Charles, Tiggy and the rumour about their affair that won't go away
Finding herself suddenly thrust back into the centre of a royal crisis which she thought she had left far behind came as a shock to B & B proprietress Mrs Alexandra Pettifer, as she went about her life in South Wales yesterday with husband Charles and their four children.
Alexandra who? Actually, she's usually known by her nickname, Tiggy, and her maiden name was Legge-Bourke - the girl who was the nanny to Princes William and Harry after the break-up of the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Tiggy, who runs a bed and breakfast at a converted farmhouse in Crickhowell, was dragged back into her royal past as the inquest into Diana's death ten years ago got under way in the High Court. Scroll down for more...
Royal Ties: Tiggy was nanny to Harry and William but how close was she to Charles?
The coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker set the scene for the jury by revealing an amazing list of Diana's beliefs, suspicions and fears.
The judge disclosed that Diana confided to her lawyer Lord Mishcon (who died last year aged 90) that she believed the Queen planned to abdicate to make way for Charles.
She also thought there was a conspiracy for both her and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles to be 'put aside' to make way for the Prince of Wales to marry . . . Tiggy.
What led Diana to believe these things is one question.
Could they have been true is another.
They first emerged during the warring period between the 1992 royal separation and 1996 divorce.
Inside Diana's tortured mind practically everyone was plotting against her - and in the case of some of Charles's circle, that was certainly true.
She had been making a show of being strong and independent, but the truth was she felt vulnerable, persecuted and alone.
In this wounded frame of mind, she sat with the wily old lawyer Victor Mishcon and unburdened herself. Scroll down for more...
Royal substitute: Tiggy was from a good background and many saw her as an alternative to Diana
After her death, when Mishcon disclosed his information to the authorities, he admitted he could 'not believe what he was hearing'.
So is it remotely possible that at some stage during the crisis, when Diana was going her own way and Mrs Parker Bowles was still in the shadows, the Prince really did consider making Tiggy his wife?
The evidence - such as it is - is scant.
There were, however, rumours at the time that he and Tiggy were lovers.
Significantly, these were at their strongest when he was under pressure from the Queen and Prince Philip to drop Camilla, whom they saw as a potential threat to the stability of the throne.
On this basis, at any rate, there were many within the royal circle who saw the well-connected Tiggy, whose father was a banker, as 'a good thing', certainly a suitable substitute for Diana, when the time came.
After all, she was personable, she was single, and her family had strong links with the royals - her mother Shan is a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne and her younger brother Harry, an ex-Army officer, a page-of-honour to the Queen.
And, crucially, the two Princes - especially the younger Harry - had grown extremely close to her as she performed the duties of a 'surrogate mother' when they were with their father.
The 'lovers' theory received some support because on several occasions when she worked for him, the Prince hugged Tiggy and kissed her.
Fairly chaste kisses on the cheek they may have been, but they set tongues wagging.
He was first spotted doing so on the Swiss ski slopes at Klosters early in 1995.
He kissed her publicly again the following June on sports day at Ludgrove school, Berkshire, where the young Princes were both pupils before going to Eton. Scroll down for more...
Tiggy and husband Pettifer
Prince Charles's spokesmen explained away these unexpected scenes between the heir to the throne and a member of his staff as being a natural demonstration of affection by an older man towards a woman he had known since she was a child.
Tersely, Diana noted that Prince Charles had never been known to offer even the most cursory public show of affection to white-haired nanny Olga Powell, even though she had been with them since William was born.
As Tiggy was promoted to the senior title of the Prince's personal assistant (even though she still looked after the boys) she became increasingly aware of malicious rumours.
According to one friend, she bravely 'shrugged them off as the price I must pay for working for the Prince of Wales'.
Meanwhile, with cruel timing, as Diana watched, the girl who romped and played with her sons was physically changing shape.
The slightly chubby girl, who had originally joined the staff on trial as assistant to the Prince's private secretary Commander Richard Aylard, was suddenly losing weight.
Before Diana's highly suspicious gaze she was becoming slim, svelte and very attractive.
What the Princess didn't know until she read about it in Hello! magazine was that
Tiggy's loss of two stone was due to a food intolerance - coeliac disease - which had stopped her eating wheat and bread products and put her on a diet.
