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Sunday 9 December 2007

The Prince's man must face down lawyer in grotesque courtroom charade

Fayed is content to spend large sums to prove his theory on the deaths of Dodi and Diana says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, KCVO, CBE, is a 69-year-old pillar of the old Establishment whom next week the barrister Michael Mansfield -- lately enriched by the Bloody Sunday inquiry and currently in the employ of Mohamed Fayed (yes, I know he calls himself 'Al Fayed', but the distinguished 'Al' bit is as bogus as his claim that Diana and Dodi were murdered) -- will try to eviscerate.

To refresh your memory, I, along with all the other British taxpayers, am spending around £10 million on an inquest into the accidental deaths of the said couple, because billionaire Fayed -- who approved their being driven by his alcohol-impaired employee Henri Paul -- has spent enormous sums of money on lawyers in the hope of proving that with the help of MI6, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, masterminded the murder of his ex-daughter-in-law because she was pregnant by a Muslim.

"I have had to fight for this to happen," explains Fayed on his website. "So many people in the British Establishment never wanted the inquests, because they were afraid of what would be revealed in court. They were afraid that the cover-up would be exposed, that the truth of the circumstances of their deaths would emerge, embarrassing and humiliating them all over the world."

If you are mad enough to agree with Fayed, please consider this fact. Fayed alleges that a ring Dodi bought a few hours before they died was to mark their engagement. But it cost only £11,600, which would just about purchase a trinket in Fayed's Harrods.

Case dismissed.

Well, it should be dismissed, but instead, of course, it will grind on. Hunt-Davis is appearing in court in his capacity as Private Secretary to Prince Philip. This could be a fabulous encounter. Hunt-Davis ended his military career at the head of the Gurkhas, the British army's most ferocious fighters: Mansfield made his reputation defending an alleged leader of the anarchist Angry Brigade, is a republican socialist and has a natural antipathy towards uniforms.

Being a frivolous person who enjoys circuses, I'm looking forward to the encounter, yet it makes me angry that it's happening. It's not just that it seems indecent that an honourable chap like Sir Miles has to be roughed up legally by a notoriously thuggish lawyer, but it's grotesque that anyone has given houseroom to the allegations against Prince Philip. Despite Mansfield's best efforts, neither the Queen nor her husband have been summoned as witnesses, but so pervasive are the calumnies against Philip that he has felt it necessary to send Hunt-Davis to defend his reputation.

The motto of the senior royals is 'never complain, never explain', but five years ago Philip broke the habits of a discreet lifetime when he was accused by a faith healer who was one of Diana's army of confidantes of having sent her letters accusing her of being a trollop and a harlot.

"Prince Philip wishes to make it clear," said the Buckingham Palace Press Office, "that at no point did he ever use the insulting terms described in the media reports, nor that he was curt or unfeeling in what he wrote. He regards the suggestion that he used such derogatory terms as a gross misrepresentation of his relations with his daughter-in-law and hurtful to his grandsons."

He was restrained in this rebuttal. According to Rosa Monckton, probably Diana's closest confidante, Philip's letters to Diana as her marriage to Charles was breaking up, were models of sympathy, understanding and compassion.

But that's not what the British media want to believe. They revel in a caricature of Philip as a harsh, tactless rather dim old fogy living high on the hog at public expense. The Daily Express -- which was once a newspaper but is now known as the Daily Diana -- even entertains the paranoid fantasies of Fayed.

If there was any justice, Philip would be a popular hero. After a disruptive childhood, he became a successful naval officer, was mentioned in despatches during the war, uncomplainingly gave up the job he loved when his wife became queen years earlier than had been expected, was a campaigner for the environment 50 years before it became fashionable, created an awards scheme for the young that was so successful it has spread to a hundred countries, has been unfailingly supportive of his wife for 60 years and at 86, despite heart trouble, is still working fulltime.

But there is no justice, so next week a rich lawyer will try to please his billionaire Egyptian employer by trashing Philip's character and many will cheer.

Mansfield should be careful, though. Gurkhas sport that fearsome curved Nepalese knife called a kukri and the legend is that they never sheath their blade without first drawing blood.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards