Charles is 'drawing a line' under Michael Fawcett scandal
Charles is ‘drawing a line’ under Michael Fawcett scandal as he ‘prepares to be king’: Prince’s former ‘right-hand man’ cuts all ties with the Crown amid probe into his ‘offer to help Saudi donor gain knighthood and British citizenship’
- ***EXCLUSIVE*** A ‘heartbroken’ Michael Fawcett resigns as chief executive of The Princes’ Foundation
- He has also had his private contract to organise events for Prince Charles severed, it can be revealed
- Follows reports he offered to help a billionaire Saudi donor secure knighthood and British citizenship
- Prince’s former valet rose to become of of the most influential figures in the future king’s court
Prince Charles is ‘drawing a line under his past’ as he prepares to become King, a royal expert said today after his right-hand man Michael Fawcett dramatically quit over the ‘cash for honours’ inquiry.
Mr Fawcett, who last night resigned from his post as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation, has been a ‘key adviser for a very long time’ and ‘closely involved in overseeing every bit of the prince’s life’, another added.
The 59-year-old top aide, whom friend said was ‘heartbroken’ and ‘shattered’ by events, has also had his private contract to organise events for Charles severed. It follows reports that the prince’s former valet offered to help a billionaire Saudi donor to the prince’s charity secure a knighthood and British citizenship.
The Daily Mail understands Mr Fawcett, who rose to become one of the most powerful and influential figures in the future king’s court, is not seeking to preempt an official investigation into the claims, which has yet to report back.
And Peter Hunt, who was the BBC’s royal correspondent from 2003 to 2017, said today: ‘Palace officials will be keen to present this as Charles drawing a line under his past as he prepares for kingship. They’ll be less keen to talk about the size of the severance package given to the servant who once squeezed his master’s toothpaste.’
Mr Hunt added: ‘Palace officials will also be praying that there isn’t a police investigation into the allegations.’
Friends say the scandal – which broke in early September – has had a ‘devastating’ effect on Mr Fawcett, and he has only now felt well enough to make a decision about his future. The friend said: ‘Michael has resigned and he will never be coming back. He has lost five stone in weight and is a shadow of his former self.’
And royal expert Roya Nikkhah told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Michael Fawcett really has been the Prince of Wales’s right-hand man for many decades now. He started as a footman at Buckingham Palace but Charles has had him as his key adviser for a very long time on everything. He has been so closely involved in overseeing every bit of the prince’s life for a lot of the prince’s life. He will be an enormous loss to the Prince of Wales.’
The Sunday Times royal correspondent added that Charles’s wife the Duchess of Cornwall may have influenced the decision for Mr Fawcett to leave, saying: ‘Camilla was concerned that Michael Fawcett’s ongoing presence in the household was detracting from the Prince’s work and damaging the Prince’s reputation.
‘And the Duchess of Cornwall is steadfastly loyal to the Prince of Wales, as you would expect her to be, and my understanding was – and I’ve had no pushback – that she was keen to see him to go, and go he has.’
The chief operating officer of the Prince’s Foundation, Emily Cherrington, has been standing in for Mr Fawcett since he temporarily stepped down in early September amid the probe, and she is said to be a ‘safe pair of hands’.
Michael Fawcett (pictured outside his South West London home on Sunday) has resigned from his post as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation, with friends saying he is ‘heartbroken’ and ‘shattered’ by events
For the best part of four decades, Mr Fawcett was the man Charles famously could not live without. Pictured together during a royal tour
Earlier this autumn, questions were raised over Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz (pictured), who received an honorary CBE personally from Charles in 2016
A spokesman for The Prince’s Foundation confirmed: ‘Michael Fawcett has resigned from his post as CEO of The Prince’s Foundation.’
Clarence House told the Mail it was cutting ties with Mr Fawcett on a personal basis and would not work with his events company, Premier Mode, again, sealing his catastrophic fall from grace.
Footman to top man: The rise and fall of Prince Charles’ aide Michael Fawcett
1981: As a teenager, Michael Fawcett lands a job as junior footman to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. He later moves to Kensington Palace as assistant valet to Prince Charles, who is setting up home with Diana.
