'Prince Edward not gay'

2001-04-09 12:39

London - Countess Sophie of Wessex, the daughter-in-law of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, denied on Sunday that her husband Prince Edward might be gay, then found herself at the centre of a row over alleged insults.

In a rare interview with the News of the World tabloid, she talked of her desire to have children, saying she would consider in-vitro fertilisation if necessary.

But the Mail on Sunday claimed she had made some more indiscreet comments, reporting that she had insulted senior politicians, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, and members of the royal family, including the queen.

Buckingham Palace furious

The Mail on Sunday story sparked a furious rebuttal from Buckingham Palace which said it was "riddled with inaccuracies and fictions".

Sophie married Edward, the queen's youngest son, in 1999. Both have their own careers, hers in public relations and his in theatre and television.

"I certainly do not think that I have left it too late" to have children, she told the News of the World.

"I would explore all avenues and I certainly wouldn't rule out IVF."

She also spoke out to deny rumours about her husband's sexuality, saying: "I can tell you he's not gay."

She added: "I had heard something before we met, but I put it down to the fact that he was working in theatre and people had presumed he was gay.

"I never believed it - so it wasn't something that crossed my mind when I met him.

"How I'd love to be able to go out and sing from the rooftops: it is not true. I want to prove it to people, but it's impossible to do that."

Countess secretly taped making indiscreet comments

Meanwhile the Mail on Sunday reported that the countess had been secretly taped making indiscreet remarks.

She was said to have described the queen as "the old dear", Blair as "too presidential", his wife Cherie as "horrid, absolutely horrid, horrid, horrid", and opposition leader William Hague as looking "deformed".

The Mail on Sunday said the comments were made to a man posing as an Arab sheikh who, unknown to her, was taping the conversation.

According to the paper, the fake sheikh was a News of the World reporter, and that in return for not publishing the comments, the tabloid obtained the interview with Sophie.

Buckingham Palace described the Mail on Sunday article as "not a story we believe any reporter ought to take seriously".

In a statement, the Palace said Sophie had not deeply upset the queen, as claimed, and to suggest so was "particularly offensive".

Nor had she been disrespectful to either the monarch or the Queen Mother, suggested that Prince Charles and long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles would marry or that how own marriage was imperilled.

Remarks distorted - statement

"Remarks attributed to the countess about political figures are selective, distorted and in several cases, flatly untrue," the statement added.

"Not one of the quotes cited by the Mail on Sunday is accurate."

The Palace said a working royal such as Sophie was "obviously vulnerable" to being set up and that all members of the royal family "risk tittle-tattle, misinformations and, from time to time, wholesale inaccuracy".

Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright stood by the story, saying it had come from four different sources and been corroborated by another two. - Sapa-AFP