2 MAY 1987, Page 20

Dudley vs Forbes

Sir: Alastair Forbes dissembles again (Let- ters, 25 April), suggesting that all he ever meant to imply in his libel of my wife was a `tiff over tipping'. What nonsense! No- where in his piece in the Literary Review, in his letter of apology and clarification, or in any document or letter to Naim Attal- lah, to the Literary Review's editor, or legal advisers, was there any mention of a `tipping tiff'. We are now asked to believe that an anonymous cousin of the Sovereign told Alastair Forbes about such a tiff. As I accompanied Princess Michael and my wife to Washington and stayed at the British Embassy with them, I would be a 'Silly Billy' to be taken in by that.

Alastair Forbes speculates in his letter, and in his review, about the contents of my poem, of which he knows nothing from me, nor, I suspect, from any other source. Unlike his defamatory article, no jury has been asked to decide if it was libellous. It reflected my anger more than four years ago at what I believed to be unfair treat- ment of my wife, as explained in the covering letter to Prince Michael accom- panying my apology, subject to a legal agreement that the contents should remain confidential to those persons having heard or read the poem.

I firmly deny that the poem could justifiably have been compared to 'Eskimo Nell' in style, metre, or content, as anyone with knowledge of it would confirm. Otherwise I continue, despite the leak of my apology, to honour my side of the agreement.

I can also state as a positive fact for which I have conclusive evidence that there was no 'unprecedented outcome' to the existence of the poem, as stated by Alastair Forbes in his book review, of a lettre-de- cachet' or any other letter to my wife or myself from the 'Palace' solicitors, the Queen's solicitors, the 'Royal' solicitors, or any other solicitors: and that it is untrue that my wife's lips were effectively zipped up by any such letter, or that any letter exists likely to have influenced the jury to reach a different verdict.


6 Cottesmore Gardens, London W8

Alastair Forbes groans: Since when have the hundreds of pounds required for tipping the servants of Her Britannic Majesty's largest embassy not been classified as 'ex- penses'? As a self-described poet, Lord Dudley should have spotted the jokey li- cence in the expression gettre-de-cache .