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From Rumor To Royal Crisis

Prince Charles was so concerned about recent rumors of a sex scandal involving him that he called a meeting in his country home with his sons and Camilla Parker-Bowles to help find a way to put an end to the rumors, CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports.

In public, however, there is not much to read on the face of the head that will wear the crown.

The man at the center of what's certainly been one of his family's wackier brawls with the British press, Prince Charles, hasn't said very much. Then again, neither has the British press.

Victoria Mather, social columnist for the "Sunday Telegraph" says, "I think the Prince of Wales - he's carrying on with his work. I think that in fact, he has gotten sympathy. If you look at the polls, most people do not believe what they're reading nor are they particularly interested."

The story is that a former royal aide may have seen the prince in a compromising position but no specific allegations have been published. Libel law and the courts won't allow it. What circulated is essentially a rumor about a rumor. It gained currency when the palace, without saying what it was, said it wasn't true.

Whole forests, it seems, have been sacrificed by newspapers printing long and lurid accounts of, well, not much, actually. There's been the reported assurance from one former palace aide that Prince Charles is not bi-sexual and the revelation from another that the heir to the throne does not have breakfast in bed. Mostly, the press has been straining under a law that keeps it from saying much; it's been saying a lot about not much.

Here is an example of headlines read on Sunday's "BBC Breakfast with Frost":

  • Prince Charles Set To Sue Palace Aide Over Scandal (Tuesday, The Sunday Telegraph).
  • Royals In Turmoil As Humiliating Allegations Spread Around The World (Sunday, The Independent).
  • William Fears Plot To Ruin His Father (The Sunday Times).

Some opinion here is that Charles brought this on himself by authorizing his spokesman last week to vehemently deny an allegation that no one had actually made in public.

"It is totally untrue and without a shred of substance," said his spokesman, Sir Michael Peat.

According to one public relations expert, the prince's denial turned a vague unpublished rumor into a right royal crisis.

He explained, "Now, after the statement, the whole country knows that the allegations concern Prince Charles and the whole country wants to know what's going on, what it was all about. So you've taken the situation, which was a problem, and you've turned it into a crisis."

And, yes, the British do appreciate that it's a bit bizarre.

It could be that Tuesday, Nov. 11, is a tipping point. There is a new tone in two of Britain's biggest papers, which seem to have run out of new rumors to publish and perhaps are tired of recycling old ones.

'Leave Him Alone,' is how one paper puts it. 'It's Time To Let It All Drop' is another.

Not very likely.

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