Queen considers suing the media over spending row

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BUCKINGHAM PALACE declared war on the media yesterday by taking the unprecedented step of asking lawyers to examine a selection of highly critical newspaper and television reports about pounds 20m of royal spending.

But in making this high-profile response, the Queen, who personally authorised the counter-attack from Balmoral, where she is on holiday, risks provoking even greater critical comment and media scrutiny.

The Palace's anger over the coverage does not alter the fact that the committee's central complaint - that the Royal Household is under no obligation to open all its books to scrutiny by the National Audit Office and produce an annual report and accounts - has yet to be answered.

The decision to turn to Farrer & Co, the Queen's solicitors - to see whether alleged inaccuracies in stories based on the findings of a Public Accounts Committee report might actually add up to a series of libel actions - was relayed in an interview with the Press Association yesterday morning.

Richard Stott, editor of Today newspaper, which this morning returned to the subject, said: 'The Palace have only themselves to blame. When will they learn? They seem to be incredibly naive in the way they handle things.' He attacked the way the Palace had chosen to put its message across rather than holding a press conference to express anger directly.

Newspaper and television editors also pointed to the dangerous state of the Royal Family's relationship with the media. Some feel the Palace has lost a sense of proportion. David Banks, editorial director of the Daily Mirror, said: 'They are drawing attention to something which needs looking at. The complaint is that the Queen uses pounds 20m to partly featherbed her state employees.'

The media suggest the Royal Family should either clam up and retreat to the previous aloof style or become thoroughly modern.

A Palace spokesman said their complaints included the BBC and ITN. The items that had caused most distress, according to the PA report, included implications that funds had been stolen and money raised from the public towards refurbishing Buckingham Palace 'misappropriated'.