Lurid US book rocks Windsors

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The Royal Family will be hit by a series of sensational allegations this week as the book on the House of Windsor by Kitty Kelley, author of savage biographies of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan, goes on sale in the US, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Among a torrent of claims made by the verbal paparazza are adultery, birth of illegitimate children, homosexuality and treatment for drug addiction. Buck- ingham Palace is doing its best to pour scorn on the book, The Royals, pointing out the reason it has not been published here is fear of Britain's tough libel laws.

However, a massive publicity campaign in the US and modern technology mean efforts to suppress the book's claims are unlikely to succeed.

Advance orders for the book are being taken by a US company on the Internet. While the web site carries a rider that it should not be sold to people in Britain, it is unclear how this will be policed.

With many US stations now available here on cable and satellite television, Ms Kelley's interviews - and she is due to appear on all the major chat shows - and programmes featuring the book will also be freely available. The last book of massive interest in Britain which went on sale abroad but not in this country was Spycatcher in 1987. Even without the Net and satellite TV, its contents soon gained wide currency.

The book will be the first test for the British press since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the savage onslaught against media intrusion from her brother, Earl Spencer. Already, Warner Books, Ms Kelley's publisher, and her publicity agent have had to increase their security because of undercover attempts by people thought to be from papers in London to obtain a copy.

While People magazine cancelled its planned serialisation for fear of upsetting public sensitivities, it was being pointed out in New York that this was mainly because the chosen first extract presented an unflattering portrait of Diana. The magazine was substituting the extract with a long interview with Ms Kelley.

US observers predict the book will dominate the best-seller lists, with demand for something sharp about the royals only heightened by the huge media coverage of the death of Diana.