Philip denies being 'curt and unfeeling' to Diana

Even by the standards of the past few weeks, it was a right royal bombshell. At 2.07pm yesterday, in a move unprecedented in modern times, Buckingham Palace issued an extraordinary statement.

The Duke of Edinburgh, it explained, had never called Diana, Princess of Wales, "a trollop and a harlot" in letters he wrote to her following her break-up with the Prince of Wales. Such "insulting terms", and the mere suggestion that he would ever been so "curt and unfeeling", were a "gross misrepresentation of his relations with his daughter-in-law and hurtful to his grandsons".

After the flurry of scandalous allegations stemming from the collapse of the Paul Burrell trial, the remarkable statement was clearly intended to draw some sort of line in the sand. Instead, it offered fresh momentum to a feverish controversy that simply refuses to die.

The substance of the statement could not have been more specific. Far from addressing any overarching issues that have been raised about the Royal Family, it referred to a single allegation: that Prince Philip wrote a string of abusive letters to his daughter-in-law in the 1990s.

The fact that Prince Philip corresponded with the princess following her split with Prince Charles is not in dispute. What is contested is the precise content of the letters, not to mention their exact whereabouts today.

This has become something of a cause celebre in the aftermath of the trial of Mr Burrell, the princess's former butler. During the case, it emerged that Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, believed the letters were among personal effects, dubbed "the crown jewels", in a mahogany box that went missing after her death.

The implication was that the letters were among the 310 items removed by Mr Burrell for "safe-keeping", but he has stoutly denied having them. When asked by Trevor McDonald on ITV's Tonight programme, he said: "They're out there somewhere but I don't know where they are."

More recently, faith healer Simone Simmons told the Mail on Sunday that the princess had shown her the letters personally. It was Ms Simmons who first alleged that they contained the terms "trollop" and "harlot".

The statement added: "Prince Philip ... regards the suggestion that he used such derogatory terms as a gross misrepresentation of his relations with his daughter-in-law and hurtful to his grandsons."

The palace went on to play what it believes to be its trump card: since the "original letters" have been "lost", copies held by Prince Philip are the only authentic ones known to exist. It added that the duke regarded the letters as "private" and that he would regard publication of the genuine articles, should they be found, as a breach of copyright.

The statement

Buckingham Palace issued the following statement yesterday, authorised by the Duke of Edinburgh:

"The Duke of Edinburgh regards his correspondence with his family, including his daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, as private. However, following media reports that he wrote insulting letters to the princess, he has reluctantly decided that he must publicly correct these allegations. The original letters sent by Prince Philip to the princess have apparently been lost, but he kept copies of his letters and he has the original replies from the princess. He started the correspondence in June 1992 in a friendly attempt to resolve ... family issues ... leading up to the official separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales .... Prince Philip wishes to make it clear that at no point did he use the insulting terms described in the media reports, nor ... was he curt or unfeeling in what he wrote. He regards the suggestion that he used such derogatory terms as a gross misrepresentation of his relations with his daughter-in-law and hurtful to his grandsons. Prince Philip will continue to treat his letters to the princess, and her replies, as personal and he has no intention of making this correspondence public for the sake of refuting these reports."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement