The Big Read: An insight into the royals

Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry. Photo / Getty Images

• Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana's bodyguard, reveals an insight into the royals
• The inspector guarded youngsters Prince William and Harry and Diana
• He said that the two princes would knock on his door and ask for a 'fight'
• Mr Wharfe also wrote that young Harry was an exceptional shot with a gun

As a royal protection officer, guarding the young princes and their mother, Diana, with my life, I came under frequent physical attack.

And it always started the same way: there'd be a knock at the door of my room in Kensington Palace and two small voices would pipe: 'Do you want to fight, Ken?'

This wasn't really a request, nor even a question. It was a statement of what was about to happen. William and Harry loved to rough and tumble, and they made the perfect royal tag team. The older princeling would go for my head, the younger attacking my more sensitive parts, landing punches which, if they connected, could make me keel over in agony.

During these minutes of mayhem their father, Prince Charles, would sometimes pop his head around the door and, with a slightly quizzical look on his furrowed face, ask whether they were being too much bother.

And I'd gasp: 'No sir, not at all,' which would make the poor man look a little relieved. It was not that he was anything less than a good father, despite the black propaganda being circulated in the late Eighties and early Nineties. It was just he found the kind of horseplay that his boys enjoyed somewhat confusing.

Princess Diana And her Bodyguard Ken Wharfe, Derbyshire. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Diana And her Bodyguard Ken Wharfe, Derbyshire. Photo / Getty Images

The Prince of Wales loved his sons, of that there is no doubt, but he always seemed too wrapped up in his cares to join in. William and Harry adored their father in return, while they regarded me as a jovial uncle who was always on hand for a scrap.

Much has been made in the Press of the relationship between the princes and their protection officers, often with exaggerated claims that they regarded 'their' policeman as a form of surrogate father. This, of course, was nonsense.

To the boisterous boys, Charles was always 'Papa', and nobody could take his place. It's fair to say, though, that as their bodyguard from 1986, and then their mother's personal protection officer [PPO] from 1988 to 1993, I had an avuncular role.

Developing a good rapport with William and Harry was essential, because they had to trust me completely if I was to protect their young lives. I impressed on them from the outset the need to tell me what they were doing at all times.

William never gave me any real moments of worry: on weekdays I would accompany him to Wetherby prep school in Notting Hill, and at weekends we would be at Highgrove - the Gloucestershire estate Charles bought in 1980, shortly before his marriage.

It not only had 348 acres of picturesque grounds but was also just 17 miles from the home of his married friend Camilla Parker Bowles, at Allington, near Chippenham.

Harry, however, could be more of a handful. He strolled unannounced into my room at Kensington Palace one day, aged five or six, and asked to use my radio. I knew he was fascinated by police equipment and, because he was such an endearing character, I handed it over.

We invented a game: I told him to go to specific locations around the palace and check in, over the radio. He was thrilled, especially when I directed him to go out of the palace entrance to the stable block to visit his aunt, Lady Jane (Diana's sister).

The block was monitored by CCTV, so this seemed safe. When Harry called in to say he'd reached his aunt's door, I summoned him back - but he didn't return to the police barrier at the entrance. Instead, he radioed in to inform me he'd gone to the record shop on Kensington High Street.

Oh God - he'd left the palace grounds altogether. What shoppers must have thought to see the Queen's grandson walking down the busy street clutching a police radio, I have no idea.

I ordered him to come back, and ran to meet him, but I knew we'd been on the verge of a security disaster. The Met would have taken a very dim view, but that's nothing compared to what the Princess would have said. Luckily, she never found out.

Because I worked not for the Royal Family but for Scotland Yard, I could always speak freely and truthfully, unlike the army of palace courtiers. However, there were limits to how far I could go.

Once, I teasingly corrected William's pronunciation, when he said 'ite' instead of 'out': he has that slightly clipped, upper-class English accent which, to many people, can sound a little odd.

He insisted he was right, because his father always said the word that way.

As I was walking through Highgrove's sculpted grounds a few hours later, Charles approached me. 'I understand you have been giving William elocution lessons,' he said, his tone suggesting a reprimand without actually spelling it out.

Princess Diana With her Son, Prince William and bodyguard Ken Wharfe. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Diana With her Son, Prince William and bodyguard Ken Wharfe. Photo / Getty Images

I had clearly overstepped the mark, and this was the Prince's gentlemanly way of telling me to keep my nose out of family business.

I took the lesson to heart, although when Diana found out about my telling-off she thought it was hilarious.

The Princess had a very clear idea of how her sons should be raised. By the time I arrived, she had already axed their first nanny, Barbara Barnes, a traditionalist who believed the princes should be 'treated differently' to reflect their unique status.

Diana intended to bring up her boys as normally as possible. It is thanks to her that they have developed into remarkably balanced young men. Diana felt that the way the Royal Family raised children was, at the very least, odd.

Convinced that the reason Charles was cold and distant was due to a lack of physical and emotional love during childhood, she determined that the same would not happen to her boys.