1990: He is reportedly trusted to squeeze toothpaste on to Charles’s brush when the prince broke an arm playing polo.
1992: When the royal couple separate, Diana has the locks of the marital apartment changed to keep out Fawcett, who pinned his loyalties to Charles.
1998: Three members of palace staff go to the prince to complain about Fawcett’s allegedly overbearing and bullying manner, and he quits. But his resignation leaves Charles in tears and he is reinstated and promoted within a week.
2000: Fawcett is appointed a Member of the Victorian Order by the Prince in the New Year’s Honours – an honour normally reserved for Royal Household members.
2003: He is again forced out for supposedly selling on behalf of Charles gifts the prince did not want. An internal inquiry clears him of any financial misconduct. He resigns but the prince rewards him with a £500,000 severance packet. Fawcett sets up a private events company, Premier Mode.
2005: Premier Mode organises Charles and Camilla’s wedding party.
2017: Fawcett joins the board of A G Carrick, a company Charles set up to sell mementoes at his Highgrove shop. Fawcett also runs the trust set up to run Prince Charles’s pet project, Dumfries House.
2018: Fawcett is appointed to a £95,000-a-year role as chief executive of Charles’s charity, The Prince’s Foundation.
2021: It is alleged that Fawcett fixed a CBE for a Saudi billionaire who had donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities. Fawcett resigns for the third time.
A spokesman said: ‘Michael Fawcett and Premier Mode will not be providing services to us in the future. We have all agreed to end these arrangements.’
For the best part of four decades, Mr Fawcett was the man Charles famously could not live without.
But he was dogged by controversy and was twice forced to resign after being accused of bullying staff and selling unwanted royal gifts.
On both occasions he was reinstated and Premier Mode was later awarded a lucrative contract by the prince to organise most of his official and private entertaining.
In 2007, Mr Fawcett was made chief executive of Scotland’s Dumfries House, a stately home Charles helped save for the nation which has since been turned into a community facility and hub for his considerable charitable activities.
In 2018, following a reorganisation of those charities, Mr Fawcett was appointed as £95,000-a-year chief executive of the newly created The Prince’s Foundation, much to the surprise – and concern – of some current and former household staff.
Mr Fawcett set about becoming a ‘fundraiser extraordinaire’, raising millions to support the prince’s philanthropic work every year.
However, it was his success in drumming up multi-million-pound donations which led to his downfall.
Earlier this autumn, questions were raised over Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who received an honorary CBE personally from Charles in 2016.
He had donated £1.5 million, spent mostly on renovating two of Charles’s Scottish properties, where parts of the grounds are named after him. It was alleged that he paid tens of thousands to fixers with links to the prince who had told him they could secure him an honour. Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.
Significantly, a letter emerged which Mr Fawcett wrote to Mr Mahfouz in 2017, in which he said: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency Sheikh Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for citizenship.
‘I can further confirm we are willing to make an application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’ Sources said Prince Charles was not aware of any link between donations to the foundation and honours and was ‘deeply shocked’.
The Prince’s Foundation said it took the allegations seriously and immediately ordered an investigation.
Mr Fawcett announced he would ‘temporarily’ step down from his post while the matter was probed. Now he has decided to make that decision permanent, even before the findings have been revealed.
A friend said that despite his ‘many mis-steps’ over the years, Mr Fawcett had been a ‘loyal and faithful servant’ to the prince and had played a crucial role in his philanthropic efforts, helping Charles to raise more than £120 million for charity each year. Some royal insiders have questioned how the heir to the throne will manage to keep his charitable ventures – including Dumfries House – afloat without Mr Fawcett to ‘rattle the cans’.
A source said: ‘Michael will have no more dealings with either His Royal Highness or Clarence House from now on. That is absolutely clear. He’s not coming back in any way, shape or form, that cannot be stressed enough.
