When Prince Charles took the unprecedented step last year of identifying himself as the central character in a series of "untrue" rumours, he probably hoped it would bring an end to the episode.
The prince may be disheartened to learn, therefore, that his denial of newspaper allegations of a sexual act between a member of the Royal Family and a servant only fanned the flames of the curiosity of the British public.
Last year Prince Charles was the most searched for item on the Google search engine in the UK. Millions of Britons searched for the words "Prince Charles" on the website after he issued his statement in November. The alleged incidents could not be published in British newspapers due to High Court injunctions. Searches for the prince outstripped those for celebrities such as David Beckham, who was sixth, and Jonny Wilkinson, who came fourth.
The pop star Michael Jackson, who is facing child molestation charges in the US, came seventh, and the hotel heiress Paris Hilton, whose home-made pornographic film was posted anonymously on the internet in November, was ninth. The cartoon character Winnie the Pooh, who has been the subject of a legal battle over merchandising rights, was in third place.
The Google Zeitgeist top 10 lists for 2003, which are based on more than 55 billion searchesacross the world, aim to track growing cultural and popular trends. The singer Britney Spears was the most searched for item worldwide, followed by Harry Potter in second place and the Matrix film. The rapper 50 Cent was sixth and Lord of the Rings was eighth.
Iraq came top in the list of global news searches. The basketball player Kobe Bryant, who is facing rape charges in America, came third and Jessica Lynch, the US army private rescued from an Iraqi hospital, came sixth. The country band Dixie Chicks, who caused controversy with their anti-Bush comments before the Iraq war, came tenth.
Ferrari, Sony, BMW, Disney and Ryanair were the top five global brand searches.
The three most popular pictures of women remained unchanged from 2002: Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Pamela Anderson.
The most searched for pictures of men globally were Eminem, David Beckham and the actor Orlando Bloom.
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