So when Olga Powell arrived as the replacement nanny, she was under no illusions that she would be out, too, if she did not comply with Diana's style of mothering.

Privately, Olga explained to me that the Princess was a jealous mother, who had to be handled with care. As the boys' protection officer, I must not fall into the same trap as Barbara. On numerous occasions when the princes and I were messing around together, Olga would advise caution.

It was imperative, she said, not to come between the mother and her cubs: if Diana felt she was losing control of her boys, she would step in and assert herself.

Whenever possible, Diana would drive William to and from school each day, official engagements permitting, so that they would at the very least start their day with a loving kiss. Perhaps coming from a broken home had left a void in her that was never properly filled.

Though her mother Frances had walked out on the family when Diana was a child, an unbreakable bond still existed between the two. To the Princess, her mother was simply 'Mummy', the one person to whom she could always turn.

Amid all the nonsense that has been written about the relationship between the two women, it is often forgotten that Frances fought hard to keep custody of her two youngest children, Diana and Charles - only to be betrayed in a sensational court case by her own mother, Lady Fermoy, who testified in favour of her aristocratic son-in-law.

I had an excellent relationship myself with Frances, whom I, of course, called Mrs Shand Kydd, her name following her remarriage.

At the height of Diana's distress over her own marriage, in 1991, Frances wrote me a kind letter, thanking me and the rest of the protection team for our support and our 'great help viz Angela [our codename for Diana]'.

'She sees life colourfully, and believes me to be her best chum - a compliment and a responsibility,' her mother wrote. 'I do seem to be able to get her to throttle back on her real fears, whether they are imagined or not.'

The letter went on to refer to an occasion when Lady Fermoy, Diana's maternal grandmother and a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, had called the Princess 'a trollop' for wearing leather trousers at Kensington Palace.

 Britain's Princess Diana, left, sits next to her younger son Prince Harry. Photo / AP
Britain's Princess Diana, left, sits next to her younger son Prince Harry. Photo / AP

Frances confided: 'My mother is a jealous, interfering old faggot, and I'd better not say what I think of the other one [the Queen Mother].' She signed herself Supergran, the nickname William and Harry had given her.

Whenever 'Granny Frances' came to Highgrove, William and Harry were ecstatic. Diana's mother was an excellent mediator, one of the few people capable of breaking the bitingly cold silences between the Prince and Princess.

And whenever Diana wanted to escape, we would decamp for a healthy dose of normality at the whitewashed farmhouse on the remote island of Seil, near Oban in the West of Scotland, where Granny Frances lived,

It's not too much to say that Seil was the setting for some of the best holidays the boys and their mother ever enjoyed, far outshining glamorous foreign visits. With the sea, the open countryside, river inlets and rowing boats, the island was better than any adventure playground.

On another island holiday, Diana dramatically saved her mother's life. We were staying on Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island in the Caribbean, when the whole party decided to take a boat trip.

The sea was rough, and a wave hit the bows, throwing everyone into the water. We all managed to clamber back aboard, except Frances.

Diana and I spotted her struggling in the water at the same moment, and dived in together to keep her head above the waves. As I pushed her back into the boat from behind, Frances said loudly: 'Ken, will you please get your hand out of my c***!'

That holiday was in 1989, a gift from its billionaire proprietor. Diana leapt at the chance - she loved to escape to the sun, with her children but without her husband. It was late December, and she had just endured a miserable Christmas at Sandringham with her in-laws, whom she called 'the Germans'.

Naturally, the idea of New Year in paradise was irresistible, and she brought along not only her mother but her two sisters and their five children - plus William and Harry, of course.

Necker wasn't quite what I was expecting. The main accommodation struck me as a cross between the lobby of a luxury hotel and a Surrey barn conversion.

Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry with one of her nieces and her mother Frances Shand-kydd on holiday on Necker Island. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Diana with Prince William and Prince Harry with one of her nieces and her mother Frances Shand-kydd on holiday on Necker Island. Photo / Getty Images

The boys loved the snooker table, beneath a Balinese-style beamed ceiling, and William quickly invented a dangerous game where they unleashed billiard balls at high speed across the baize in a bid to smash each other's fingers.

There was only one rule: players had to leave their hands resting on the cushions around the edge until the ball was released.

To put a stop to this, I offered to take them exploring. One morning William and I armed ourselves with knives, like castaways, and with only bottled water, fruit and sandwiches to sustain us set off to reconnoitre the island. For the next three hours the boy destined to be king was hacking his way through the undergrowth, climbing rocks and fording streams with his trusty Policeman Friday beside him.

By midday I was starting to worry - the sun was directly overhead, beating down on us, and I had lost my bearings. I kept this to myself, and we eventually made it back to the main house, two hours later than I'd intended. William raced in, eager to tell his mother every detail of the great adventure.

On our second visit to Necker, a couple of years later, the hotel manager armed the children with three giant catapults and hundreds of balloons.

By tying the catapults to posts and filling the balloons with water, to about the size of a melon, they created water cannon that could knock a child off his feet.

