On September 7, 1994, a German newspaper published nudes of a royal family member, so shocking they sent the palace into crisis mode.

Stretched out on a sun lounger, he was doing what every Brit abroad does — soaking up the sun. It was 1994 and Prince Charles had traded London for the warmer climes of Barroux, a town in the south of France, for a spot of R and R.

While he and Diana, Princess of Wales had been separated for more than 18 months, the War of the Wales' was in full, destructive swing, with both camps using the newspaper front pages to win the PR battle.

The Prince, then aged 45, was enjoying a solitary break at an aristocratic chum's stunning chateau, enjoying the glittering swimming pool and beautiful gardens.

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However, at some point during his seemingly private getaway, Charles decided to stand in front of an open window in the chateau towelling off, soaking up the Provençal view in all of his full naked glory.

Unbeknown to him, a lurking paparazzo was there to capture the history-making moment.

While grainy, the images plastered across the front page of German newspaper 'Bild' showed more than enough of the future king of England. Photo / News Corp Australia
While grainy, the images plastered across the front page of German newspaper 'Bild' showed more than enough of the future king of England. Photo / News Corp Australia

What came next was nearly textbook.

The pictures went on sale for a sum that is reported to have been about $54,000. While the UK press refused to touch such controversial shots, European tabloids had no such compunction.

On September 7 of that year, photos of Charles and his crown jewels were published in the German newspaper Bild Zeitung. While the shots were grainy, they showed Charles like the world had never seen him before.

The accompanying story raved about the royal's body, saying that he was — prepare yourself — "hunky like a Greek statue".

Taking to the BBC to defend the move to publish the controversial shots, editor Paul Martin said that the image "reminds you of the David of Michelangelo".

But there was more to come.

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Days later French tabloid Paris Match ran more images, including a nude centre spread of extra pictures with a source at the magazine saying at the time, "His whole pride and joy is on display. He looks magnifique. You English can be proud of him."

While his surprisingly buff bod might have been earning rave reviews on the continent, Buckingham Palace was outraged that the Prince of Wales had just made history as the first future monarch to have his genitalia seen by millions. A palace spokesman commented, saying: "We think it is completely unjustifiable for anybody to suffer this sort of intrusion."

So far, stock standard. However, there is a very strange twist to this story.

The house where Charles was staying was owned by Baroness Louise de Waldner, a longtime friend of the Queen Mother, himself and Camilla Parker Bowles.

An aristocrat, the Baroness was also the mother of oil heiress Diane de Waldner de Freundstein, who was married to London art dealer Oliver Hoare.

Two years earlier in 1992, it is rumoured that Hoare had a passionate affair with none other than … Diana, Princess of Wales.

The same year that Charles went to stay at the Baroness' huge French pile, Diane had contacted police after her and Hoare's million-pound Chelsea home started to receive hundreds of nuisance phone calls.

In August 1994, just weeks before the Prince said "Bonjour" to his solo mini break, it was publicly revealed that it had been none other than the Princess who had been harassing her former (alleged) lover.

The story hit the front page in the now shuttered News of the World with the headline "DI'S CRANKY CALLS TO MARRIED TYCOON".

Bottom line (pun absolutely intended): Charles happily went to enjoy a vacay with the family of the woman married to his wife's lover.

The late Princess Diana was said to be repeatedly calling the home of art dealer Oliver Hoare. Photo / News Corp Australia
The late Princess Diana was said to be repeatedly calling the home of art dealer Oliver Hoare. Photo / News Corp Australia

One royal watcher told People at the time: "The fact that (Charles) was prepared to stay at the villa while the story was unfolding is evidence that he's still friendly with Oliver. I don't think Charles really cares if (Hoare) was having an affair with Diana or not."

Despite the brouhaha, Diane de Waldner de Freundstein stayed with Hoare, who passed away in 2018.

All of which provides a fascinating insight into the (kinda) incestuous world of toff bedhopping and a necessary reminder why you should always towel off in the bathroom if you happen to be a HRH.