Prince Charles lands himself in another diplomatic incident

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The Independent Online

The PR blunder that saw Prince Charles shake hands with Robert Mugabe at the Pope's funeral sparked not one, but two, diplomatic "incidents".

The PR blunder that saw Prince Charles shake hands with Robert Mugabe at the Pope's funeral sparked not one, but two, diplomatic "incidents".

Not only did the affair upset the Zimbabwean tyrant's political opponents, it also ended in disaster for Major General Michael Jeffery, the hapless governor general of Australia.

Jeffery, the Queen's official representative Down Under, bumped into the Prince of Wales before the funeral, and complained that he was flying to the next day's royal wedding with the budget airline Ryanair.

Prince Charles took pity, and offered Jeffery a lift to London on board the royal jet. But later - such was his distress at shaking Mugabe's hand - the Prince fled the country before his guest had made it on board.

"Charles was in such a grump that he ran straight onto the plane home," I'm told. "Someone said Jeffery was on his way to the airport, and that they ought to hang on, but he barked: 'I've got a wedding to get to'."

The diplomat was left on the tarmac, and had to high-tail it to another airport to pick up the budget flight.

Said Clarence House yesterday: "The plane had a time slot and sadly the governor general didn't make it in time. But he got to the wedding."

¿ Having boldly gone to the United States for the best part of his career, Patrick Stewart now intends to grow old in his native UK.

The Star Trek superstar who was born in Yorkshire, is said to have enjoyed his recent stint on the West End stage that he's decided to remain in town for good.

"Patrick has lived in America for the past 14 years or so, but he's now moved to London, where he is living by the Thames," says a spokesman. "He definitely regards London as his home."

Although Stewart's decision to repatriate himself could be seen as an act of treachery by hard-core Trekkies - it'll keep him off the American airwaves - it it has already proved to be a boon for prime-time British TV viewers. He's just agreed to star in Granada's new science-based drama series Professor Hood, which begins filming in Manchester in May.

¿ Gary Rhodes, who is shortly to replace Gordon Ramsay, top, in Hell's Kitchen, is famed for his "bog brush" haircut as opposed to his fiery temperament.

That could be about to change, though. For (with at least half an eye on the forthcoming TV show's ratings) Rhodes, bottom, assures me that - if prompted - he's capable of swearing like a navvy with a stubbed toe.

"People see me on television and think I'm just this nice guy who never loses his temper, but they don't know what I'm really like in the kitchen," he said, at the recent final of the Roux Scholarship.

"It's like when you're driving in heavy traffic, and you start effing and blinding: under pressure, everyone loses their temper. If a shit cook gets in my way I'll also lose my rag."

Bring it on!

¿ Freddie Windsor has suffered two indignities in recent days. First he was barred from Saturday's royal wedding; now I learn that his monthly column has been axed by Tatler magazine.

Apparently, the society glossy took a view that - for all his blue blood - Prince and Princess Michael of Kent's son wasn't cutting the mustard. Or as one source puts it: "He can't write for toffee."

Geordie Greig, the magazine's amiable editor, is more diplomatic: "Freddie has been a huge success. His music column has run for two years, but all columns come to an end. He will continue to be one of our contributing editors."

It's not all doom and gloom for the occasionally wayward prince, though. Having dropped out of law school not long ago, "Windy" is now working for a film company, Brass Hat.

¿ Richard Caborn, the accident-prone Sports minister, held a photo-call in Hyde Park yesterday to launch a bid for the world triathlon championships.

By way of a publicity stunt, he arranged for several athletes to swim across the Serpentine, before jumping onto their cycles and pedalling off into the sunset. But the Royal Parks Authority had other ideas.

"At the last minute, some clipboard merchant from Royal Parks turned up, and said cycling was banned in that part of Hyde Park," I'm told. "The athletes ended up having to push their bikes to a cycle path. It was a total cock-up." If London wins the 2012 Games bid, the Olympic triathlon will start at the Serpentine - presuming that "safe hands" Caborn manages to inform the relevant authorities.