In the 15 years since he first published his account of being Princess Diana’s bodyguard, Diana; Closely Guarded Secret, former royal protection squad police officer Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana’s bodyguard, has been called many things.
A traitor, a sell-out, and a disgrace to the uniform are among the more printable of the assorted insults levelled at him.
And now, with the republication of his memoir—which offers an on-the-spot account of Diana’s tumultuous life as Princess of Wales—to mark the 25th anniversary of Diana’s death, those allegations that he penned nothing more than a spectacular posthumous betrayal of Diana’s trust are being aired again.
In the book he writes in exhaustive detail about Diana’s love affairs, especially her relationship with James Hewitt. William and Harry were known to be disgusted by the torrent of revelations the book contained.
And they are unlikely to be delighted to see those coals being raked over again.
But Wharfe, speaking to The Daily Beast by phone from his London home, is, not surprisingly, unrepentant, and claims he was doing Diana’s legacy a service with his tell-all tale.
“I think one has to look at the reasons as to why I wrote the book in the first place,” he says. “I wrote it following Diana’s death when there was a huge campaign from the spin doctors working within St. James’s Palace for the Prince of Wales to effectively airbrush Diana out of history and make way for Camilla.
“There were suggestions and allegations from people within the Prince of Wales’s camp, they were going public on television and radio saying that Diana was ‘damaged,’ she was ‘paranoid’—even friends of the queen were saying she was ‘damaged goods.’
“And I was thinking, ‘Well hang on a minute, this wasn’t the woman that I was working for.’”
Wharfe’s argument—that there was a whispering campaign that Diana was mentally ill—is completely true. It was the only topic of conversation in aristocratic drawing rooms for about five years either side of her death.
It was also, as Wharfe makes clear, a gross slander.
“Of course she wasn’t mentally ill,” he explodes when I ask the question, “That was one of the many reasons I put pen to paper, because I’m thinking, ‘Well hang on a minute, there’s someone out there is trying to do this woman down serious big time, because she wasn’t ‘damaged goods.’
“What she was, was incredibly unhappy. If she was mentally ill she would not have been able to continue with her work which was relentless.
“I mean people talk about the hard work of the royals. Yes, the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and indeed the Prince of Wales, they do work hard. But, you know, it’s not a difficult job what they do. But what Diana did, that was. She put so much more into her work; it wasn’t just a courteous thrust of an arm and, ‘Hello, what are you doing next?’ She was engaging with people and that is why she became so popular because people identified with Diana as a person.
“Diana was breaking new ground in modernizing the royal family by moving it into the 21st century. They didn’t like that. But after she died, within a very short period of time the royal family thought, ‘Hang on a minute, maybe we lost something here.’
“Who would have thought back then that the queen herself would have taken part in a James Bond spoof to land in the Olympic stadium?
“Who would have thought that the Prince of Wales would have gone and read the weather forecast on the BBC News? If Diana had done that they would have said, ‘Oh she’s seeking attention again.’”
Still—how did it feel to be labelled a traitor by those two young princes he once worked so tirelessly to protect, William and Harry?
“No member of the royal family ever contacted me to say they were pissed off. One or two police officers through the media threatened to halt the book and deny me of my pension and whatever. Of course none of these things ever happened. It’s annoying but I dealt with it, and dealt with the critics. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but if you write something like this you have to be prepared to stand up and answer questions.
“I don’t think I let the service down. All I did was write a memoir. The whole point of a memoir is that you have to write it as it was, and sometimes that’s not always what people want to hear.”
Wharfe argues that his book is an important part of the Diana database.
“I was very chuffed when David Starkey, the renowned historian, went on air and said, ‘I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Here you have somebody that was actually working with her, this is actually what history is made of because that person can say he was actually there.’”
Wharfe writes with a curious mixture of affection and contempt about Diana’s most famous boyfriend, James Hewitt. He can’t quite hide his distaste for his lack of gentlemanly behavior after the affair, but the reader is also keenly aware that Wharfe believed the affair was important to keeping Diana happy and sane and able to carry on.
