IF it were the plot of a Disney movie, the romance of an unknown army officer and a princess would end happily ever after.
But the five-year affair between James Hewitt and Princess Diana not only shook the monarchy to the core but ended in heartbreak and betrayal, with the dashing “womaniser” revealing the fling in a book.
Princess Diana presents her lover with a trophy at a polo matchCredit: Camera Press
James Hewitt, pictured in 2017, admitted a five year affairCredit: Fame Flynet
A former bodyguard revealed the pair enjoyed secret liaisons in a cottage in Devon and that the smitten princess handed her lover £16,000 in a briefcase to buy a sports car.
And Hewitt, now 62, has said he was left suicidal after the princess dumped him in 1991.
This week, a huge row broke out over the infamous Panorama interview with Diana in 1995, in which she admitted the extramarital affair, saying: “’Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him.”
She also told Martin Bashir she was desperately unhappy after husband Prince Charles rekindled his own romance with Camilla Parker-Bowles, following the birth of second son Prince Harry.
Charles and Diana were still married when the affair began in 1986. They separated in 1992
Diana admitted the affair during the infamous Panorama interviewCredit: Rex Features
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, has now alleged the BBC pressured her into taking part by producing false documents suggesting members of the royal circle were selling stories about her.
The revelations come as the new season of The Crown, on Netflix from Sunday, is set to examine the crumbling marriage of Charles and Diana as well as her battle with bulimia.
Josh O’Connor, Emma Corrin and Emerald Fennell will portray the famous love triangle between Charles, Diana and Camilla, although James Hewitt will not appear on screen.
Hewitt, now 62, has kept a low profile since a near-fatal heart attack in May 2017 when doctors gave him a ‘slim chance’ of survival but has previously said he has regrets over the affair.
“I loved Diana,” he said. “I love her still, but part of me wished it had never happened.”
Here we look at the secret royal love affair that scandalised the nation.
Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor star as Diana and Charles in The CrownCredit: AP:Associated Press
Emerald Fennell is Camilla Parker-Bowles in the Netflix dramaCredit: AP:Associated Press
Seduced in four poster in Kensington Palace
When Household Cavalry officer Captain James Hewitt met Princess Diana at a party thrown in Mayfair, in 1986, she asked him to help her overcome her fear of horses by giving her riding lessons.
At the time,the 25-year-old Princess was on a 39 day “trial separation” from Prince Charles.
She later claimed that the couple hadn’t shared a bed since the birth of Prince Harry, two years earlier, and that he had sparked up an affair with his former girlfriend, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
In his biography, Love and War, Hewitt claimed he had actually met Diana before, shortly after her 1981 wedding, but that she had changed dramatically during the five years between.
“When we had first met five years before, she had been fun, charming, flirtatious,” he wrote.
Hewitt was brought in to give riding lessons to Princess DianaCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
“She could make the sullen waters of the Serpentine sparkle just by riding past them. But now she was sad… She was a hurt, lonely married woman and I became obsessed with her.”
The affair began shortly afterwards, at her apartment in Kensington Palace, after she invited Hewitt, then 28, for dinner.
“She was tall, willowy, strikingly beautiful and utterly adorable,” he wrote. “She smelled fresh and very English.”
Diana told him: “I need you. I can’t stand it when I’m away from you.”
She was a hurt, lonely married woman and I became obsessed with her
Hewitt revealed that the couple made love on her four poster bed and the bathroom floor, and had claimed it was Diana who initiated the affair, that was to last five years.
He added: “I would never have dared. I looked up “treason” in the dictionary. It carried the death penalty.
“But I knew the punishment would be worse than death, and I wasn’t far wrong.”
Prince Charles with Camilla in 1975, before he met DianaCredit: Rex Features
Secret codename to arrange Devon trysts
Former royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe has since revealed that the Princess “was ready for an affair” because of her “husband’s betrayal.”
“Hewitt, a natural womaniser, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for.”
As the affair carried on, the venue for the lovers’ liaisons shifted to Ebford Cottage in Devon, owned by Hewitt’s mum, Shirley.
Diana would phone Hewitt’s mum to make arrangements, using the code name Julia and, sometimes, a mock cockney accent.
“She could have been an SAS commander, such was her skill and ingenuity at managing our very secret affair,” Said Hewitt.
Ken Wharfe would drive his ward to the 17th century cottage and cook the couple Italian food while they snuggled up on the sofa drinking orange vodka, “purloined from the cellars at Highgrove.”
Diana would then don her marigolds and wash up – relishing the chance to “play house” away from the servants and ladies in waiting of her royal life- before playing cards late into the night.
Ken Wharfe was Diana’s personal bodyguardCredit: PA:Press Association
“At first, Diana refused to concede to me that her affair was anything less than innocent,” Wharfe wrote in his memoirs.
“‘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.”
While keeping his professional distance, Wharfe did reveal he was often horrified when Diana’s “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,” he said.
“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.”
The quaint cottage where the secret meetings took placeCredit: Andy Bush – The Sun
Letters twice a day and saucy magazines
For five years, says Hewitt, the affair was “wonderful, exhilarating, passionate and intensely loving.”
But frequent postings abroad, and Hewitt’s refusal to give up his army career, took their toll.
When he was posted to the Gulf, in 1990, Diana wrote frequent love letters – sometimes as often as twice a day – as well as hampers from Fortnum and Mason, containing bottles of whisky and sweets.
Knowing saucy magazines were banned in Saudi Arabia, she also sent copies of Playboy and Penthouse.
But when a promotion meant a two year stint in Germany, Diana felt betrayed.
The phonecalls began to dwindle and eventually, in 1991, she stopped returning his calls. A year later Charles and Diana announced their separation.
However, James Hewitt later claimed the affair only ended after he decided to cooperate with the controversial book Princess in Love, by Anna Pasternak, that revealed the affair.
Hewitt appears in a series of Hell’s Kitchen in 2004Credit: Getty Images
He wrote: “Diana seemed unconcerned, but it was the biggest mistake I have every made in my life.”
He said the decision marked the end of the affair and his army career, and he considered suicide.
“I got in my car and loaded a few things up to get on the ferry to go to France – to shoot myself,” he told US TV show Edition.
“Then my mother insisted on coming with me. If she hadn’t, I would probably have shot myself. So I owe her my life really.”
Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, told the Panorama interview she felt “very let down” by his part in the book but Hewitt seemed to suggest he didn’t feel he had betrayed her.
He added: “I felt I had let people down – probably myself, my family, my friends, the nation, the army, my regiment. Other than that, no one at all.”
The former military man faced further controversy when 64 love letters from Diana were offered to the press for £10million. He has since claimed his former fiancee, Anna Ferretti, had take them without his knowledge.
Hewitt went on to open a golf club and bar in Marbella, in 2009, which closed four years later.
He has also appeared in various reality TV shows including Hell’s Kitchen and X Factor – Battle of the Stars.
In 2004, was arrested for cocaine possession and let off with a caution.
Writing after his heart attack, author Anna Pasternak said: “I have always felt sympathy for James Hewitt. He is very much the architect of his own considerable misfortune, and yet I believe that at heart he is an honourable man — although very many will disagree.”
Hewitt on X Factor – Battle of the StarsCredit: ITV
Hewitt now lives with his mother in an apartment in a stately home in Exeter.
Anna added: “I don’t think James Hewitt ever recovered — either from his affair with Diana or the opprobrium heaped on him for revealing it.”
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