Prince in Turmoil: Dimbleby latest player in long campaign: Biographer picked to present an 'objective' view as last word against Princess in long and public feud. Rhys Williams reports

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The Independent Online
IF THE Prince of Wales has thrown himself into a public relations battle that he neither sought nor is likely to win, then he has at least found in Jonathan Dimbleby a biographer he could introduce to his mother.

As viewers of Mr Dimbleby's epic television documentary this summer will recall, Prince Charles is not overly fond of the fourth estate and its fascination with his family's private life. Odd then, that he should select a journalist to present his case.

But according to the Prince's camp, Mr Dimbleby is not just any old journalist. The sometime presenter of BBC 1's On The Record is an amiable and respected broadcaster, with an establishment respectability based in part on performance, but also on the fact that he is the son of the late Sir Richard Dimbleby, for so long the voice of the BBC and a royal favourite.

Although his brother, David, may be considered a safer pair of hands by the corporation, Jonathan's marginal left-of-centre leaning and more direct style would, in Prince Charles's mind, have made him appear less like a hagiographer and more like an objective narrator.

Yesterday's 'revelations' that he found himself pushed by his father into a loveless marriage which later took on the dimensions of a 'Greek tragedy' merely served to confirm what many had long suspected.

Far more interesting than the specifics provided in The Prince of Wales, due for publication on 3 November and serialised in the Sunday Times for a reported pounds 500,000, is how and why the book came to be written.

Since the separation from his wife in 1992, it is generally accepted that Prince Charles has trailed badly in their public relations feud. Andrew Morton's Diana: her true story, also serialised in the Sunday Times, laid bare the torrid state of the royal marriage, an account effectively endorsed by the Princess.

The Dimbleby book is the Prince's opportunity to present his side. Based on privileged access to more than 10,000 personal papers and diaries, the biography is part of a wider corrective campaign planned by the Prince and his advisers to spell out the role of the future king.

The fightback began with the tour of Australia and continued with the 25th anniversary of his investiture in July and Mr Dimbleby's two-hour documentary.

In the film, Prince Charles was loyally portrayed as a tireless worker in Britain's overseas trade effort, a concerned champion of disaffected youth and a dedicated conservationist. The biography is the final move in a campaign to salvage his claim to the throne from the debacle of his marriage.

Nevertheless, many commentators believe the strategy is flawed, with the Prince failing to realise that from the Royals' point of view, the less read about them, the better. It is said that, far from setting the record straight on his private life, his new-found candour (for example, his on-air admission to Mr Dimbleby of adultery) has only invited closer scrutiny.

What Mr Dimbleby stands to gain from the episode is much clearer. There is professional satisfaction of a task completed. He now enjoys privileged access to one of the best-placed sources for a story that will resonate way beyond this country's shores over the coming decade, namely the future of the British monarchy. Then there is money - a hefty sum from the publishers and a share of the pounds 500,000 serialisation rights.