One of the smaller ones, the son of the Queen's private secretary who was known to all as 'Beatle', took a direct hit on his chest when William launched an attack from the helicopter pad. Poor Beatle sported a massive bruise on his chest for the rest of the holiday.

By now the Press had discovered our hideaway, and a flotilla of paparazzi was expected any day. William and Harry planned a counter-attack, mounting the catapults at two vantage points overlooking the shore.

When I told the Princess what the boys were planning, she thought it was hilarious. As the boats landed, the children began to fire off a stack of coloured water bombs - the photographers didn't know what had hit them.

Soaked and battered, they retreated. To be fair, they had the grace to see the funny side. William was glowing with pride when he ran to tell his mother, and was very much a hero in her eyes. Charles joined the family the following year, aboard a friend's yacht in the Aegean for a holiday that was billed by the Press as an attempt at reconciliation, and which Diana viewed as a Holiday from Hell.

William and Harry made it bearable for her, larking about when we were at anchor: the fearless younger boy took it into his head to leap more than 30ft from the stern of the boat into the water below. Laughing as he trod water, he dared his ten-year-old brother to join him.

William, never one to shirk a challenge, especially from Harry, followed, and then both of them tried to goad Prince Charles's protection officer, Colin Trimming, into making the jump, too.

Colin pulled rank on me: 'In you go, Wharfey,' he ordered. 'We can't have the second and third in line to the throne swimming around down there without protection.'

It was a terrifying plunge. I had visions of smashing into the side of the yacht on the way down. As soon as I hit the water with an almighty splash, the two princes pounced.

Harry adopted his usual fighting tactics, aiming below the belt, and when I managed to wrestle him off his brother was around my shoulders, trying to duck me under the water.

Being a royal protection officer was the best job in the world - but who was there to protect us from the junior royals?

ARMY-MAD HARRY WAS A CRACKSHOT EVEN AT SEVEN

The Princess appreciated Harry's passion for all things military, and one day in 1992 she asked if I would take her and the boys to a shooting range. I contacted the Metropolitan Police Firearms Training Unit in Lippitts Hill, Essex, where Scotland Yard's personal protection officers train, for a private shoot. Harry was beside himself with excitement: this was his dream come true.

To add to the fun, Diana invited a few of her sons' friends. The children were shown firearms used by police officers, and examples of weapons used by criminals such as sawn-off shotguns. After everyone had been issued with protective earmuffs, a tour of the camp began with safety drills.

Harry was itching to get on the range, but every time he thought his moment had come, there was more to learn. During a video response test, the boys watched a simulated hostage scenario, with a gunman holding a baby. Harry, who was just seven, quickly spotted that police couldn't open fire because of the risk of hitting the infant.

There followed a real-life simulation: we placed Diana, William and Harry in vehicles that were then, without warning, subjected to pyrotechnic explosions. Protection officers, including myself, threw ourselves over seats to demonstrate life-saving techniques - great fun for the boys, but also a preparation for their lives as high-profile potential targets in a dangerous world.

Harry's levels of concentration were better than his brother's. William was quick to belittle him, saying that Harry 'is too young to understand things', but Diana scolded him: 'Oh shut up, William, we'll see who's been concentrating in a minute.' Her instinct proved right. Harry was an exceptional shot for his tender age, determined to do his best when firing a gun like the real soldier he wanted to be.

Both boys were good, but Harry was the star. He hit the bullseye time after time, and was given the near perfect target as a memento. He cherished it, and I am sure his success that day made him even more determined to follow a career in the military, for which he was so well suited.


DAY I SAW FAR MORE THAN I OUGHT TO

The men Diana admired were a type: all were tall, of similar physique, dressed and spoke in the same style, shared the same tastes and the same circle of friends, and even had the same mannerisms.

I thought of them as 'Dianamen' and they all had another thing in common: they were nothing like her serious-minded husband, 12 years her senior, and by his own admission a man who acted older than his years.

Diana once joked with me: 'I do so like men in uniform.' I lightly replied that it was a good job I worked as plain-clothes police officer. 'Oh no, Ken, not you,' she said. 'I couldn't fancy you.'

Deadpan, I told her the feeling was mutual. Used to having male admirers fall over themselves for her, she wasn't sure how to take that.

As a boy, Prince William would tease his mother that she fancied me - a joke that once had embarrassing consequences.

I was guarding her and the boys during a break at her mother's house in Scotland, and one day she offered to iron my shirt. At first I declined the offer, but when she persisted I handed it over.

She was standing in the kitchen at the ironing board, wearing only a bath towel. I joked that it was hard to imagine her mother-in-law, the Queen, doing the same, and Diana got a fit of the giggles at the thought of Her Majesty, pressing a policeman's shirt while he stood guard over her, topless.

Our laughter attracted William's attention and, being full of mischief, he repeated his joke that his mother had a crush on me.

The Princess told him not to be so silly, at which he suddenly tugged at her towel so it fell to the floor, leaving her naked before me. Diana slowly picked up the towel, covered herself - and burst out laughing again.

- Daily Mail

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