Mr Fawcett set about becoming a ‘fundraiser extraordinaire’, raising millions to support the prince’s philanthropic work every year. Pictured, Prince Charles with Mr Fawcett at Sandringham in 1990
Prince Charles with Mr Fawcett on the Christmas Shoot at Sandringham in Norfolk in December 1992
Prince Charles is pictured with Mr Fawcett. Mr Fawcett’s departure will be seen by his enemies – who viewed him as a pernicious influence on the royal household – as long overdue. And it will certainly provide the Prince of Wales with a ‘clean sheet’ when he becomes king
Some royal insiders have questioned how the heir to the throne will manage to keep his charitable ventures – including Dumfries House – afloat without Mr Fawcett (pictured) to ‘rattle the cans’
In 2007, Mr Fawcett was made chief executive of Scotland’s Dumfries House, a stately home Charles helped save for the nation which has since been turned into a community facility and hub for his considerable charitable activities
‘The report hasn’t been finished yet. It is his decision and his decision alone, and he is not pre-empting anything that may or may not be found.
‘This really is the earliest he has felt able to make any sort of decision about his future.’
The friend said the pressure of the scandal had had a ‘shattering effect’ on Mr Fawcett’s health. ‘Michael isn’t a well man – he has lost lots of weight and has shrunken into himself. No one is seeking sympathy, it’s a fact. He has been shattered by this.
‘He has made this decision because he needs time to get through this crisis. And he wants more than anything to be left alone while he goes through this difficult time.’
Mr Fawcett’s departure will be seen by his enemies – who viewed him as a pernicious influence on the royal household – as long overdue. And it will certainly provide the Prince of Wales with a ‘clean sheet’ when he becomes king.
A friend said that despite his ‘many mis-steps’ over the years, Mr Fawcett had been a ‘loyal and faithful servant’ to the prince and had played a crucial role in his philanthropic efforts. Pictured, Mr Fawcett with the Prince of Wales and Lord Thurso during a tour in 2019
There were some who had feared that at this point, Mr Fawcett could even be promoted to Master of the Household at Buckingham Palace.
It has been claimed that one of those who will not be upset to see the back of him is the Duchess of Cornwall, once a supporter of Mr Fawcett but who now feels her husband can start a new chapter.
The Prince of Wales is said to have been told about Mr Fawcett’s decision, which will be made public by officials today. He feels ‘sadness’ about the way things have ended, but accepts it.
As well as The Prince’s Foundation, Scotland’s charity regulator is also investigating the claims against Mr Fawcett.
A Clarence House spokesman said previously: ‘The Prince of Wales fully supports the investigation now under way at the foundation.’
For Prince Charles it’s a bitter loss – and this time there is no way back: Twice Michael Fawcett has had to leave royal service… and twice he’s been re-hired. The reason? He was ‘indispensable’. Not any more, writes RICHARD KAY
by Richard Kay for The Daily Mail
This time there will be no reprieve, no last-minute appeal for clemency and most certainly no gathering of land-owning grandees offering to make a special plea for his salvation.
For the first time in 40 years, the man from nowhere is back where he started.
The story of the rise and fall of Michael Fawcett is a tragedy in two parts.
For Fawcett it is about being raised to a status that was unimaginable when he first arrived at Buckingham Palace as a lowly footman – and then flying too high.
For the Prince of Wales it is about losing the one man whose service and loyalty he prized above all others, and of whom he once said: ‘I can manage without just about anyone except for Michael.’
Eighteen years ago, when Fawcett’s name was linked to unsavoury allegations concerning the disposal of royal gifts, a report exonerated him of wrongdoing. He was made the scapegoat nonetheless yet, through an adroit piece of royal manoeuvring, Fawcett not only survived but prospered. Just as he had five years earlier when rival staff, tired of his bullying and overbearing manner, plotted to oust him – only for well-connected royal friends to come racing to his rescue.
Mr Fawcett, the Prince of Wales and Camilla are pictured together in 2018. The Daily Mail’s revelation that the prince has accepted the resignation of the man who had been with him through thick and thin – and once seemed unsackable – is tinged not with triumph but sadness and sorrow
But this time the claims against him were of an altogether graver nature. Mired in allegations that he had helped secure honours and British citizenship for a wealthy Saudi tycoon who had bankrolled Charles’s charities, it has been a question of not if Fawcett would depart, but when.
The Daily Mail’s revelation that the prince has accepted the resignation of the man who had been with him through thick and thin – and once seemed unsackable – is tinged not with triumph but sadness and sorrow.
