A good deed gone wrong is how royal observers are describing an incident at Buckingham Palace this week that almost saw Prince Charles ascend the British throne.
Last week Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, celebrated his 98th birthday.
My palace sources tell me the Duke marked the occasion in a more low-key way than in previous years.
The Queen approved a surprise party for her husband consisting of a medium-sized banquet in the Grand Ballroom attended by members of the royal family and a couple of hundred close personal friends.
I am told the Duke was treated to some of his favourite foods, an entrée of grilled water vole and a main course of roast badger.
As one guest who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, the Duke made a short speech at the dinner during which he expressed his appreciation to all present.
“I thought he was a bit frailer than last I saw him during last year’s Swan Upping,” the guest said. “I gained the distinct impression he is in less than 100% health because his speech was peppered with far fewer racial slurs than usual.”
The anonymous guest told me the Duke especially thanked Her Majesty for approving the menu and the inclusion of badger and vole which he noted were protected species.
“So are we,” riposted Her Majesty to much laughter.
After her husband’s speech the Queen had him unveil her present to him, an electric mobility scooter.
“Now that one no longer has a driver’s licence, one might enjoy driving oneself around one’s palace,” Her Majesty explained before giving the Duke a light peck on his cheek.
My royal sources told me the Duke has spent the last week driving himself around the long corridors of Buckingham Palace with the same skill he formerly applied to driving his Land Rover on the royal estates and on public roads.
“Naturally,” said one member of the royal household staff, “it was only a matter of time before we all heard a huge crashing sound and a loud string of screaming obscenities which turned out to be from Her Majesty after she was pinned under debris when the Duke drove his scooter through a wall and into the Queen’s morning tea room (main picture).
“There was rubble everywhere and we were lucky the Queen escaped with just a few scratches and bruises.
“If the Duke had been going much faster we would have had King Charles on the throne by now.
“Of course Prince Phillip was mortified and was quite subdued, almost depressed, for several days.
“I reckon he’s returning to top form now, and I can tell because he’s gone back to greeting me with a variety of racial and sexist epithets whenever he sees me in a corridor — and I’m a white man from Scotland,” the staffer said.