Jessica Craig," a statement said.

"They also ask for the media to leave her and her family alone."

Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, is currently halfway through his four-year degree studying History of Art at the University of St Andrews, on the coast of Fife.

After his studies, he reportedly plans to do environmental work in Africa, instead of the traditional royal career in the military.

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