It has been five years since her death triggered a world-wide outpouring of grief. There were no official ceremonies in London to mark this year’s anniversary, but the public fascination with Princess Diana has hardly dimmed since the tragedy. Now, the latest in a string of tell-all books is out about her tumultuous private life, and it’s one of the most controversial. The author was her royal bodyguard. Correspondent Sarah James reports.
She was one of the most famous women of the 20th Century, rich and royal, portrayed as saint and sinner, famous in life, deified in death. A woman about whom we thought we knew everything.
Now, a man who was by Diana’s side during the most tumultuous years of her life has written his version of events: “Diana: Closely Guarded Secret.”
“I was there,” says Ken Wharfe. “I saw it. I remember it. And I remember it very, very vividly. This is a bird’s eye account of what happened. And it doesn’t come any better than that.”
ROYAL SENSE OF HUMOR
Ken Wharfe was a Scotland Yard police inspector who served as the princess’s bodyguard from 1988 to 1993. He says Diana had a mischievous sense of humor, such as when she and her children were vacationing on billionaire Richard Branson’s exclusive Necker Island and staged an attack on the relentless paparazzi.
“William had this great idea of actually tying up these elastic catapults to a number of trees, and then when the paparazzi turned up or the press, whatever, we would bombard them with water balloons,” says Wharfe. “So you had this wonderful assault on the invading paparazzi.”
And the princess was all behind it, wasn’t she?
“Well I think she was providing the ammunition,” says Wharfe. “So, I mean, she was their chief loader.”
But her bodyguard says Diana took her royal duties seriously. He says she didn’t back away from controversial causes, such as supporting people with AIDS and the homeless — even when they initially brought private and hurtful criticism from the queen.
“She believed that she could take the Royal Family further into the 21st Century and beyond with her ideas and her initiatives,” says Wharfe. “I mean she knew that she was good at her job. She knew she had the ability to speak to people. And people wanted to speak to her.”
But during his six years spending days and nights, with the princess, her bodyguard also saw another side to Diana. Some stories — never recounted before — paint a far less flattering portrait of the princess.
Wharfe describes her as hysterical and, in some cases hypocritical. Difficult, petulant, moody, manipulative — which are not complimentary words.
“She was petulant,” says Wharfe. “She was manipulative. She was on occasions hypocritical. What I am saying is, is look, this is the real version.”
A FAILING MARRIAGE
He says in part Diana was volatile because of her failing marriage. He reveals that on one memorable Mediterranean cruise, Prince Charles continuously phoned his lover, Camilla Parker Bowles, which devastated Diana who suddenly disappeared.
There was a concern that she might have jumped overboard?
“Well that was a concern,” says Wharfe. “And it actually did go through my mind. I was very relieved when I found that she hadn’t done that, but she was very tearful very unhappy and said, ‘Look I just need to return to London. I know there is nothing left in my marriage and what’s the point.’”
Wharfe would also learn before almost anyone else about Diana’s love life, including her affair with Captain James Hewitt of the household cavalry.
That had to be a strange feeling for one of Scotland Yard’s finest, whose job is suddenly making sure that he’s securing the love nest.
“Well, I didn’t look at it like that,” says Wharfe. “I looked at it as a security operation in a different location.”
Later, Diana would become infatuated with a married man — Oliver Hoare, whom Wharfe says Diana “craved,” adding, “She needed him at every conceivable moment.”
The princess insisted Hoare was just a friend and Hoare himself has never commented publicly on their relationship.
But her bodyguard describes an instance at Kensington Palace in which he contends the princess, who hated smoking, had kicked Hoare out of her room with his cigar at around 3:30 in the morning.
Wharfe describes an event where he basically caught Oliver Hoare out in the hall setting off a fire alarm.
“What happened was at some late hour in the morning, the fire alarm went off, standing at the front of the house, behind a huge potted plant was Oliver Hoare smoking a cigar,” says Wharfe. “The cigar actually set the alarm off.”
So in essence it was pretty clear what the relationship was between the princess and Oliver Hoare?
“It was obviously clear,” says Wharfe. “I mean you couldn’t confuse that.”
Later that relationship would become all too public when Hoare’s wife complained about hundreds of nuisance phone calls.
It was Wharfe who had to tell Scotland Yard it was the princess making those phone calls.
“I was asked to speak to a senior officer of mine who said to me, ‘Somebody is using the princess’s telephone to make phone calls to Oliver Hoare’s household and even spoken to his wife,’” says Wharfe. “At that point I said to him, ‘The princess of Wales is having a relationship with this man and that she is making telephone calls.’”
As the years went on, Diana’s bodyguard says she became desperate for privacy. On one ski trip to Austria, he says the princess pulled off a daring middle-of-the-night escape, foiling her own protection team.
How had the princess gotten out?
“I asked her in the morning,” says Wharfe. “I said, ‘You know, I know you came in early this morning.’ And I said, ‘You’re alive. You look reasonable happy to me. I’m rather intrigued how you left the hotel, when the doors were locked.’ And she said you know, ‘I just wanted some fresh air. So I jumped from the balcony.’”
So she jumped from a 20 foot balcony?
“Well I didn’t see a ladder,” says Wharfe. “What I did see was an almost near perfect impression of her body in the snow below. And it was fortunate that she didn’t jump on a bush or a rock or something.”
In a story he claims reveals a sillier side of the princess, her bodyguard writes that Diana’s entourage bought her a gag gift, which turned into an unofficial mascot for royal trips. Nicknamed “le gadget,” he says that item was a vibrator.
This princess was not a prude.
“Of course not,” says Wharfe. “She enjoyed a joke. She enjoyed fun and good humor.”
So in terms of “le gadget” why did they purchase a vibrator for the princess?
“Well we thought it was entertaining,” says Wharfe. “We knew that it would amuse her. We knew that it would make her laugh and it made her laugh for many years to come.”
Does Wharfe think that there are going to be people who are really disapproving and say, “You know what? I really didn’t want to know, frankly, that the princess was carrying a sex toy as a mascot on royal trips.”
“Well, there probably will be,” he says. “And maybe if they read that, they will then move on to the next story or next chapter or whatever.”
But Prince Charles and his sons have no intention of moving on to the next chapter. The prince reportedly is demanding that Scotland Yard take action against the former bodyguard.
Wharfe retired from Scotland Yard last month. Some former colleagues call him a traitor, saying this is the first breach of confidentiality in the agency’s 138 year history of royal protection, and express outrage that Wharfe will profit from his betrayal.
“I’ve written a book about somebody that’s dead,” says Wharfe. “And I think she wanted people to know that look I’m not special. I’m not a saint. I just want people to know that I actually believe in the job I inherited. Now if that’s betrayal, if now I’m being accused of being treacherous or whatever, well then that’s for me to deal with. And I deal with it.”
What does Wharfe think Diana would have thought of this book?
“I think that perhaps, like some readers, she would be unhappy with certain issues of it,” he says. “But I think with that, I think she would have admired my honesty for saying it.”
A British newspaper reports Scotland Yard is looking into the possibility of confiscating all copies of Ken Wharf’s book in Britain, and seizing its profits, on the grounds that he may have revealed details that could compromise the royal family’s safety.