Technically, the high-flyer whose life began in a modest bungalow resigned from the Prince’s Foundation, of which he was chief executive. But his exit would not have been sanctioned without the endorsement of Prince Charles.
This time there will be no cosy return once the dust has settled. For the man with the spit-and-polished tasselled loafers, Turnbull & Asser shirts and hand-tailored suits – a style epitomised by the prince he served with such devotion – is severing every royal connection.
He has relinquished his role at Dumfries House, the Scottish treasure Charles saved from destruction and which, even his enemies would agree, Fawcett has overseen with a forensic eye for detail.
And perhaps most significantly of all, Fawcett’s private company Premier Mode, the events business he established after a previous ‘sacking’, has severed its links with Clarence House.
Technically, the high-flyer whose life began in a modest bungalow resigned from the Prince’s Foundation, of which he was chief executive. But his exit would not have been sanctioned without the endorsement of Prince Charles. Pictured, Mr Fawcett with his wife Debbie
This means it is not only the end of the royal road for Fawcett but also his wife Debbie. She too was a symbol of selfless service, having completed her final task this week – purchasing the presents on the prince’s Christmas list.
As brutal as only a Palace coup can be, Fawcett’s departure represents the most significant transition for Charles from Prince of Wales to king-in–waiting.
Courtiers who have long viewed Fawcett as a negative presence in the prince’s life are understood to view his leaving as a vital and necessary step.
Not so long ago, Fawcett was being talked of as a future Master of the Household under King Charles – a position of considerable influence.
There was talk too of a knighthood, which would be the ultimate honour for the son of a cashier and a district nurse brought up in suburban Bexley, Kent. He repeatedly bounced back because of the seemingly unbreakable bond between the master and his ‘indispensable’ servant, forged in the acrimony of the royal marriage break-up. But not this time.
Fawcett might once have escaped this uproar over cash for access. But with the prince nearing the throne, the taint of wrong-doing, however well-intentioned, was simply too toxic to tolerate any longer.
The writing was on the wall when, instead of backing him as she always had in the past, the Duchess of Cornwall withdrew her support. This was a pivotal moment in the fallout from the scandal.
Years ago, first in 1998 and later in 2003, it was the then Mrs Parker Bowles who was the most vociferous of Fawcett’s defenders. But two months ago it was revealed that Fawcett, who was appointed head of The Prince’s Foundation in 2018, had helped to fix a CBE for a Saudi tycoon who donated £1.5million to royal charities.
He also accepted a six-figure donation from a controversial Russian businessman who Charles later thanked and offered to meet.
In a third incident he is reported to have offered to help secure a knighthood – and British citizenship – for another foreign donor.
The writing was on the wall when, instead of backing him as she always had in the past, the Duchess of Cornwall withdrew her support. This was a pivotal moment in the fallout from the scandal. Pictured, Prince Charles, Diana and Mr Fawcett in 1990
The disclosures shone a light on an unseemly world of favours and royal backscratching.
Fawcett stood down from his £90,000-a-year role while an independent inquiry investigated.
I understand that he has not had sight of the inquiry’s report – which has not yet been completed in any case – but yesterday’s dramatic move indicates that Fawcett fears its findings will be damning.
What is beyond doubt is that he has been shattered by the fallout from the revelations, which has had a significant effect on his health and wellbeing.
A friend who has seen the father of two, who married a former Palace maid, says he has lost five stone. He tells me: ‘Michael has always been an incredibly positive and confident fellow but he is causing concern.
‘He has been receiving professional help and he is heartbroken at the turn of events.’
Another insider says: ‘Michael has given the prince the ultimate gift – his resignation, thus avoiding any unpleasantness later on.’
The bond of trust between the two men dates back more than four decades.
Fawcett has been an unwavering constant in the prince’s life – as ‘non-negotiable as Camilla used to be’, observes a Palace aide – while others in his household, some far more senior, have come and gone. ‘No one understood the prince’s moods and eccentricities quite like Michael – and no one had his skill in dealing with them,’ says an old friend.