Diana didn't believe the article. She suspected it had been planted by someone in Charles's circle. To her it was obvious: Tiggy had slimmed because she was in love, and if she was in love, it could only be with Prince Charles.
What one has to understand is that, in her terrible isolation, a beleaguered and paranoid Diana was not always thinking totally rationally during this period.
Too often, she was seeing life through distorting mirrors.
She believed - and, significantly, the Prince of Wales's circle encouraged her perception - that the rumours were true.
Then came an astonishing incident at the traditional Christmas party in 1995 at London's Lanesborough hotel given by Charles and Diana for 100 staff.
The drink was flowing and the Christmas spirit very jolly when Diana could be seen purposefully making her way towards Tiggy.
When she was close enough to be heard above the babble, she said to the nanny: 'So sorry to hear about the baby.'
As Diana walked away, Tiggy burst into tears.
What baby? There had been no baby.
But there had been rumours - entirely baseless - that Tiggy had slipped away to have an abortion the previous August.
For Diana to do such a terrible thing is a clear indication of her deeply distressed state of mind.
Only then did Tiggy act with a letter from her lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck to Diana's lawyer Mishcon de Reya. It asked for an apology. One was never given.
But Tiggy's lawyers did circulate a warning letter to the media about the 'malicious lies' that were circulating about her.
Tiggy carried on working for the Prince until 1999 when, aged 34, she married Pettifer, a former Army officer who was a businessman in the world of security.
They had known each other since childhood and he had two children from a previous marriage.
William and Harry were at the wedding in Wales and Harry is godfather to their sixyearold first son Fred. They also have a son Tom, who is five.
Yesterday, as she drove away from home in a four-wheel drive, it was understandable that she did not wish to talk about the episode or about finding herself so unexpectedly back in the headlines.
And what about Diana's extraordinary claim that the Queen was going to abdicate in favour of Charles?
Among senior courtiers of the time, there is an acceptance that in the febrile war between the two camps of Charles and Diana - in which both sides were pumping out propaganda - the Princess was deliberately being fed false information to destabilise her.
One such story was that the Queen was suffering from Alzheimer's - patently not true, but it is possible that Diana believed it.
No one seriously imagined the Queen would abdicate during this period for three reasons.
One was that she is known to be totally opposed to abdication because of the damage her uncle David's abdication did to the throne in 1936.
The second was that she could hardly become the 'Queen Mother' while her own mother was still alive.
And the third, and probably most obvious, was that she had to stand firm, rather than stand down, when her son and heir was in a domestic crisis and highly unpopular in the country, so that she could repair the damage to the monarchy.
Diana was fed the erroneous information to see what she would do with it - in particular, whether she would take it to the media.
In fact, her loyalty to the throne being as firm as she always said it was, the only person she told, and in confidence, was Lord Mishcon.
"It may seem bizarre now but in the poisonous climate we were living in, such dirty tricks were par for the course," says one senior member of Diana's staff.
"There was a campaign to make her isolated and unpredictable, and therefore untrustworthy, and it damned near worked."
But these were not the only dark forces putting pressure on the troubled Diana and clouding her judgment.
Other toxic whisperers were at work deliberately stoking up her suspicions against Prince Charles, especially in relation to Tiggy, who, the voices said, had transplanted Camilla in the Prince's affections.
They also fed her the possibility that, since she no longer had police protection and often drove alone, Charles might solve his problems by having her killed - hence her letter claiming that the Prince would arrange for her to meet her death in her car.
These whisperers have never been identified.
But one person who coincidentally benefited is the television journalist Martin Bashir.
For, at around this time, he was trying to persuade Diana to give him an interview on BBC television's Panorama. When, after several months, the deeply emotional and distressed Princess finally agreed, it gave Bashir one of the biggest television scoops of all time.
It's all history now - or it should be.
But as a start was made disentangling the clash of beliefs in Court 73 over Diana's death, you can understand why, despite the royal glamour, Tiggy didn't want to be drawn back into it.
She has her loving husband, her sons, her horses, dogs and pet chickens, as well as the guests who become 'part of the family' in what, on the guesthouse website, she calls 'The Tiggy Experience'. It's a long way from Clarence House. But as one of her oldest friends says: 'She wouldn't swop it for anything.'
Charles, Tiggy and the rumour about their affair that won't go away | the Daily Mail=