Charles calls friend 'Sooty'

Prince Charles has been defended against accusations of racism by the friend he calls "Sooty" in reference to his skin-colour.

Kolin Dhillon, who, like the heir to the throne, is a member of Cirencester Polo Club, said the nickname was a "term of affection with no offence meant or felt". He added: "I have to say that you know you have arrived when you acquire a nickname. I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends... the Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both his sons have always been most respectful." Princes William and Harry also play at the club, which is close to their father's Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire, but a source said they were not aware of the younger royals using the nickname. When William and Harry were boys, they referred to Mr Dhillon by his surname and first name. Prince Charles' use of the word is at odds with his interest in Britain's ethnic minorities and his championing of inter-faith dialogue. The news emerged after Prince Harry was criticised for calling a former Pakistani fellow-platoon member, Ahmed Raza Khan, as "our little Paki friend". Gordon Brown said Harry's comment was unacceptable and the prince, an officer in the Household Cavalry Regiment, faces a dressing-down from his commanding officer. A St James's Palace spokesman said the prince, 24, was "extremely sorry" for the comment and stressed that he had been speaking to a friend without malice. When asked about Charles's use of the nickname Sooty, Clarence House and Cirencester Polo Club declined to comment.