Princess Diana Called Her Bodyguard the Greatest Love She Ever Had

Princess Diana Called Her Bodyguard the Greatest Love She Ever Had

Princess Diana Called Her Bodyguard the Greatest Love She Ever Had Photo

After their official separation in 1992, Prince Charles and Princess Diana both admitted to having extramarital relationships in interviews. In season 4 of The Crown, Charles and Dianas marital straying becomes an open secret within the royal family. When speaking to Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) lists Dianas alleged affairs—including one with her bodyguard.

Though The Crown only devotes a throwaway sentence to Dianas relationship with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee, it was a much bigger deal in her life. Unlike Dianas well-documented affair with Major James Hewitt, though, questions remain about the nature of her bond with Mannakee.

This much is for sure: The duo was definitely close. In private tapes recorded with Dianas voice coach, Peter Settelen, and released after her death, Diana described her relationship with an unnamed bodyguard, whom she called the "greatest love" she ever had. Diana said she was "deeply in love" with this man, and would have been "quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him. And he kept saying he thought it was a good idea too."

Though Diana never mentions Mannakee by name in the tapes, the biographical details align: She said she met him at 24, the age she was when Mannakee was assigned to be her bodyguard, and that he died in a motorbike accident, just as Mannakee did in 1987. This is what to know about the great love that The Crown never shows.

It was 1985, and Princess Di needed a new bodyguard, as her Chief Inspector Graham Smith was leaving his post. In The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown describes the qualities considered during the search: "What kind of man do you cast to guard a beautiful and unhappy young princess? Someone very strong, very sane, and very married. Someone who could steer her out of trouble."

Enter: Sergeant Barry Mannakee, former police dog handler who had been working at the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group since 1983. In April 1985, 37-year-old Mannakee was assigned to watch over Diana. According to The Diana Chronicles, Mannakee came into Dianas life at a time when she was feeling vulnerable. The mother-of-two was "still trying to live within the chafing confines of her marriage but increasingly unwilling to give up on her need for love," Brown wrote.

Like Diana, Mannakee was married to a reflexologist named Susan, and had two children, both teenage girls. Brown described Mannakee as a "cocky East Ender with kind eyes," and later as "dark and handsome in a blokey way, with a nice helping of spontaneous warmth." Biographer Sally Bedell Smith wrote in Diana in Search of Herself that Mannakee "had a jocular personality" and "put Diana instantly at ease."

Diana and Mannakee knew each other prior to his assignation as her PPO. However, their relationship deepened during a fishing expedition in Balmoral in 1985, the Scottish retreat where the royal family summers annually. Brown recalled the incident in her book.

"As she glumly watched her husband at his favorite occupation, a salmon hook from a careless cast became embedded in her eyelid. Personal protection was radioed to take Diana back to the house to receive medical attention. It was Mannakee who drove the car, Mannakee, not her husband, who consoled her," Brown wrote.

According to Brown, Mannakee continued to support Diana emotionally, including ahead of speaking events. "She kept saying she couldnt go ahead with it, and just collapsed in my arms. I hugged her and stopped her crying. What would you have done?" Mannakee recalled to housekeeper Wendy Berry, per Browns book.

In the tapes released after her death, Diana described her attachment to her security officer: "I was only happy when he was around...I was like a little girl in front of him the whole time," she said.

Much ado has been made over the nature of Diana and Mannakees bond. Clearly, they were close—but did their connection ever deepen into a full-blown affair?

Diana never confirmed that her relationship with Mannakee became physical in the interview—and Ken Wharfe, Mannakees successor as Dianas bodyguard, said thats because it never did. "Diana did not have a sexual relationship with Mannakee. I think Mannakee was a shoulder to cry on and I think that all of us, both male and female, working with the princess were all potential shoulders to cry on. That was her style," Wharfe said in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words.

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