- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2003

LONDON — Prince Charles has instructed a leading firm of London solicitors to examine the case for legal action over allegations made by a former royal servant about his private life.

Senior royal aides say that the heir to the throne is prepared to sue George Smith, who worked for the prince for 11 years until 1997, for breach of confidence.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that employment and libel specialists from the Harbottle & Lewis law firm have been asked by the prince’s private office to study new claims being made by Mr. Smith.

Prince Charles was due to fly back to Britain today after a 10-day tour of India and the Middle East. He will meet senior aides this week to assess the fallout from this weekend’s latest allegations about his private life.

Senior officials at Clarence House, as the prince’s private office is known, say that Charles so far has been reluctant to take legal action against Mr. Smith, who they describe as a “sad, sick man” with a series of alcohol and stress-related health problems.

The prince is said, however, to “abhor” disloyalty and does not believe that any former employee should benefit financially from his or her betrayal of royal “secrets.”

Mr. Smith, a former royal valet, is expected to expand on claims that he first made to the Mail on Sunday last year when he was paid an estimated $50,000. This time his deal with the newspaper is likely to be worth considerably more after he agreed to swear an affidavit to support his allegations.

Mr. Smith, 43, claimed last year that, as well as being the victim of a male rape, he had witnessed an “incident” involving a senior member of the royal family and a royal servant.

Police investigated the male rape claim, first reported in 1996 — seven years after the incident — and found it to be unsubstantiated.

Charles has in the past taken court action against disloyal former servants. These included Wendy Berry, his former housekeeper, who published a book in America that broke the terms of her confidentiality agreement and an earlier court order.

He was incensed by Miss Berry’s treachery because — as with Mr. Smith — he had been particularly generous to her over her severance deal when she left royal service. The prince had allowed Miss Berry to remain on his payroll for 18 months beyond retirement age and had made her a generous settlement.

Miss Berry had broken a high court injunction in 1995 by publishing her book, “The Housekeeper’s Diary,” in the United States, thereby earning an estimated $330,000.

Although Mr. Smith has not written a book, the prince’s legal advisers are likely to conclude that he has broken the terms of his confidentiality clause.

Former employees of Princess Diana’s — including former butler Paul Burrell — have not faced legal action for revealing royal secrets because the princess is dead and because she was lax in forcing staff to sign strict confidentiality agreements.

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