HOVERING in the background throughout the Paul Burrell trial, and surging to the fore on its collapse, was a belief about the Royal Family that has now been part and parcel of our view of them for years.

Indeed, this belief seems to shared by the Royal Family itself. It is that if the cold light of day falls on our Royals - if we ever get to know anything about them that we are not meant to know - it is bound to damage their reputation.

Wouldn't it be nice to suppose there are aspects of the Royals' lives that, if known, would raise the royal family in our esteem? But always there is the assumption that if the curtain is drawn back - or to put in another way, if the frontage is stripped from Buck House - the exposed spectacle will be singularly unedifying.

Scarcely in dispute, the anxiety of the Royals over what might have emerged if butler Paul Burrell had given evidence suggests that the monarchy's standing would have suffered seriously had he entered the witness box.

How far support for the monarchy would plummet if more of the royals' "true lives" generally were known can only be a matter for speculation. But perhaps the fact that it is commonly taken for granted that any glimpse behind the scenes at our Royals will diminish respect for them should give us pause for thought.

Meanwhile, what of Paul Burrell's reflection that he didn't realise his conversation with the Queen could clear him? Could it be that this was because he didn't imagine that the tacit nod he received from the Queen for "safe-keeping" certain documents, which were the only possessions of Princess Diana's that he specified, would cover him for taking many other items too? Will the collapse of his trial establish case law - that a suspected thief who can show he or she had permission to take certain items, without intention of permanently depriving their owners of them, can also remove other items on the same premise?

But the ultimate reflection on the debacle has to be this: if our Royals learned how to do things for themselves, instead of relying on armies of flunkies, none of this latest trouble would have happened.

WHEN national Millennium projects were being discussed - a process that gave us the disaster of the Dome - I here urged the undergrounding of electricity cables. I suggested that this was the greatest single act that would improve the face of Britain.

It turns out that this idea was considered by the Millennium Commission, to which it was put by member Lord Montague, life-peer boss of Calor Gas. But despite strong backing from Michael Heseltine, the proposal wasn't pursued.

So today, instead of existing lines disappearing, new ones are further scarring the English landscape. The Vale of York is now Pylon Vale. But when I highlighted the damage of the new line last week I omitted the most vital point.

In Opposition, Labour challenged the line, which they promptly approved on gaining power. Vandals. And worse. Hypocritical vandals.

THE EU is a collection of sovereign states that come together to press their own interests'' - Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Radio 4's Today programme. So much for the "European Ideal".