A supposedly “unruffled” Prince Charles returned to Britain yesterday to face increasingly lurid claims and media innuendo about his sexuality and alleged relationship with a former valet, Michael Fawcett. Attempts by the prince’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, to end speculation have backfired, with the British papers finding ingenious ways around a court injunction that prohibits publication of the central claim in Britain.

In perhaps the lowest point in relations between the British press and the royals, the headline in the News of the World asked: “Is Charles Bisexual?” The Sunday Mirror gave fuel to the rumours by writing that the prince and Mr Fawcett were “Not and Never lovers”. It added, with a nod and a wink: “Charles and aide ‘are just friends’.”

Speculation about Charles threatens to undermine his public standing and reopen debate about whether the throne should pass from the Queen to Prince William, Charles’s eldest son.

The prince has reportedly asked his legal firm, Harbottle and Lewis, to investigate suing a former royal servant, George Smith, who has told the Mail on Sunday that he witnessed a certain act.

The royals normally work on the basis that legal action only prolongs a controversy by giving credence to allegations.

Without naming names, Sir Michael, on Charles’s behalf, has vehemently denied Mr Smith’s claims and suggested the former servant is a fantasist with an alcohol problem.

Mr Smith, who has previously claimed he was raped by Mr Fawcett, told the the Mail on Sunday that he stood by his story, which he relayed on the so-called “rape tape” recorded by the late Princess Diana about a year before her death in a Paris car crash.

Mr Smith, 43, said he had never intended to cause the prince harm. “I have always respected him and I am still proud of the work I did for him over 10 years. I have only ever wanted justice for the rape I suffered.”

Police have investigated and dismissed Mr Smith’s rape allegations against Mr Fawcett.

Sir Michael, who described Mr Smith’s claims as “ludicrous and risible” on television on Thursday, has reportedly recently asked Charles’s former press guru, Mark Bolland, whether he thought the prince was bisexual.

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