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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini

In October 2012 a former senior royal aide revealed that notorious paedophile Jimmy Savile (actually Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE since 2006), who was said to have acted as a kind of marriage counsellor between Prince Charles and Diana, was a cause for “concern and suspicion” at ‘The Palace’. Mr. Dickie Arbiter had handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while press spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000.

Savile was known to have visited Prince Charles’s official London residence several times in the late 1980s when he was acting as a kind of marriage counsellor between Charles and Princess Diana. A spokesman for the Prince of Wales confirmed that the Charles and Savile formed a relationship in the late 1970s after coming together through their work with wheelchair sports charities. Charles led tributes to Savile when he died in 2011.

“He would walk into the office and do the rounds of the young ladies taking their hands and rubbing his lips all the way up their arms if they were wearing short sleeves.” Arbiter said of Savile. “If it was summer [and their arms were bare] his bottom lip would curl out and he would run it up their arms. This was at St James’s Palace. The women were in their mid to late 20s doing typing and secretarial work.”

Arbiter did not raise his concerns formally and there is no suggestion Savile committed any crimes while on ‘Royal premises’ or when he was with Prince Charles on numerous occasions from the 1970s onwards. But the concern over his behaviour expressed by a senior aide will raise questions over how Savile, who was under investigation in relation to child abuse involving 300 potential victims, managed to develop such a long-standing relationship with the heir to the throne.

Asked about Savile’s behaviour with the royal assistants or whether Prince Charles had taken any action to find out if anyone in his family or staff might have suffered any abuse or have any information relating to the criminal investigation into Savile’s alleged paedophilia, a spokesman for the Prince said: “We have no record of anyone making a complaint.”

“The Prince first met Savile through their shared interest in supporting disability charities [the Prince became patron of the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation in the late 1970s] and it was primarily because of this connection that they maintained a relationship in the years that followed,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Arbiter said that he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the ‘Royal Family’.

“I looked at him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

Concern about Savile’s behaviour at ‘The Palace’ emerged as Sir Roger Jones, former chairman of the B.B.C.’s corporate charity Children In Need, said he had been so uncomfortable about Savile that he did not allow him to have any association with the cause. Jones, a B.B.C. governor from 1997 to 2002, said that he had “no evidence” that Savile was up to anything but “we all recognised he was a pretty creepy sort of character.”

“When I was with Children In Need, we took the decision that we did not want him anywhere near to the charity.” he told the B.B.C.

Prince Charles met Savile on numerous occasions. In 1999 he accepted an invitation to a private meal at Savile’s Glencoe home which was later in 2012 daubed with graffiti reading “Jimmy the beast.” Savile asked three local women to dress up in pinafores emblazoned with the letters H.R.H. and Charles subsequently sent the television presenter a Christmas card with the note: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland.”

Charles reportedly sent him a box of cigars and a pair of gold cuff-links on his 80th birthday with a note which read: “Nobody will ever know what you have done for this country Jimmy. This is to go some way in thanking you for that.”

Savile used to boast of his royal connections, made sure to be photographed with Charles on numerous occasions and ingratiated himself once telling the press that the Prince was “the nicest man you will ever meet. Royalty are surrounded by people who don’t know how to deal with it,” Savile said in an interview. “I have a freshness of approach which they obviously find to their liking. I think I get invited because I have a natural, good fun way of going on and we have a laugh. They don’t get too many laughs.”

The day after the meal in Glencoe Savile persuaded Charles to join him for a photo opportunity at his local post office where he went to pick up his pension money.

“The post office photo opportunity was definitely [down to] him [Savile],” said Ms. Coleen Harris, Prince Charles’s press secretary. “You always think that other people are getting more out of these things [than the prince] but on the whole it is for a good reason, for the charities and it is a positive thing.” She added: “Personally I always thought he was slightly eccentric, but beyond that I had no idea. He was a slightly odd bloke, but not in a cruel way.”

Mr. Arbiter said that despite Savile’s unusual behaviour with the royal administrative staff there was no evidence of any other cause for suspicion.

“There was a limit to what he could get away with in the royal household,” he said.

He also said ‘The Palace’ advisers felt the Prince’s charities might benefit from a connection with Savile, at the time one of the country’s most famous TV stars.

Perhaps Savile’s most unlikely role was that of personal counsel to Prince Charles in the late 1980s at a time when the ‘Royal Family’ was in deep trouble. The marriages of Charles and Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were falling apart. Around new year 1990 Charles asked Savile to help the Duchess of York with what Savile later said was keeping her profile down.

Princess Diana was recorded telling her friend James Gilbey on the so-called “squidgygate tape”: “Jimmy Savile rang me up yesterday, and he said: ‘I’m just ringing up, my girl, to tell you that His Nibs [Prince Charles] has asked me to come and help out the redhead [the Duchess of York], and I’m just letting you know, so that you don’t find out through her or him; and I hope it’s all right by you.’ ” (R. Booth, ‘Jimmy Savile caused concern with behaviour on visits to Prince Charles’, 30 October 2012, theguardian.com).

Sometime in the 1980s Prince Charles met the Anglican priest Peter Ball. They remained good friends since, and Ball, who was boasting of his powerful friends, claimed to be a confidant of the heir to the throne.

In time Ball became Bishop of Gloucester, which is the district covering Prince Charles’ private estate Highgrove.

In July 2018, at an inquiry into Ball’s paedophile activities, Prince Charles appeared and submitted a letter – amongst others – which was read at the inquiry in July 2018, and in which Charles wrote of his “deep personal regret” at being “misled” by Ball.