‘We are not just talking about his petty foibles, how he likes his napkins folded or just how little vermouth should go in to his dry martini… Michael has trained others to do that. It’s that he gets his sensibilities and understands him aesthetically, philosophically and commercially. They are powerful assets and it is easy to see why the prince is so reliant on him.’
Using the same silky skills he once used to sell off unwanted royal gifts from foreign dignitaries on the prince’s behalf (a practice which led to him being nicknamed ‘Fawcett the fence’), he was the vital link between the prince and wealthy donors
Certainly there was no clearer indication of that dependence than when Charles put Fawcett – the man who squeezed his toothpaste for him after he broke his arm playing polo in 1990 – in charge of his beloved Dumfries House, the Palladian mansion which he saved for the nation.
The costly restoration has been a labour of love for the prince, who gambled on securing the fundraising to make it all happen.
Fawcett’s role in turning the historic Scottish house into a busy venue for weddings and conferences, while employing as many local people as possible, was crucial. From the beginning he was there three or four days a week. ‘It was the next best thing to having the Prince of Wales do the job himself,’ one figure from those days recalled.
Using the same silky skills he once used to sell off unwanted royal gifts from foreign dignitaries on the prince’s behalf (a practice which led to him being nicknamed ‘Fawcett the fence’), he was the vital link between the prince and wealthy donors.
For a man of modest beginnings he was a master at making the rich and powerful feel as though all their demands were the most normal thing in the world.
In return, they gladly opened their wallets.
‘Michael was not just securing the money… he was also the impresario arranging all the extravagant events where the pampered guests would get out their chequebooks,’ says a former aide. ‘He’s persuasive in a very charming manner.’
But this was also how the seeds of his destruction were sown.
Image was crucial, hence those polished loafers, the silk pochette he wore in his breast pocket, and the way he liked to touch his shirt cuffs and stand with hands clasped behind his back – an affectation he copied from the prince.
All the same, his was an extraordinary rise for someone who not so long ago also held down a Saturday job in a Jermyn Street menswear shop (where he was in the habit of securing discounted clothing).
There are scarcely any below-stairs retainers still at Buckingham Palace who can recall Michael David Fawcett arriving in 1981. He came straight out of catering college to start work as one of the Queen’s footmen, wearing a polyester pullover. Those sweaters later became something of a Fawcett in-joke. When a new police bodyguard arrived in the mid-1990s, he sniggered: ‘You’re a walking fire risk, dear.’
Former staff remember him as a ‘Billy Liar’ figure who embellished a modest background, claiming he was the son of a wealthy accountant. At one point he grandly styled himself ‘Buxton-Fawcett’ – Buxton was his mother’s maiden name – but fellow staff were unimpressed and took to addressing him as ‘Sir Michael.’
Taken under the patronage of the Queen Mother’s staff at Clarence House, he was a fast learner and rose to become sergeant footman. This gave him authority over the very people who had been mocking him – and also brought him to the notice of the Prince of Wales, who invited him to become his assistant valet.
When the newlyweds Charles and Diana set up home in Kensington Palace, Fawcett went too. He and Diana, just a year his senior, got on well at first but their easy friendship did not last. As the royal marriage disintegrated, Fawcett was firmly on Charles’s team.
When the royal couple separated in 1992, Diana had the locks of the marital apartment changed not just to keep out Charles but the interfering Fawcett too.
In the years that followed, Fawcett’s influence grew and he was promoted from valet to personal assistant. By now increasingly overbearing, he became the subject of a complaint from other servants. Fawcett resigned – only to be reinstated after Camilla intervened on his behalf.
Five years later Fawcett stepped down again, after an internal inquiry found he had broken regulations by accepting and selling gifts that Charles did not want. Crucially, the investigation cleared him of any financial wrongdoing, and he was soon back at the prince’s side.
His emotional intelligence, attention to detail and ability to override everything if he thought it was in the prince’s interests endeared him to both Charles and Camilla… but even their patience has now been exhausted. ‘Michael became too high maintenance,’ says one courtier.
For Prince Charles, this is likely to have been the most difficult parting since his divorce from Princess Diana. It may, however, ensure that – as king – his reign will not be tarnished by a man whose capacity for trouble was simply no longer worth his support.
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