The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: To the Royal rescue

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The Independent Online
BALMORAL - I was, I admit, once financial adviser to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, but my old friend and quaffing partner Mr Peter Carter-Ruck will come down like the proverbial ton of bricks on those who seek wilfully to misinterpret the responsibilities that position entailed. In those days, there was no such thing as 'suntan lotion'. Must I make myself clearer than that?

I am at present staying at a farmhouse attached to the above address, having been called in on a purely ad hoc basis to choreograph the DLE or 'Damage Limitation Exercise' that took immediate effect from Thursday last. This was, of course, the moment in our great Royal pageant when that most tawdry of journals, the Daily Mirror, thought it seemly to cover its pages with vivid snapshots of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York in a state of deshabille while undergoing the most zealous of consultations from her transatlantic financial adviser, Mr John Bryant.

Over the past years, I have made something of a name for myself as a Damage Limitation Expert, having been successfully called in by, among others, the Brothers Maxwell, Miss Jani Allan and Mr John Browne (ex-) MP in order to reinforce their general status within the public arena through a general emphasis on their more positive aspects.

'We need you, Wallace, we need you.' When I heard those words down the telephone, issued by the unmistakeable voice of Her Royal Highness the Queen Mum - plangent yet plaintiff, stately yet sympathetic - I was ordering that first-class return ticket to Balmoral in a jiffy. (Memo to Daphne: Please invoice Palace soonest. WA.) I arrived early on Thursday afternoon, to be ushered into the family drawing- room by Lady Joyce McKinney, senior lady-in-waiting to Her Royal Highness Her Majesty the Queen. 'I'll leave you here for now, but if there's anything else I can do for you - see me later, big boy,' she said with a wink, and departed, closing the door quietly behind her.

As I turned to face the room, I was greeted by the sullen and perplexed faces of the entire Royal Family. 'Glad you could make it, Wallace,' choked His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. 'These are choppy waters through which we steer.'

'Pray be seated,' I began, putting the Family at their ease. With the utmost discretion, I cast my eyes around the room for the Duchess of York. Alas, the only evidence that she had ever been there was a six-pack of Ambre Solaire, parked unceremoniously in the corner of the room, awaiting collection.

I then ran through my usual routine in such cases. 'I must first ask each of you in turn whether there are any further revelations, the disclosures of which may be in any way damaging to the public image of your firm. Far better to be honest now than to rue at a later date. Oldest first, please.'

There must have been silence for - what? - five or six seconds before those awful confessions began to tumble forth. This is neither the time nor the place to enter into any details. With Wallace Arnold, discretion is all. Suffice it to say that tales of massage parlours, blackmail, arson, deviation, gambling dens, debauchery, hedonism, petty theft, corruption, racketeering, and downright drunkenness all poured out. But before the Queen Mother had finished speaking we were summoned through for dinner in the main dining room by the deputy lady-in-waiting, the Hon Mrs Norma Levy.

Faces were indeed long as the Duke of Edinburgh reached for his electric carving knife and set about the roast chicken. No one dared mention the Duchess of York, her financial adviser, the day's papers, or any part thereof, and silence reigned.

'Breast, anyone?' asked the Duke. The Queen looked daggers. You could have cut the air with a knife. 'Sor-ree,' he said, but the damage was done. The evening never recovered from this setback. Tomorrow morning will be given over to the frank confessions of Prince Edward, complete with full-colour slides. Frankly, I see no end in sight.

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