The new scandal, which concerns tape recordings said to be of a conversation between the Princess and a male 'admirer', follows a week of unprecedentedly damaging publicity over photographs of the Duchess of York and her 'financial adviser'.
The Duchess yesterday flew back from Balmoral to her home in Surrey, amid intense speculation about her future and that of her children, the princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
As the Duchess left the royal circle, the new 'revelations' gathered momentum. The so-called 'Dianagate' tapes, already published in the United States, allegedly feature a private conversation between the Princess and an unnamed man.
The tapes were supposedly made by intercepting a call between the Princess's private apartment at Sandringham and a man using a mobile telephone. Buckingham Palace last night tried to maintain a dignified silence, saying there was no reason to believe the tapes were genuine.
Britain's newspaper readers, already treated to photographs of a topless Duchess of York, will not be spared the new onslaught of royal stories. Yesterday, Sunday newspapers quoted extensively from the tapes. Today's Sun includes long excerpts among seven pages of royal coverage, and further instalments will run all week.
In the 30-minute recording, said to have been made on New Year's Eve 1989, the man calls the woman 'darling', 'Squidge' and 'Squidgy', and makes an assignation with her for the following Tuesday, when she says she will use the cover of visiting her acupuncturist.
The woman complains about her family, using the words: 'What I've done for this (expletive deleted) family] I can't stand the innuendoes.' She says that she cannot bear 'the confines of this marriage'. The woman goes on to say that she feels uneasy in the presence of 'his grandmother' and adds: 'She stares at me with a strange look - not hatred, but interest and pity - before turning away with a smile.'
The man says: 'I love you . . . You don't mind it, darling, when I want to talk to you so much?' The woman replies: 'No, I love it. I've never had it before. Never had it before.'
Leaf Kalfayan, head of news at the Sun, said yesterday that he believed the tapes were genuine because of internal evidence and the natural telephone manner used by the man and woman, which suggested they were not actors. The newspaper has not subjected the tapes to expert voice analysis.
According to some reports, copies of the tapes have been held by some newspapers for two years. They were published for the first time last week in the National Enquirer, a US tabloid newspaper.
The Sun does not name the man, but publishes the names of four possible candidates. It invites readers to make up their own minds about his identity from 10 'clues' culled from the tapes, including the time the call was made, his age, his horoscope sign (Libra), and the fact that he wears brown suede Gucci shoes.
'The tapes are the talk of the country. We are not saying whether they are genuine or not, but we are giving our readers the chance to judge for themselves,' Mr Kalfayan said. 'It is up to them to decide whether the voices are those of the Princess and a friend or not.'
Buckingham Palace last night attempted to pour cold water on the latest episode of what is threatening to become a royal soap opera.
'On the evidence so far, there is no reason to take these tapes seriously,' a spokesman said.Reuse content