Camilla Parker Bowles was 50 this week and the occasion was marked by a story on the PA news wires headed: "Camilla Beats Diana in the Headline Stakes". The story claimed that in the first six months of this year, Camilla has had 6 per cent more coverage than Diana and 10 per cent more than the Spice Girls. We have checked those figures on our own newspaper database, which delves deeper than the headlines, and a rather different story emerges.

Jan-Jun '96 Jan-Jun '97

Spice Girls 1 2,696

Princess Diana 1,990 1,942

Camilla 407 527

As the above table shows, occurrences of "Camilla" have risen by more than 29 per cent in the first six months of 1997 compared with the same period last year, while the "Princess Diana" count has gone down by 2.4 per cent. If this trend is continued, Camillas will overtake Dianas around the end of 2002. Or they would, if our newspapers were not totally overtaken by references to the Spice Girls by then, which, at an annual increase of 269,500 per cent, will soon leave no room for anything else.

Clearly extrapolations based on these six-monthly figures are not to be relied upon. So here is a month-by-month breakdown from July 1996 to June 1997:

Ju Au Se Oc No De Ja Fe Ma Ap Ma Ju

Spice 26 33 26 71 127 336 277 372 626 469 529 423

Diana 529 338 337 293 306 327 389 267 263 282 307 434

Camilla 136 159 178 74 57 74 131 72 58 72 60 134

Here the figures expose the true situation. The Spice Girls clearly peaked in March and, if we extrapolate a three-monthly moving average of their scores, it becomes clear that they will probably be back to their 1996, one-mention-every-six-months level around the end of December. The current boost in Camillas is only a return to the levels of January, and appears to be a seasonal fluctuation.