The Support Team
Solitude was rare for royals. Ladies-in-waiting were in constant attendance. Diana had detectives and bodyguards to protect her. She found this irksome at times, yet made many friends this way.
One of the hardest lessons Diana had to swallow when she became a member of the Royal Family was that she would be constantly watched, constantly accompanied and very rarely left alone. Given the threats and dangers facing public celebrities and royals most of all, it could not be any other way. Royals were a target. Royals had to be protected. This was an occupational hazard of the royal job.
Princess Diana with her Lady-in-Waiting Anne Beckwith Smith
The loss of her freedom often irked Diana, which is why she was said to break the rules from time to time, to go driving or shopping on her own. By rights, she should have had a detective with her in her car, with a back up vehicle following. By rights too, a bodyguard should always have gone to the shops with her, to check them for security and keep guard the whole time she was there. Strictly speaking, Diana was not officially allowed to keep possession of her own car keys.
Diana found things much easier when it came to her ladies-in-waiting. This was a royal tradition she understood well. Her own family, the Spencers, had provided royal aids, including ladies-in-waiting for many years. Ladies-in-waiting were well born ladies, well placed in society, capable, good organizers, pleasant and tactful; the sort of women Diana could trust to look after her, not only in public but also as secretaries and companions in private.
Diana’s first batch of ladies-in-waiting were appointed some three months after her marriage, in October 1981. Her ladies-in-waiting fitted well. They were pleasant looking, attractive, but not too attractive and certainly not glamorous. They dressed well, but not too well. They could fade into the background, yet remain alert for signs of trouble. Ladies-in-waiting were not supposed to rival the royal star of the show, but they should not be frumps or awkward.
Diana’s ladies-in-waiting passed on all these counts. Some concerns was voiced that they were so much older than the youthful Princess but this was, in fact, a bonus. A lady-in-waiting had to be mature, self possessed and cool headed, none of which were normally attributes of youth. Ladies-in-waiting acted as backdrops for their royals, standing by, preferably unnoticed, until they were needed. Ladies-in-waiting were the ones who had to carry the excess bouquets. Their voluminous handbag contained an emergency swing kit and cosmetics for royals to touch up their faces during pauses in a public engagement. Spare tights were also stashed in its depths, together with headache pills, tissues and a copy of the royal speech typed in extra large print.
Because royals did not carry money, the handbag could also contain cash and a card for spontaneous purchases. On occasion, ladies-in-waiting stepped forward nearer the limelight when their royal forgot a name or became stuck for something to say. Diana tended to be shy and before she became as self assured as years of experience later made her, one or other of her ladies had to be ready to step in and smooth the conversation through. It was more likely, though, that they would have to curb Diana’s enthusiasm and gently move her on if she stayed too long to talk or to shake hands.
Lady-in-Waiting Alexandra Loyd was Princess Diana's school friend
At the start of her job in 1981, Diana was so friendly that this happened fairly often. Later, she was better at pacing a walkabout or a handshaking session with a line of people waiting to be presented to her. Considering the many hours and experiences they shared, it was inevitably that Diana and her ladies should become friends. This applied especially to Anne Beckwith Smith, who stayed with the Princess for nearly nine years and was eventually promoted to act as her Assistant Private Secretary. Diana found Anne a loyal confident, another virtue in a good lady-in-waiting. The two became such close friends that Diana would often be seen driving to Anne’s flat in Knightsbridge, close to Kensington Palace, for a chat and a snack, usually scrambled eggs. Diana became so fond of Anne that at the end of the Australian tour of 1983, the first overseas tour for both of them, she was seen giving her lady-in-waiting a spontaneous hug. Anne also received a splendid present for her efforts in Australia, a large diamond clip decorated with a ‘D’ and a set of diamond earrings to match.
Diana’s detectives and bodyguards, being professionals from the Metropolitan Police Force, did not have the prior connections with her that her ladies-in-waiting enjoyed. Diana and her ladies came from similar social backgrounds, but detectives and bodyguards had to be tough guys always prepared for trouble. Trained by the SAS, they carried arms and were always prepared to use them.
By the very nature of their jobs, bodyguards had a licence to manhandle royals for the sake of their safety. Once in 1985, Diana was visiting the later notorious Broadwater Farm Estate in north London, when Inspector Alan Peters sensed trouble, grabbed her by the arm and told her ‘Come on, we’re getting out of here!’
There was a natural tendency for bodyguards to be over protected. Diana, who reportedly disliked the restrictions inherent in having them around, was said to feel nervous when attended by another of her bodyguards, Detective Inspector David Robinson. He later left Diana’s service and became a bodyguard to other royals. Another risk was too much closeness. A man and a woman who spent time together in potentially dangerous situations, an assumption all bodyguards had to make, could theoretically form a relationship not in keeping with their positions in life. This is what was supposed to have happened with another of Diana’s protectors, Sergeant Barry Mannakee. There was talk that Mannakee became ‘over familiar’ with the Princess and was transferred away as a result.
Despite of her own reservations about being forever shadowed and watched for her own good, Diana seemed to appreciate the devotion of her detectives and the difficulties and long hours their work involved for them. She had an unusual insight into their work, gleaned from her own and Prince Charles’ training by the SAS in anti-terrorist techniques and unarmed combat. Diana also learned how to drive herself out of trouble.
Reference: Diana: An Extraordinary Life, a tribute magazine in 26 issues. Published in 1997.