LONDON, DEC. 31 -- Queen Elizabeth is not amused and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is seething over the refusal of the British press to play by the rules this holiday season.
Over the Christmas and New Year's holiday period, some newspapers mounted a front-page assault on tradition and broke official government embargoes.
With rare exception, the press has in the past abided by the rule forbidding advance publication of details of the queen's annual address to the nation, or of the honors list that turns commoners into peers and adds initials after many a name.
But after a reporter for the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation briefed colleagues over dinner on the contents of Queen Elizabeth's Christmas Day message, one newspaper published details in its early edition that night. By morning, five others had followed suit.
In a departure from royal protocol, the address had political overtones because it referred to the Irish Republican Army bombing two months ago in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
A royal spokesman condemned the leak. But within 10 days, another newspaper broke the rules.
A day earlier than laid down, The Sun tabloid printed the names of two heroes of the March 1987 Channel ferry disaster who were included in the New Year's Honors List.
The prime minister reacted angrily through her spokesman, who called the action "absolutely disgraceful" and demanded an explanation from editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
Other editors expressed concern that the government would no longer provide them with the advance copies of official documents that help them prepare comprehensive stories.
MacKenzie promised his newspaper would never break another official embargo, but first the tabloid lashed out at the time-honored institution: "The sad truth is the Honors List is a ... stuffy and entirely predictable procession of the mediocre in our national life.