Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of the Sun, received a letter yesterday from the Queen's solicitors, Farrer & Co, warning of court proceedings unless damages and costs are forthcoming within seven days.
The move is not without precedent. In 1988, the Sun paid pounds 100,000 to four charities chosen by The Queen after admitting in the High Court that it had breached copyright in publishing private photographs of Princess Beatrice. Last year the Duke of York complained to the Press Complaints Commission after the People published two nude pictures of his younger daughter, Princess Eugenie.
The letter states that the Sun's decision to print the speech on 23 December was 'a clear infringement of Her Majesty's copyright'. The story was splashed across the front page under the headline: 'Our Difficult Days By The Queen.' A number of other news organisations had a copy of the speech but chose to respect its Christmas Day embargo.
The Sun, which received a warning letter from a senior member of the Royal household on the day it published, claimed that it was not subject to the embargo as it was leaked a video of the speech by a BBC employee whom it has refused to identify.
Buckingham Palace said: 'At this stage we are not prepared to be drawn on correspondence or contact we may have with individuals or organisations.'
The Sun was more forthcoming. A legal spokesman said that the newspaper would vigorously defend the action. Stuart Higgins, the deputy editor, said: 'We're certainly surprised to receive such a letter so long after the event.'
But he defended the story as a 'journalistic scoop'. He said that public announcements do not have any copyright. Printing the Chancellor's Budget speech would not be in breach of Mr Lamont's copyright, he argued. 'If we received Graham Taylor's team list for San Marino we'd probably publish that,' he said.Reuse content