Big Read: How Princess Diana and James Hewitt's affair unfolded

In case you missed it: This was one of Lifestyle's most popular stories of 2016

Bodyguard Ken Wharfe tells how Princess Diana launched her first affair in the latest extract from his memoirs

As Princess Diana's royal protection officer, Ken Wharfe became one of her closest confidants. In his updated memoirs, he tells how her marriage fell apart and she launched into her first affair.

Lying back on her sunbed in a bright orange bikini, running her fingers through her blonde hair, Princess Diana closed her eyes against the burning Majorcan sun and murmured: "Do you know, I really think it is time I spread my wings."

Still new to the role of royal protection officer, I felt uncomfortable at the informality. To see us in close conversation at the magnificent palace complex overlooking the capital city, Palma, a bystander might have taken us for husband and wife, or at least former lovers.

Prince Charles and Diana's marriage was on the rocks after the birth of Harry, according to Ken Wharfe's tell-all. Photo / AP
Prince Charles and Diana's marriage was on the rocks after the birth of Harry, according to Ken Wharfe's tell-all. Photo / AP

After all, we often booked air tickets in the names of a married couple, travelling as Mr and Mrs Hargreaves.

The mood beside the pool was intense: occasionally I would manage to make her laugh with a quip, but within moments she would turn serious again.

"After Harry was born, my marriage to Charles just died," she said, in conspiratorial tones. There was genuine sadness in her brilliant blue eyes. "I tried, I honestly tried, but he just did not want me. We haven't slept in the same bed for two years."

She began to talk of her suicide attempts: "It was a cry for help, but nobody ever listened."

And there was another problem, the one she had summoned me to the poolside to discuss: her host, the King of Spain, seemed a little too friendly. "It's awful!" she exclaimed. "Juan Carlos is frightfully charming but, you know . . . a little too attentive. He is very tactile. I told my husband and he said I am just being silly. I know it's absurd, but I'm sure the King fancies me."

That threw me, though I made a weak attempt to hide it. Was Diana really suggesting that I should have a quiet word with the King about being over-friendly? I am still not sure whether she was joking, because her sense of humour could be wicked.

Though this was the first time she had confided in me, I had become party to many of the Princess' most intimate secrets within days of joining the Metropolitan Police Royalty Protection Department in 1986.

Chief Inspector Graham "Smudger" Smith, my predecessor as Diana's chief bodyguard, sat me down in the kitchen at Highgrove, the Prince of Wales' Gloucestershire home, and filled me in over coffee.

The principal subject of our conversation was her love affair with an officer of the Household Cavalry, Captain James Hewitt.

It was not for us, as policemen, to moralise about it. Our job was simply to ensure, above all, that she remained safe, which in turn meant the affair had to remain secret.

James Hewitt was reviled in the UK for having an affair with Diana. Photo / AP
James Hewitt was reviled in the UK for having an affair with Diana. Photo / AP

Hewitt was regarded as co-operative and sensible, not a man to compromise security. He fully accepted that the safe houses where the lovers met all had to be checked over before any assignation.

The Captain had met his Lady earlier in 1986, at a party thrown by Diana's lady-in-waiting, Hazel West. He almost hadn't gone: it clashed with a prior dinner engagement.

If he had kept that engagement, like a gentleman, one of the most notorious affairs in royal history might never have happened.

Diana described their first meeting to me, and it was clear from the way she spoke that she adored the man, even after the affair had cooled. Their first conversation felt natural, she said, and it was this that sparked her attraction. As she put it, they got along famously.

After Harry was born, or perhaps even earlier, Charles had begun seeing Camilla Parker Bowles again.

Shattered by her husband's betrayal, the Princess was ready for an affair. Hewitt, a natural womaniser, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for.

He told her he was a riding instructor and, when she confessed she was afraid of horses, offered to help her overcome her fear. Another meeting was arranged.

Though I knew of his existence when I was protection officer to the two young Princes, I didn't meet Hewitt until two years later. I was asked to drive Diana over to Knightsbridge Barracks, where her lover was based: to ensure the encounter seemed respectable, she was accompanied by Hazel West, who acted as chaperone.