“When he was in the relationship with Diana they wouldn’t meet every other day. The relationship was spread over nearly a two-year period, with a day together occasionally, once a month or once every three to four weeks.
“It was very important to Diana because she was very unhappy in her relationship with Charles.”
Was Charles and Camilla’s affair the primary cause of Diana’s misery?
“100 percent. When Diana came into this relationship, she was told Camilla was still a friend of the Prince of Wales. Now, Diana, like most people, would have, thought, ‘Well, OK, it’s all over now and it’s nice that they are friends.’
“But the fact is that Camilla never went out of the relationship. And Diana wasn’t prepared to live with that.
“She wasn’t the sort of wife who thought it was OK for the Prince of Wales to have mistresses. She didn’t want that, she wasn’t prepared to do that but unfortunately the prince wasn’t prepared to relinquish Camilla. It destroyed the relationship. The separation and subsequent divorce was as a result of his affair and relationship with another woman. It was that simple. That’s why it ended.
“I defy anybody in a similar situation after a period of time not to have an affair. It was never my role to moralize on what Diana should or shouldn’t do. I was only concerned with her safety.”
But did he like Hewitt?
“I didn’t dislike him at all. Why would I dislike him? It was important to like him because he was quite important to me. I needed him to tell me things, things that perhaps that Diana forgot to tell me.”
Such as what?
“Well, you know, if they were planning to meet sometime in the future, it was helpful for me to know rather than me find it out second hand—or not find out about it at all until the last minute. At least I could formulate and provide a protection package then.
“To be fair to Hewitt, he did keep his mouth shut, and very rarely if at all were we ever ‘papped’ by any photographers. That was always an anxiety for Diana. But the security was never compromised—and throughout my time actually working with her the security was never compromised.”
Although Wharfe writes in his book about how Diana was grievously “wounded” by bogus claims that Hewitt was Harry’s father, Hewitt himself has been encouraging such speculation in recent years through his collaboration with playwright Jon Conway.
“I saw the play. It was a good piece of theater but it was full of untruths. I mean Hewitt is entitled to say, ‘I might have been Harry’s father’ but he isn’t. He wasn’t there at the right time, the facts don’t add up.”
Wharfe doesn’t directly say that Hewitt may have taken to titillating the public with loose allegations for financial gain and attention, but he comes pretty close: “He went through a pretty rough time following his departure from the army. I’ve no particular grudge against him and I really don’t want to make any comment about what he does now.”
Wharfe is adamant that claims that Diana was murdered as part of a conspiracy are nonsense.
“My views are very clear on this. It’s a subject that I’ve researched, I speak about, I was a witness at the coroner’s inquest here in London and was cross-examined for most of the day about it.
“My belief is that Diana died in a tragic car accident that could and should have been avoided. It’s not difficult for me to say—I don’t want to personally blame Trevor Rees-Jones who was the bodyguard on the night, or his colleague Kes Wingfield, but they were responsible for her safety that night and they failed.
“They failed because they allowed a drunken man, Henri Paul, a man with no security experience at all apart from guarding property at a hotel, to drive a vehicle whilst under the influence of drink. They allowed him to drive, they allowed him to go via a rear exit door which led to the fatal mistake to try and outrun the paparazzi, because all that does is actually excite them.
“They failed to inform the police, they failed to ask the police for assistance, they failed to contact the British Embassy in Paris to ask for assistance.
“They failed because they didn’t make her wear a seatbelt. What else do I need to say? There was no conspiracy. You know, how the hell can you conspire to kill somebody at 80 miles an hour by hitting a concrete pillar in the Alma tunnel?”
He rejects conspiracy theories that have suggested the royal family itself was somehow implicated in her death.
“There wasn’t one member of the royal family that was in any way pleased about her death. Of course they weren’t. Conspiracy theories abound but the point is, there were two inquests into this, one in France, one in the United Kingdom. They resolved it without question. There was no conspiracy.
“There was a huge amount of sadness, from her ex-husband, from every single member of the royal family because, you know, nobody ever expected this.”