August 10, 1987 12:00 PM

She has kept her lips primly zippered, as is the royal habit, when the tabloids have knocked her clothes, her children, her figure, her hair, her behavior and even her husband. But enough was enough. At a July 22 luncheon in London, the feisty Princess of Wales put to rest the latest rumor circulating about her: “Contrary to recent reports in some of our more sensational Sunday newspapers, I have not been drinking,” she declared. She paused as the crowd tittered nervously, then added, “And I am not, I can assure you, about to become an alcoholic.” Whew!

Not that anybody was really worried about Diana’s dipsomania potential except, perhaps, the notoriously excitable tabloid News of the World. Under the headline “Bubbly Diana Hits the Bottle!” the newspaper last month ran a lurid story about Di’s alleged drinking habits, claiming that “Playgirl princesses Diana and Fergie have made senior royals pop their corks over their wild champagne-swilling antics.” But the Princess was having none of it. After assuring the luncheon guests, who included Prince Charles and her father, Earl Spencer, that she was indeed sober, she laughed and continued sipping mineral water, her customary beverage of choice.

Still, Di’s pronouncement was a surprise, considering that members of the royal family very rarely comment publicly on newspaper stories about themselves. This time Diana must have wanted to discount the potentially damaging rumor, but in a playful way.

Naturally, the other British papers pounced on her declaration of sobriety. “I’m Not a Drunk,” headlined the Star, while the Daily Mail tweaked, “No Wine Please, I’m Making a Speech.”

That Diana should even be accused of tippling was curious. She rarely indulges in more than one glass of champagne or wine, and most of her fellow Windsors are an equally abstemious bunch. The only known drinkers in the family, in fact, are Princess Margaret, who routinely alternates between gin and whisky, and the Queen Mother, who turns 87 on Aug. 4, and regularly tosses back a few gins or Dubonnets at lunch. At her age, she’s entitled.

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