A few minutes after we arrived, Hewitt came strolling over, with another officer, a lieutenant.

Rumours around who was Prince Harry's father have circulated since his birth. Photo / AP
Rumours around who was Prince Harry's father have circulated since his birth. Photo / AP

After some small talk about their riding lesson, Diana introduced me, and Hewitt treated me to that affected, over-enthusiastic welcome which is one of the specialities of the British Army officer.

It seemed absurd, and confirmed my preconceived ideas: not all Army officers were public-school buffoons, but many seemed to be doing an excellent impersonation.
For some reason, Hazel always brought a plastic container of cold sausages with her on such days, to give to the men present.

I declined, but Hewitt took one and so did the lieutenant, who appeared to swallow his whole in order to clear the horrible thing out of his mouth.

Almost choking, he turned to the Princess and told her: 'May I say, my lady, that was possibly the finest sausage I have ever tasted?'

I wished I had taken one of the beastly things, because it would have helped stifle my laughter. Hewitt seemed to have conceived the odd idea that the presence of a royal protection officer somehow signalled an official sanction of his affair with Diana.

That was nonsense, but probably it helped to allay his fears that, by committing adultery with the wife of the heir to the throne, he was guilty of high treason. I could see why Diana liked him. He was charming, and injected a youthful vitality into her life at a time when she really needed to be loved.

This was something her husband found impossible to do, even had he been inclined. Yet Charles was no fool. He knew what was going on and, after years in this difficult marriage, it suited him. Diana craved attention and, when she didn't get it, she was spoiling for a fight. With Hewitt on the scene, she became more mellow.

That is not to say Charles was without pride - quite the opposite. Like the Prince, Hewitt was an accomplished polo player, but he was also 10 years younger, and as a serving Army officer he was in better physical shape. Charles's passion for the demanding sport had taken its toll, leaving him with serious lower-back problems.

Even before he suffered a badly broken arm on the polo field, the pain of muscle spasms sometimes left him barely able to move, and he undertook a gruelling series of daily exercises to loosen the tendons.

His protection officer, Colin Trimming, told me he always carried a special orthopedic cushion in the car, to help support the Prince's back. To see Charles insist on playing polo, when he was in such obvious pain, was difficult to understand: it was as though he was trying to prove something to himself.

Quick to capitalise on a weakness, Diana would goad him by urging him to abandon the sport he loved: "For heaven's sake, Charles, why don't you give up polo? You're just too old now." Given that her lover Hewitt was such an enthusiast for the sport, this was doubtless hard to take.

At first, Diana refused to concede to me that her affair was anything less than innocent. "Nothing is going on," she would say, her face flushing red, as we drove back from a tryst, usually with the atmosphere tense in the car.

I would assure her that I had no interest in anything but her safety, but she must have thought I was stupid or deaf: the pair usually met at an old cottage in Devon belonging to Shirley, Hewitt's mother, where the creaking bedroom floorboards told the story more loudly than any confession.

The Press would no doubt have called Sheiling Cottage a love nest.

Often I was chef as well as bodyguard, and while I cooked Italian in the kitchen, the Princess and her lover would curl up on the sofa, sipping home-made orange vodka purloined from Highgrove's cellars.

Diana would wash up and we'd play cards until midnight, before the couple went upstairs and I shared a nightcap with Shirley Hewitt.

My berth was usually a camp bed in the kitchen, or the couch. Diana was always last to rise. By 8.30am Hewitt and his mother would be preparing breakfast, leaving the Princess to sleep.

When she emerged, usually in a baggy jumper and tight jeans with her hair ruffled, she might grab a couple of mouthfuls of toast, but she would be eager to go out alone with Hewitt.

To give her privacy, I would hang back, though I insisted that they took with them a police radio tuned to my frequency so they could be in contact instantly.

They'd go walking on the pebbled beach at Budleigh Salterton, where no one who saw them would guess they were looking at the Princess of Wales, disguised by a headscarf, and her beau.

Before these assignations, Diana would call to let Shirley know they were coming - giving her name as 'Julia' and sometimes using a spurious Cockney accent. We had codewords on the phone: Highgrove was "Low Wood", for example.

