When she became a mother, Princess Diana broke an age-old protocol: she decided to take care of as much as possible the education of her children, William and Harry, personally. Her attempt – valid – did not prevent her from being forced to have nannies who practically became the princes’ second mothers, contributing to a sensitive (and insecure) princess feeling jealous more than once.
In Spencer, nanny Barbara Barnes appears (like everyone else), with no voice but as a background figure. According to writer Robert Lacey, who cited the fact in the book Battle of Brothers, Barbara became the stepmother to the princes but was abruptly removed in 1986 after she vacationed on Princess Margaret‘s island and Diana considered it inappropriate.
But the nanny who most influenced Diana’s life was Alexandra Pettifer, better known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Tiggy, was hired at age 26 as a personal assistant to Prince Charles in the late 1980s and moved into the position of nanny to the two princes in 1993.
Tiggy was connected to the Royal Family. Her mother and aunt were ladies-in-waiting to Princess Anne, another sore spot for Diana. The pictures of the nanny playing with the boys irritated the princess, who even considered hiring a male nanny who could be seen as a surrogate father when the princes were away from Charles.
But it was the fact was that Tiggy was really affectionate and present, which contributed to the boys becoming attached to her, especially in times when their parents were often fighting, creating a tense atmosphere at home. Because of her familiarity with Charles, Tiggy ended up becoming a target of Diana’s distrust and unwittingly, came to occupy an even more significant position of the princess’s jealousy than Camilla Parker Bowles. That’s because, at one point, Diana believed that Charles was cheating on both Diana and Camilla with Tiggy.
“All she ever wanted was a happy life as an ordinary loving wife and mother. But Tiggy Legge-Bourke was never able to escape the consequences of her time as a nanny to Prince William and Prince Harry,” wrote Richard Kay, Diana’s friend and editor of the Daily Mail. “Instead of the happiest memories, her years with the royal family are now tainted with a dark legacy. Outrageous and false claims that she had an affair with Prince Charles – and an abortion – would have helped convince Princess Diana to give her Panorama interview to Martin Bashir,” he commented.
And that’s the worst nightmare about the infamous interview. By 1995, Diana had been officially separated from her husband for 3 years, and when the children were with their father they were perforce with Tiggy, who was recruited to help entertain them, either on ski trips or on yachts during summer cruises.
With Diana’s jealousy being one of the most well-known factors at that time, journalist Martin Bashir took advantage of it and manipulated the situation for his sole benefit. To convince her she was right, the BBC reporter showed the princess a fake ‘receipt’ for the termination of Tiggy’s pregnancy. With this final straw, Diana decided to do the interview to reveal in her words who the “real Charles” is. And, to further humiliate a woman who she thought was her ex-husband’s lover, Diana cruelly confronted her in public too, at a Christmas party at the Palace.
‘I’m sorry about the baby,’ she said, prompting Tiggy to flee the party in tears and threaten Diana with a libel suit and demand an apology (which never came). At this point, the princess believed that Charles wanted her dead so he could marry Tiggy. The clarification of how the information was sold to Diana was only confirmed in 2021. In 1997, when they were hit by the news of the tragic death of their mother, the boys were accompanied by Tiggy, in Scotland. She helped them through the most difficult times of their lives.
In 1999, Tiggy married her teenage boyfriend Charles Pettifer, with whom she had two children, and left her job with the Firm. William and Harry were at the wedding and are godparents to her children. The former nanny was among the intimate guests at Harry’s graduation from the Military Academy, as well as being one of the first people Harry introduced Meghan Markle to, so Tiggy was also at the wedding and is believed to be one of Archie’s godmothers.
Having her name “cleaned” finally, nearly 30 years later, is justice for Tiggy. Too bad there was no time to reconcile with Diana…