Buckingham Palace began a full-scale investigation Monday into the most brazen breach yet of royal confidentiality: a tabloid interview given by one of Prince Charles’ personal valets detailing, among other things, Charles’ trysts with Camilla Parker Bowles.
The valet, Ken Stronach, has been suspended from his job, in which he is responsible for the prince’s wardrobe and travel schedule. No one here doubted Monday that ultimately he would be fired, kicked out of his government-provided lodgings and deprived of his government-provided car.
His on-the-record interview with the News of the World, published even as he was accompanying the prince on a holiday, breached a confidentiality agreement signed by royal family employees.
It also set something of a new standard for betrayal: Most, if not all, of the other Charles and Di snitches have been “friends” or former palace employees. No one as highly trusted as a personal valet has talked - at least not on the record.
In the interview, Stronach revealed purported details of the prince’s sex life, his sleeping habits (he takes a teddy bear to bed with him) and the security system used to protect him. The paper also published snapshots of objects on Charles’s night table, including a photograph of Parker Bowles, the prince’s longtime love, who last week announced with her husband, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, that they will divorce.
Charles, in his authorized biography published last year, acknowledged a long-term relationship with Parker Bowles. (Another tabloid, the Sun, Monday published what lawyers for the family described as purloined family photographs, including a revealing 1975 picture of Parker Bowles in a bikini.)
Stronach told the News of the World he had decided to talk because he felt “strained” from the effort of keeping Charles’s secrets for 15 years. He said he was especially “let down” after the prince himself said on television last year that he had been unfaithful to his wife, Princess Diana.
Unconfirmed television reports here said the paper paid Stronach a substantial sum for the interview. No one from the paper was available Monday to respond. The phone operator at the News of the World said the tabloid was closed on Mondays.
According to Stronach’s account,
as reported by the paper, “Prince Charles made love to Camilla Parker Bowles in the bushes of his Highgrove mansion while Princess Diana slept inside.”
“It was a big risk and a stupid thing to do,” the paper quoted Stronach as saying, “but he’s blind to everything where the lady is concerned.”
Stronach claimed that one of his duties was to scrub grass stains from Charles’s pajamas after he had sneaked outside for meetings with Parker Bowles. “There was mud and muck everywhere,” Stronach told the paper. “They’d obviously been doing it in the open air.”
Stronach said he personally covered for Charles when the prince occasionally spent the night elsewhere with Parker Bowles, rumpling up the prince’s bed so it looked as if he had slept there, and circling television listings in a newspaper so it would appear he had been watching the tube. “It was very elaborate but it didn’t fool anyone for a minute,” Stronach told the paper.
Stronach also described royal temper tantrums, saying that once during what the paper called a “screaming match” with Diana, Charles hurled a bootjack. On another occasion, Stronach claimed, the prince grew so agitated he pulled a sink out of the wall.
Asked why he was now shooting off his mouth, Stronach made no mention of money. “All through my time with (Charles) we’ve all been told not to speak to anyone about anything. … We’ve all kept his secrets and the strain made me very ill. Then he does a TV show and book telling the world what we spent years hiding (a reference to the recent authorized biography of Charles by Jonathan Dimbleby). Everything he told us to do was a lie. I feel let down.”
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