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Sir Michael Peat, the royal 'axeman'


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SPECIAL REPORT
ABOVE THE LAW
* The queen is the only person in the UK who cannot be prosecuted

* She is the chief prosecutor and all prosecutions are brought in her name: Regina v. .........

* Prince Charles and other members of the royal family can be prosecuted

* The last British royal in court was King Charles I in 1649 for treason. He was executed

* Prince Charles's sister, Princess Anne, is due in court on November 21 to face allegations that her dog bit two children

* Although royals have faced speeding charges in the past they have been dealt with via letter

LONDON, England -- Sir Michael Peat, who will conduct an internal review into the collapse of the Paul Burrell theft trial and its aftermath, has worked at the highest levels of court life during his 12 years of service to Britain's royal family.

In what has been characterised as a sometimes uneasy relationship between the queen's officials at Buckingham Palace and Prince Charles's St James's Palace, Peat has managed to be on close terms with both the sovereign and her heir.

Peat, who turns 53 on Saturday, undertook what many saw as a vital modernising task in cutting royal expenditure during his time at Buckingham Palace as Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen, reportedly earning the nickname "the axeman."

Royal service and accountancy are clearly in the Peat blood. His father was a privy purse auditor, as was his great-grandfather William Barclay Peat, a founding partner of accountancy firm Peat Marwick, which later became KPMG.

One routine royal task Peat performed in 1998 was to write to Paul Burrell in 1998 to tell the former butler he would have to leave his royal home -- despite a personal appeal to the queen to be allowed to stay.

Burrell had been told he would have to move out of the three bedroom home in the grounds of Kensington Palace following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

After making a final plea to the queen to allow him to remain in the house, Burrell received a letter from Peat restating the decision that he must leave.

Peat, a former partner in City accountancy firm KPMG, was credited with saving millions of pounds of taxpayers' money before giving up responsibility for the queen's finances to become Charles's private secretary earlier this year.

Since he started working for Buckingham Palace in 1990, Peat was vigorous at cost-cutting, even hinting that the Royal Train, which costs 35,000 every time it is used, might have to be scrapped.

In November last year, it was announced that Peat was to leave the queen's staff to replace Stephen Lamport as Charles's private secretary -- arguably the most sensitive job in St James's Palace.

Immediately there was speculation that he would boost Charles's finances by turning his attention to the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall estate, in addition to overseeing the prince's public and private engagements.

The product of a traditional education at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, Sir Michael spent two decades in the family business from 1972 to 1993, when he joined the royal household.

He was director of Finance and Property Services, HM Household, from 1990-1996 and Keeper of the Privy Purse from 1996-2002.

Peat who lists history, sport and literature among his interests, has a son and two daughters by his wife Deborah, whom he married in 1976.



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