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Royals Battle Rumor Mill

It should be a time of simple joy at Buckingham Palace: a new princess, 8th in line for the throne, has been born to the Countess of Wessex, the former Sophie-Rhys Jones, and Queen Elizabeth's youngest child, Prince Edward.

Edward says he's "thrilled to bits" at the weekend's new arrival and Prince Charles says he, too, is "thrilled."

But nothing is simple for Britain's royals, who are instead at the center of a tabloid maelstrom over allegations by a former servant who reportedly claims to have witnessed something involving Prince Charles and a former servant.

Charles responded with a statement last Thursday issued on his behalf by his closest aide, private secretary Sir Michael Peat. Peat said while Charles is the "senior royal" mentioned in the allegation, the incident recounted - whose details have been withheld by a court order - did not take place.

"Anyone who knows the Prince of Wales at all," said Peat last week, "would appreciate that the allegation is totally ludicrous."

Nonetheless, the prince - heir to the throne - reportedly conferred with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, and oldest son, Prince William, over the weekend and is considering a television interview to directly comment on the situation.

That's according to the London newspaper News of the World.

The statement issued by Prince Charles' office on Thursday said the man making the allegations is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism following military service in the Falklands War.

"He has, in the past, made other unrelated allegations, which the police have fully investigated and found to be unsubstantiated," said the statement, which did not mention the name of the accuser.

British newspapers have however reported that the man making the allegation is former royal valet George Smith, 43, who worked for Charles for 11 years until 1997.

Because of a lawsuit filed by another former servant, reporters are under a court order not to disclose any details they may have about the nature of what they are calling the alleged "incident."

According to the News of the World, Smith first began making allegations about goings on in the palaces in 1995, when he told Princess Diana he was raped by a gay servant. The paper says Diana, one year later, is believed to have made a tape recording of the rape accusation and at that time, Smith made a claim about Prince Charles and a servant.

The question of the tape - if it exists, where it is, and what it says - has come up before. Paul Burrell, who was Diana's butler, has said she told him about the tape and what was on it but he will not reveal what she said.

The News of the World says the claims may be mentioned on a series of videos of Diana that are to be entered into evidence at a hearing in Scotland for a court battle over who owns the videos.

The same paper quotes a "senior aide" to Charles as saying his first instinct "was to give an interview himself, spelling out all the details and saying what they were wrong. But there is someone else involved who is not a public figure and their wishes had to be respected."

A report in The Mail Sunday quotes Smith as saying he had witnessed an incident - not described or qualified - involving Prince Charles and another royal aide. Smith also reportedly claimed he was raped by the same aide. The newspaper gave no further details.

Prince Charles arrived back home Sunday after a trip to Oman. He smiled at the airport but made no comment on the controversy.

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