Prince Charles has a right to keep his diaries to himself, his lawyer argued Tuesday in claiming that a newspaper and a former employee breached the royal's rights by publishing excerpts from the journals.

Charles is seeking a ruling that the Mail on Sunday newspaper breached his rights by reporting extracts of a private diary in which he described some Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks." That entry was part of Charles' reflections on the end of British colonial rule in Hong Kong in 1997.

Charles claims the diaries were copied by a former staff member and given to the newspaper.

The prince's lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, also asked for the return of seven other diaries allegedly copied by the employee.

"We are not dealing with state secrets," Tomlinson said. "We are dealing with an ordinary type of personal journal of the type that any citizen might make in respect of a foreign trip, recording thoughts and impressions.

"We say it is absolutely vital to the position of the claimant — and anyone else in his position — that this sort of document cannot be published willy nilly by the press and that is the reason we brought this action."

Charles recognized that he was the subject of public comment and criticism, Tomlinson said.

"What he says, however, is that like everyone else — from the humblest private citizen to the highest public figure — he is entitled to keep his personal documents private," Tomlinson said.

The staffer accused of copying the material was previously identified as a woman employed from 1988 until 2000, when she was fired for an unrelated disciplinary issue.