Prince Charles Fights to Keep Diaries Private

ByNICK WATT via via logo

Feb. 22, 2006 — -- Prince Charles: heir to the throne, an organic farmer, and, now we know, an avid diary keeper.

A disgruntled former employee copied eight of those diaries and leaked them to London tabloid The Mail on Sunday. Extracts from one of those diaries was published late last year, and the prince is suing. He claims breach of confidence and copyright.

"He's obviously worried that more will come out unless he tries to stop it," said Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty magazine. Prince Charles' dislike of the press is well-known. "He blames the press for having a circulation war, to see who can get the most salacious stories," she said.

The scribblings published so far are not salacious. The extract is from a diary Charles kept in 1997 during the handover of the British colony Hong Kong to the Chinese. Charles dubbed the event the "Chinese takeway." That's what the British call Chinese takeout. He also described Chinese leaders as "appalling old waxworks." Charles' father, Prince Philip, is more famous for making such tasteless remarks. But he usually makes them in public rather than in private diaries.

In court this week, the prince's lawyers are arguing that these commentaries on his life were never meant for public consumption. The prince is a public figure, but these are private thoughts.

"We are not dealing with state secrets," the lawyer Hugh Tomlinson told the court. He said it's vital for the prince that "this sort of document cannot be published willy-nilly by the press."

The defense likened the prince's plight to that of the actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, who sued a magazine that published shots of their wedding.

So how did the diary end up splashed across a Sunday newspaper? Well, it turns out Charles used to have an employee fax copies of his journals to friends. That employee was later fired over an unrelated matter. Before she left the palace, she photocopied eight diaries and slipped them to the newspaper.

The star witness for the newspaper is another of Charles' former employees: Mark Bolland, his one-time deputy secretary and the architect of the charm offensive to sell Camilla Parker Bowles to the British public.

Bolland made a statement Tuesday in which he claimed the prince reveled in the role of a "dissident," challenging prevailing political thinking. He said the journals were not private. Bolland said that Charles saw the diaries as a "bit of fun" that he passed around to various journalists, politicians and friends.

"I think it's very enjoyable to read Prince Charles' diaries because they are actually extremely well-written and very funny," Seward said. "But I don't think they're something we need to see."

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