Prince Charles is offended. He's had it with bad grammar.

-- The Washington Post, May 6, 1994

Yes, well.

The following is a true record of my correspondence with the Prince of Wales. June 8, 1994 His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales c/o Cdr. R.J. Aylard St. James's Palace London Your Royal Highness:

You have been quoted as saying that you have "had it" with people who speak incorrect English. Yet, when I hear you speak, I frequently hear you make common mistakes in English grammar such as, "It was given to she and an old friend" and, "This is between you and I."

I am concerned about your use of poor grammar because I am a narrator and I am expected to use the King's English.

You see, there may come a day when I would be ashamed to.

Please Help! Respectfully, Mike Handley Warrenton, Va., U.S.A. From: The Deputy Private Secretary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales June 17, 1994 Dear Mr. Handley,

The Prince of Wales has asked me to thank you for your letter of 8 June.

His Royal Highness was puzzled by your letter, and hopes that he does not, in practice, fall into the awful grammatical traps which you describe.

Since you raise the subject in your note, I am enclosing a copy of the text of His Royal Highness's recent speech to the Newspaper Society. Yours Sincerely, Stephen Lamport Dec. 28, 1994 Mr. Stephen Lamport Deputy Private Secretary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales St. James's Palace London SW1A IBS Dear Mr. Lamport:

Thank you for your letter of June 17 in reply to my letter of June 8 to the Prince of Wales regarding what I found to be his frequent use of bad grammar.

You told me that he was puzzled by my letter and you were kind enough to send me a copy of his May 4 speech to the Newspaper Society. I recently had a chance to go through it. . . .

The two examples of poor English I have circled on the very first page of his speech are enough to make my point.

{Quoting from the text} ". . . especially as it is not every day I have the advantage of such a captive audience presumably wondering what on earth I am going to say next."

Proper English requires that line to read "captive audience's presumably wondering."

Also, {again quoting from the text} ". . . the reason for doing so, and I must make this clear from the beginning, was because I have considerable admiration . . . ."

Proper English dictates: ". . . was that I have considerable admiration . . ."

I also enclose a copy of a Washington Post story dated June 29 in which His Royal Highness is quoted using, yes, bad English again. He says, "Until the marriage became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried . . ."

Clearly, this should be our' both having tried. Respectfully, Mike Handley Warrenton, Va.

Because I did not wish to further embarrass the prince, I did not enumerate the additional errors on Pages 4 through 7 of his speech, including two flagrant violations of agreement between subject and verb, and the following egregious abuse of a relative pronoun: "I happen to be one of those people who believes . . ."

It should be "one of those people who believe," Charles.

Anyway, that was last December. I expected no response and got none; but I harboured a hope that the prince might be royally chastened and either attend to his lapses of language or descend from his high horse.

And then last week I read the following item in The Washington Post:

Prince Charles had a few choice words of his own for those of us here in the Colonies who, he thinks, are a bit too liberal with the language.

"We must act now to ensure that English -- and that to my way of thinking means English English -- maintains its position as the world language well into the next century," Charles said at a London event. {Americans} he sniffed, "invent all sorts of new nouns and verbs and make words that shouldn't be. I think we have to be a bit careful, otherwise the whole thing gets rather a mess."

Sigh. That's "gets to be rather a mess," Charles.