The inquiry was investigating the actions of the Church of England after an earlier inquiry in 2017 found senior church figures covered-up the abuse allegations against the paedophile Ball, who was gaoled in 2015 after finally being convicted of abusing 18 teenagers and men over a 30-year period. Now aged in his late 80s, he is out on parole.

The inquiry was read extracts from a number of letters exchanged between Ball and Prince Charles when abuse allegations began to surface, including one in 1997 where Charles wrote of a victim: “I’ll see this horrid man off if he tries anything.”

Two years earlier, in 1995, Prince Charles wrote to Ball: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strong about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you.” This letter came despite Ball having accepted a police caution for gross indecency.

In November 1993, after a police investigation ended in the caution and his resignation, Ball wrote to Prince Charles: “Life continues to be pretty nasty for me, for it seems that my accusers still want to continue their malicious campaign. Luckily, they are beginning to show some of their fraudulent plans.”

A letter from Prince Charles, dated 16 February 1995, said: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.”

He went on to say it was “appalling” that the archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, had “gone back on what he told me before Xmas that he was hoping to restore you to some form of ministry in the church. I suspect you are absolutely right – it is due to fear of the media … If it is any consolation, the archbishop has written me a letter (between you and me) in which it is also clear that he is frightened of the press – what he calls ‘public perception’, which in fact, [is] perception of events and characters based entirely on lies, invention, speculation and sensation.”

In 1996 Prince Charles referred to efforts by the Duchy of Cornwall to buy a house that could be rented by Ball and his identical twin, Michael, also a bishop.

He wrote: “I pray the Duchy will be able to find something suitable for you both in due course, but it may take a little time to locate it! I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you and gives you peace and tranquillity – and not too far from here so you can come over more easily.”

In March 1997 Prince Charles wrote to Ball: “I can’t bear it that the frightful, terrifying man is on the loose again and doing his worst.” He added: “I’ll see off this horrid man if he tries anything again.”

In his submission to the inquiry, Charles said that he was “unable to shed any light on references … to a ‘horrid man’ or a ‘frightful and terrifying man’ ” after a gap of more than 20 years. However, he suspected it referred to people trying to discredit Ball.

Prince Charles added that the letter to Ball needed to be read “in the context of my understanding at that time, namely that Peter Ball had been falsely accused of a single offence (the nature of which was unknown to me) … Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, had been misled.”

Charles was asked to submit a witness statement to the inquiry covering his friendship and correspondence with Ball. After protracted discussions between legal teams representing the prince and the inquiry, he submitted a letter.

In it he said he first became aware of Ball during the 1980s after hearing him preach, and found him to be “an interesting and engaging person.” From 1993 – the year Ball was cautioned by police – he invited Ball to give holy communion at the prince’s home “from time to time.”

The pair corresponded, although contact was “normally instigated and driven” by Ball. The bishop told the Prince that he had been “involved in some form of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation.” Ball suggested that the complaint came from a single individual who bore a grudge.

According to Prince Charles, the “true context and details” of the complaint did not come to his attention until Ball’s trial and conviction in 2015. “As context, it seems important to say that in the 1980s and 1990s there was a presumption that people such as bishops could be taken at their word and, as a result of the high office they held, were worthy of trust and confidence … At the time there was a presumption on my part of good faith.”

Prince Charles said that he was not aware of the “significance or impact” of the police caution and was “not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt.”

He occasionally sent the Ball brothers “small gifts of money” as well as arranging for a house to be purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall which was rented by the Balls between 1997 and 2011.

The letter said: “At no stage did I ever seek to influence the outcome of either the police investigations into Peter Ball and nor did I instruct or encourage my staff to do so.”

He said he had ceased contact with Ball once he was convicted in 2015. “It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time about the true nature of Mr Ball’s activities.”

Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer representing a number of Ball’s victims, said the Prince’s explanation that he was not aware of the meaning of a caution left his clients “dissatisfied”.

He said: “Prince Charles had access to the best legal advice that money can buy and, as a man in his position, a particular responsibility to check the facts. It is difficult to see his failure to do so as anything other than wilful blindness. His evidence, together with that of Lord Carey, the then archbishop of Canterbury, and other establishment figures who have given evidence this week, will do little to dissuade survivors from the conclusion that the British establishment aided and protected Ball and even now have failed to give a transparent account of their actions.” (H. Sherwood, ‘Prince Charles kept in touch with ex-bishop later jailed for abuse’, 20 July 2018, theguardian.com).

Prince Charles told the inquiry of his deep regret at supporting a Church of England bishop later gaoled for sexual abuse of 18 teenagers and men. Prince Charles will become the global head of the Church of England whenever he ascends the throne.

“Peter Ball told me he had been involved in some sort of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation as my local bishop,” Charles wrote in his letter.

The Prince wrote that Ball had told him one individual had complained to police but the Crown Prosecution Service had taken no action.

While he had believed Bishop Peter Ball’s denials, Charles said that he had never sought to influence a police investigation.

“Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, has been misled,” Charles wrote. “It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time, about the true nature of Mr. Ball’s activities.”

Prince Charles wrote that his position had occasionally brought him into contact with prominent people who were later accused of serious wrongdoing. “Rather than rushing to private judgement I have always taken the view that the judicial process should take its course,’’ he told the inquiry through his letter.

He said he ceased all contact with Ball once the “true context and details’’ emerged against him at trial in 2015.

“My heart goes out to the victims of abuse and I applaud their courage as they rebuild their lives and so often offer invaluable support to others who have suffered,’’ he wrote (E. Whinnett, ‘Prince Charles’ deep regret over supporting Bishop Peter Ball who was later jailed for sex abuse’, 28 July 2018, news.com.au).

Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 3)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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