Pubdate: Wed, 13 Oct 1999
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Alan Freeman, European Bureau 

London -- He may be only 17, but with his tall, handsome looks and the
charming, bashful smile of his mother, Prince William is already being
viewed as Britain's most eligible bachelor.

So when 27-year-old Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a friend of the Royal Family
known for the glamorous parties she attends and the men she hangs out with,
was reported to be horsing around with the heir to the throne, tongues
started wagging.

Saying she is a victim of "rumourtism," which she describes as a social
disease in which lies are spread as fact, Ms. Palmer-Tomkinson now has
denied suggestions she has been sexually involved with the Prince, claiming
he is nothing but a "mate" to her.

"I am a drug addict, not a pedophile," said Ms. Palmer-Tomkinson in a
first-person article written for the November issue of Tatler, a glitzy
society magazine.

Ms. Palmer-Tomkinson, who recently completed a rehabilitation program at
The Meadows in Arizona, said she was sent there for her cocaine addiction
and not, as rumours had it, because she was being punished for sleeping
with the Prince.

But she acknowledges some high jinks with young William. "I've messed with
lots of friends -- both young and old -- by the pool, with everyone playing
striptease and debagging one another."

(Debagging is a British term for pulling off someone else's pants.)

"But then the disease [rumourtism] kicks in and instead of 10 people
clowning around, you have only two, and then suddenly it becomes really
serious and, before you know it, you're branded a sexual deviant. William
is a mate, but that's one thing I'm not really going to go into."

She denied being banned from the Royal Family's recent summer cruise. She
said she simply decided not to go because she was just out of rehab and
would have missed her daily sessions at Narcotics Anonymous.

"There was no way I could be at sea for 12 days," she writes. "Moreover, on
board there's a drinks trolley behind every corner."

Ms. Palmer-Tomkinson, a willowy blonde, is seen in a photo accompanying the
article draped over a Bidermeier chaise-longue and wearing a $7,700
Christian Dior dress.

She is no social climber from the wrong side of the tracks. Her parents are
among Prince Charles' closest friends and the recent marriage of her sister
Santa was considered one of the social events of the season. Charles
attended with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Showing deep frustration at being the constant victim of rumours, Ms.
Palmer-Tomkinson says she often feels like standing up and screaming, "It's
not true. It's not true." But, she said, by doing so, "I would only be
adding fuel to a story, so now I'm learning to ignore everything."

Sometimes though, she acknowledges, the rumours are prescient. "There were
rumours that I was using drugs long before I really was. I think that came
about because I'm naturally energetic. When I was taking coke, the rumours
were actually true, although I actually thought I was doing a rather good
job of hiding the fact."
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