King Charles's valet once let the cat out of the bag and revealed the details about how his staff hid his romps with Camilla from Diana.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 5, 2021. It has since been updated.
When a public figure decides to hide certain facts about their life from their loved ones, it's likely that others are also complicit in that action. And, when you're someone as famous as King Charles, now 74 years old, it would have been near impossible to hide his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, 75, without the knowledge of his staff. They were reportedly instrumental in keeping the relationship hidden from Princess Diana, who had been unaware of their relationship before the marriage.
Not just Charles' staff but some members of the royal family, too, were aware of the relationship but wanted him to find a more respectable and fresh-faced wife. Princess Diana famously said that her marriage was "crowded" due to the presence of Camilla between her and her husband.
Many speculate that Charles and Diana's marriage never had a chance since he was still in love with Camilla when they tied the knot. However, there were other reasons as well, such as their age gap and the fact that they barely knew each other before they walked down the aisle.
As per Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton, the Princess of Wales had suspicions about Charles's friendship with Camilla since they got engaged. Also, it didn't require an exceptional sense of intuition to have doubts about a fiance who bought his former lover a piece of jewelry customized with an inside joke just days before the royal wedding.
The unfortunate part was that those close to him denied the affair, making Diana doubt herself. Not only did they deny the affair to her but also to others. The Queen Mother once reportedly told her friends Diana was a "silly girl" for imagining Charles' affair, according to Reader's Digest. Even then, Diana kept her faith in herself and confronted Camilla about the affair.
Charles' staff were an intrinsic part of the machinations to hide the affair, even if they didn't like doing it. According to Express UK, royal author Christopher Andersen explained that when both Camilla and Charles were married to other people, the prince's valet Ken Stronach was "instructed to treat Camilla as mistress of the prince’s official residence, Highgrove."
"A guest room was assigned to her, but after midnight the Prince of Wales would switch off the elaborate alarm system guarding his room so that Camilla could sneak in. Stronach was told to mess up the bed in Camilla’s room so that the servants would think she had slept in it," he said. Charles also gained a nickname from his staff during that time because of his actions.
"Since Charles always slept in Camilla’s room and then departed before daylight, they called him The Prince of Darkness," he added. He often called on her at her house and was able to keep her husband away on assignments for months at a time, reports Express UK. Andrew Parker Bowles worked for the military for 34 years and rose to the position of brigadier during that time, as per Town & Country.
"Once Royal Protection officers alerted Camilla that the Prince was on his way, all lights in the house were switched off so he could pull inside the driveway without being spotted — a bit of espionage Camilla’s servants called 'The Blackout,'" said Stronach.
Diana was also similarly duped by his staff. Charles' bodyguard, who would accompany him during his late-night visits with Camilla, was expected to keep his mouth shut, as per Reader's Digest. Meanwhile, his chef and butler were instructed to cook dinner even when he was out. His valet was expected to mark up the TV listings guide to make it seem like he was home watching TV.
Once, when the prince broke his arm at a polo match, his staff had to listen to police radios to track if Diana was on her way to visit him at the hospital, so they would have enough time to get Camilla out of his room.
In 1995, Stronach breached the confidentiality that got him suspended from his job. He revealed some shocking details in an infamous interview with News of the World, as per StyleCaster. "Prince Charles made love to Camilla Parker Bowles in the bushes of his Highgrove mansion while Princess Diana slept inside," he told the paper. "It was a big risk and a stupid thing to do, but he’s blind to everything where the lady is concerned," he said, adding that it was his job to remove the grass stains from his pants. "There was mud and muck everywhere," he said, according to The Spokesman. "They’d obviously been doing it in the open air."
This is how Charles hid, or at least tried to hide, his affair with Camilla from Diana.