In the UK the storm over the activities of the late television presenter Sir Jimmy Savile gains momentum with calls for those who covered up for him to be exposed.
Accusations of sexual abuse, including rape, have grown in the past week following a television documentary that brought to light his off-camera behaviour. Since then, more of his victims have come forward with allegations about his conduct. At present there are around 40, some of whom have waived their right to anonymity.
Savile was a unique character who dominated the world of light entertainment for several decades. His position made him Mr Untouchable and it now appears that his behaviour towards women and under-age girls was known about in television circles and covered up.
His charity work was the key to this. He worked voluntarily as a porter at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and raised money for the Spinal Unit, NSIC (National Spinal Injuries Centre). He also worked at Leeds General Hospital and Broadmoor Hospital. It is estimated that he raised around £40 million for charity. He was awarded the OBE in 1971 and was knighted in 1990.
It now seems a case of the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it. The man that many regarded as saintly may have used his charity work to gain access to the vulnerable, whom he then assaulted. At the time of this writing, the Metropolitan Police said that their Child Abuse Investigation Command would lead a process of assessing the allegations, which was ‘not an investigation at this stage’.
Savile had another role — as adviser to some of the most famous and influential people of his time. At some point in the mid-'80s, Savile became familiar with Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who were completely taken in by his charm to the extent that he tried to broker peace in their faltering marriage, even arranging a reconciliation between them after Diana had spurned Charles's offer of a 30th birthday party in 1991.
In his famous biography Diana: Her True Story, Andrew Morton wrote that in 1987, "Jimmy Savile, who often acts as a high-powered go-between in royal circles, offered his services. In October, as speculation about the Wales's marriage reached fever-pitch, he suggested to the estranged royal couple that it would be an effective public relations exercise if they visited Dyfed in south Wales which had been devastated by flooding. It would, he argued, help to blunt the damaging gossip."
Morton also revealed that for a time Savile helped smooth Diana’s public image. This was at a critical time in royal history when the marriages of three of the Queen’s children imploded and opposing factions regularly briefed the press. Amid the resulting confusion it was important for bona fide royal journalists to be able to verify information outside the sanctioned route of palace officialdom, especially when Charles’s ‘side’ became subversive in their efforts to make Diana seem a ‘basket case’, as she later said in her 1995 Panorama interview.
I can confirm that Savile was among the people that journalists would ring for clarification or help with articles. He was affable, gave little away, but never in my experience offered misleading information. Talking to journalists is one thing, being on intimate terms with senior royals is quite another. For the ultimate proof of his closeness to Charles and Diana, there is the exchange between Diana and her close friend James Gilbey in the ‘Squidgygate’ tape, recorded early 1989:
DIANA: "Jimmy Savile rang me up yesterday, and he said, 'I'm just ringing up, my girl, to tell you that His Nibs has asked me to come and help out the redhead, 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.' And I said, 'Jimmy, you do what you like.'"
GILBEY: "What do you mean, 'help out the redhead,' darling?"
DIANA: "Sort her out. He said, 'You can't change a lame duck, but I've got to talk to her, 'cause that's the boss's orders, and I've got to carry them out. But I want you to know that you're my number-one-girl, and I'm not...'
'His Nibs' was Charles and the redhead was Fergie. From the recorded conversation we can gauge that Savile was indeed a trusted emissary of both Charles and Diana and that his sphere of influence extended to the Duchess of York too.
It is far from the first time that Charles’s friendships have been criticised. In the period when he was gathering support for his relationship with Camilla, it seemed that nobody was too rich or too vulgar to dine at his table. High-priced meal tickets ensured a place at Charles’s various charitable ventures — and a chance to rub shoulders with the heir to the British throne.
Diana herself was not removed from this tendency to rely on the super-wealthy. Multi-millionaire acquaintances soon became part of a gilded circle, especially if they had yachts, planes or helicopters to lend. The Fayed family were just one example, and her reliance on them ultimately led to her death.
Savile was not exactly part of the uber-rich scene that Charles cultivated. Savile earned and spent millions, gave lots to charity, and at his death in October 2011, his estate was worth £7.8 million. While the claims about his unsavoury and possibly criminal behaviour gain traction, a question once again hangs over Prince Charles’s choice of confidants and advisers.