It was the sneakiest piece of subterfuge undertaken by a British newspaper for some time. This week the Daily Mirror, claiming to have a bona fide piece of journalism about breaches in royal security and the risk from terrorists, managed to smuggle a load of gossip, tittle-tattle and Hello! type photoshoots into the paper without anyone noticing.
"Look at these photos of Princess Anne's bra chucked across a chair - a terrorist could have hidden a couple of grenades in there! And just look at these astonishing photos of the Queen's corgis in her private apartment! A member of al-Qaida could have easily hidden a bomb inside one of them! Thank God this paper has exposed this terrible breach in security as we selflessly do our bit in the war against terrorism. More pictures of the Queen's toilet on pages 2-17." Apparently, none of the royal family ever suspected that this ordinary footman was an undercover Mirror hack - until one of them asked for a newspaper, and he brought them the Daily Mirror.
The bogus footman in question was Ryan Parry, who applied for the job in the royal household by downloading a form off the internet and then giving a forged reference. The security checks were every bit as vigorous as you would expect.
"Right, Mr Parry, you say you are attracted to the job by its generous take-home salary of £9,000 a year, which certainly has me convinced. And you definitely look like the man in the photo on that press pass pinned to your lapel."
But just to show that they were no mugs, while he was sitting there they rang the phone number scribbled beside his referee (a "Mr Made-Up-Name of Droitwich") but then got distracted because Parry's mobile went off in his pocket.
Ryan Parry worked inside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for a couple of months, fetching and carrying at the whim of his masters, while they shouted and swore at him. So not much change from working for a tabloid newspaper, really. Many papers feature photographs of him in his footman's uniform riding on the back of the Queen's carriage, with a great big white circle around his head. You'd have thought that this might have drawn attention to him, wouldn't you?
The Home Office was horrified by the story printed in the Mirror: "We have a royal family that have cuddly toys in their bedrooms?" We learn that whoever opens Prince Andrew's curtains in the morning is told to "fuck off!" - which is probably why his mum doesn't do it anymore.
Parry claims that Princess Anne also uttered the dreaded f-word inside the palace (no, not "Fergie") and that the Queen insists on having the Racing Post on the top of her pile of newspapers every morning, probably because it is the only one not full of embarrassing revelations about the royal family. It's also revealed that the Queen owns a number of Tupperware containers. That was from the last time she went to one of Norma Major's parties.
This embarrassment comes only months after Aaron Barschak managed to gatecrash Prince William's 21st birthday party by ringing on the doorbell and mumbling: "Er - I'm a mate of um - Dave's?" and holding up a four-pack of lager. Now there are calls for far tighter security from the same papers that have been calling for the royal family not to be so aloof and distant from their subjects.
This exposť was timed to cause maximum impact in the week of a major state visit - as if things weren't bad enough, with Prince Charles asking Colin Powell if he fancied a fag after dinner. With this security scandal in the open, steps were taken to tighten procedures immediately. Everyone's credentials were double-checked to ensure that they really were who they said they were- which is when the real scandal of the week was uncovered.
The very next day a shifty-looking man called George Bush attempted to get into Buckingham Palace, claiming that he was the president of the United States. A few checks and legal inquiries quickly revealed that this man, who has a history of unstable and dangerous behavior, is not the rightful president at all but an impostor who lied and cheated his way into the job.
It turns out that he's actually been working undercover at the White House on behalf of a number of oil corporations, but had got away with it until now. He had access to America's nuclear codes and had already made full use of US and British military forces. An immediate inquiry has been ordered by the relevant security forces. "Sod the royal family," said a spokesman. "It's the safety of the rest of us I'm worried about."
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003