After these clandestine meetings, Diana would be exhilarated. She often insisted on driving much too fast, which is how we came to be stopped by a patrol car when we'd been doing around 100mph.

"Ken, you'll have to sort this out," said the Princess as we pulled over, but I told her firmly that it wasn't my job to cover up offences - particularly as I had warned her repeatedly about her speed. The traffic officer got the shock of his life when he realised who he'd stopped. Diana, with her eyes at their most doe-like and her head tilted to one side, was let off with a polite reprimand.

Her impetuous, generous nature sometimes meant she abandoned her common sense. I was appalled when she told me that Hewitt, who always seemed short of money, had hinted that he wanted a flashy new sports car, a TVR, but couldn't afford it.

She gave him £16,000 in a briefcase, though if the Press had got wind of that, they could have construed it as a blackmail payment to buy a lover's silence.

But the affair brought other problems, including malicious rumours about the paternity of Prince Harry - rumours which angered Diana greatly and which persist to this day, almost 19 years after her death.

I believe they were spread by people who called themselves friends of Charles, though whoever was originally responsible should be ashamed of themselves . . . both for peddling slanders and for being mathematically incompetent.

A simple comparison of dates proves it is impossible for Hewitt to be Harry's father. Only once did I ever discuss it with her, and Diana was in tears about it. She didn't usually care what lies Charles's friends told about her, but if anyone turned on her sons it wounded her deeply.

The nonsense should be scotched here and now. For one thing, the dates do not add up. Harry was born on September 15, 1984, which means he was conceived around Christmas 1983, when his brother, William, was 18 months old. Diana did not meet James Hewitt until the summer of 1986.

The red hair that gossips so love to cite as "proof" is, of course, a Spencer trait, as anyone who has ever seen a photograph of Diana's sister, Jane, for example, as a young woman will be able to testify.

The one person who knew beyond doubt the identity of Harry's father was Diana, and she told me: "I don't know how my husband and I did have Harry, because by then he had gone back to his lady, but one thing that is certain is that we did."

By the end of the 80s, Hewitt was becoming exhausted by the emotional pressures placed on him by Diana. Once he cornered me for a confidential word: "Ken, I need some time off. The Princess can be so demanding."

I smiled but said nothing, wondering how many men would have given everything to swap places with him.

So I was not surprised when he took the first opportunity to escape. Hewitt was promoted to major and given command of a tank squadron, which meant a posting for two years to Germany.

Diana felt betrayed: he had chosen his career over her. At first, she did everything she could to prevent him from going, even threatening to speak to his commanding officer. Hewitt was aghast: to say the Household Cavalry would have frowned on any officer cuckolding the future king is a massive understatement.

When James refused to give up his career, Diana let the affair wane. Their conversations on the phone became less frequent until, without telling Hewitt, she decided to end it.

She seemed to believe that by doing so she had regained the moral high ground over Charles, who could not give up Camilla.

But her ex-lover's absence affected her badly: she was often moody, sometimes tearful and occasionally furious, venting her rage against the unfairness of life in general and her situation in particular.

After a year, during which they barely spoke, Hewitt visited Britain for his sister's wedding. Diana invited him to spend a weekend at Highgrove, while Charles was away.
Their romance was rekindled, and Diana told him what she had been saying to me for months, that she wanted a divorce.

Hewitt flew out to Saudi Arabia in December 1990, during the run-up to war with Iraq. Diana wrote to him every day, sometimes twice a day, and sent hampers from Fortnum & Mason containing bottles of whisky, knowing alcohol was difficult to purchase in Muslim states.

She also enclosed copies of "adult" magazines such as Playboy, Mayfair and Penthouse. Since publications containing any hint of pornography were banned by the Saudis, this was as rebellious as it was flirtatious.

I often warned her against being too explicit about her affections in her copious letter-writing. If the papers were to fall into the wrong hands, I said, the truth of her friendship with Hewitt would become public knowledge.

But Diana was in no mood to listen. Perhaps her infatuation with Hewitt was over, but she was in love with the idea of being in love with a war hero.

- Daily Mail

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