Book Excerpt: 'Diana: Closely Guarded Secret'
Aug. 26 -- Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana's chief bodyguard and one of her closest confidants, has written a controversial new book revealing details about her love life and his own belief that the princess helped cause her own death. Read chapter seven of Diana: Closely Guarded Secret.
'Gran-gran' was the pet name William and Harry used for their great-grandmother, the Queen Mother, while the Queen was always 'Granny'; but to the police, there was only one 'Supergran' — Diana's mother, the Honourable Mrs Frances Shand Kydd. To Diana she was simply 'Mummy', the one person in the world to whom shecould always turn. A great deal of nonsense has been written about the allegedly unsympathetic relationship between the two women, muchof it based upon the improperly understood notion that Frances 'bolted' while Diana was a child, abandoning her four children to runoff with another man after her unhappy marriage to Diana's father had failed. It is certainly true that Frances abandoned the marriage,but what is less often remarked is that she fought hard to keep custody of her two youngest children, Diana and Charles, only to be betrayedin a celebrated — indeed, sensational — court case by her own mother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, who testified against Frances in favor of her aristocraticson-in-law Johnny, the eighth Earl Spencer. Even after the divorce and custody hearings were over, Frances did everything possibleto spend as much time as she could with her impressionable daughter and young son, Charles.
What I witnessed in private told a very different story from the widely held one of mother and daughter at odds with one another, forDiana and 'Granny Frances' (the boys' pet name for her) enjoyed aclose and loving relationship. When Diana was at her most troubled,and really needed the most private of counsel, it was to her motherthat she would always turn.
Whenever Frances came to Highgrove, or when we went to herhome near Oban in the west of Scotland, William and Harry were ecstatic. Diana's mother was an excellent mediator, and at Highgrovewas one of the few people capable of breaking the bitingly coldsilences that reigned between Charles and Diana. Journalists tended toassume that because the Princess and her mother lived so far apartgeographically, contact between them must be limited. In reality theykept very much in touch, and whenever Diana wanted to escape withher sons, we would decamp en masse for Scotland to her mother'sremote hideaway for a healthy dose of normality. The young princesloved these visits, and they were always a tonic to Diana.
At the time Frances lived in a whitewashed farmhouse on theremote island of Seil, a few miles south of Oban. As with any proposedvisit by the Princess, private or otherwise, I would be sent in advance toensure the place was secure. Although such an investigation would bevery discreet, it was essential to liaise with the local police at Oban,who enjoyed a good relationship with Frances, and to ensure therewere enough rooms in the nearby Willowburn Hotel at Balricar forback-up protection officers. It is not too much to say that Seil was thesetting for one of the best holidays the Princess and her sons ever tooktogether, far outshining the more glamorous and exotic foreign tripsshe made that the press highlighted.
In August 1989 the three of them spent a week-long holiday withFrances. It could not have come at a better time, for the Princess wasclose to breaking point. Seil and the surrounding area had everythingthat two active and adventurous small boys could hope for. With thesea on its doorstep, open countryside, river inlets and rowing boats, itwas better than any adventure playground.
Good forward planning meant that we arrived there undetected bythe media. It delighted her that here her boys were able to play as normalchildren away from snoopers, and away from the restraints of royallife. Diana, too, had complete freedom. She was able to go off on longsolitary walks without me or the back-up officers. I knew that she wasrelatively safe on the island, but as a precaution I insisted that shealways took with her a police radio tuned to my waveband, in case sheencountered difficulties. This was, I think, a measure of the level oftrust that had developed between us since I had taken over as her seniorpersonal protection officer. True, I was not acting by the book, anddoubtless my superiors would have been horrified, but it worked. ThePrincess appreciated our working relationship and the freedom itbrought her, and for weeks afterwards her feelings of being trappedwould seem to evaporate.
One of Diana's many qualities was that she really was, at heart, anatural girl who liked taking care of others. She took no domestic staffwith her when she went to visit her mother. It meant she could reallybe herself. Perhaps curiously for a woman of immense privilege, sherelished the domestic chores which the absence of her sometimesover-attentive staff allowed her. She delighted in doing the dishes afterdinner and in washing everybody's clothes; she even offered to iron myshirts, though I initially declined. Eventually, however, I relented andhanded one of them over, joking with her that I could not imagine theQueen ironing one of my colleague's shirts. The image of Her Majestystanding at an ironing board with one of her shirtless bodyguardsbefore her sent the Princess into fits of giggles.
As she stood in thekitchen with just a towel wrapped around her, ironing my shirt,William joined us. He had developed the idea that his mother had acrush on me and, being full of mischief, put this to her. The Princesstold him not to be so silly, at which he suddenly tugged at her towel sothat it dropped to the floor, leaving the wife of the heir to the thronenaked before me. Diana slowly picked up the towel, covered herselfagain, and promptly burst out laughing.
There was a relaxed family atmosphere to her holidays on Seil thatwas especially welcome because it was so rare in a life filled with officialfunctions and all the other trappings of royalty. I helped prepare themeals that the family and I would enjoy at Frances's old table. Wewould sit there eating, drinking and regaling each other with storiesfar into the night. Such times were truly golden, and I am glad to havebeen able to share them. Much of this was owed to Frances, a decent,down-to-earth woman, humorous, intelligent and kind, who has been,and sometimes still is, much maligned. During the days, as I kept thetwo princes occupied, the Princess was able to discuss with her motherthe full implications of her increasingly desperate situation.
Franceswas the perfect sounding board. Not only was she a sympathetic ear,but she had a wealth of experience in marital disharmony, having beenthrough one of the most celebrated divorces of the sixties.She knew of the private relationships of both her daughter and herson-in-law, but still gently urged Diana to fight to save her marriage,knowing that she still loved Charles, if only for the sake of her sons.Frances, more than most people, knew the agony of being separatedfrom her children.
Just over a year later, Frances came to stay at Highgrove for theweekend at the invitation of the Prince who, curiously, for he liked her,timed it so that he was away and Diana had the run of the house. It waswonderful for the princes to have Granny Frances around, and theycould barely contain their excitement when she arrived. As always,Frances revived her daughter's flagging spirits. It was one of thosebeautiful September weekends when the summer seems to have forgottenthat autumn is already here. The weather was perfect forlounging beside the pool, and there the two women, so similar in characterand looks, sat and talked for hours. It was not difficult to guesswhat they were discussing. Both were genuinely sad to be parting whenMonday morning came. They promised not to leave it so long beforethey met again. Then Diana embraced her mother on the steps beforewaving her off.
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