Princess Diana, who met James Hewitt in 1986, had an affair with him until 1991.
It is widely known that Princess Diana and Prince Charles' marriage wasn't a happy one, and the couple reportedly had affairs with other people while being married to each other. While Diana's relationships with Dr. Hasnat Khan and Dodi Al-Fayed, both of whom she dated after her divorce, are well known, there were others she dated while being married. One of them was James Hewitt, whom she first met in 1986.
She met him at a party thrown by her lady-in-waiting, Hazel West, as per Town & Country. Hewitt and Diana were reportedly together from 1986 to 1991, he told author Anna Pasternak, who wrote about it in her book Princess in Love. "For five years he was as available and attentive as a medieval troubadour," Tina Brown wrote in The Diana Chronicles, as per Oprah.com.
Who was he?
Hewitt, born in 1958, was a military man. His father was in the British Navy, and he studied at Millfield School. At the age of 20, he joined the Brigade of Guards, a unit of the British Army. He fought in the Gulf War, where he commanded 14 Challenger tanks as part of Operation Desert Storm. But, to Diana, he was first a riding instructor and then, her lover.
"Their first conversation felt natural, she said, and it was this that sparked her attraction. As she put it, they got along famously," Princess Diana's royal protection officer, Ken Wharfe, wrote in his book Diana: Closely Guarded Secret, according to Town & Country. "He told her he was a riding instructor and, when she confessed she was afraid of horses, offered to help her overcome her fear," he wrote.
Soon after he became her riding instructor, they started their affair. By this time, Charles was already dating Camilla Parker-Bowles. "Hewitt, a natural womanizer, gave her the attention and affection she relished, and then the passion she yearned for," wrote Wharfe. "The pair usually met at an old cottage in Devon belonging to Shirley, Hewitt’s mother, where the creaking bedroom floorboards told the story more loudly than any confession," he added.
However, Hewitt depicted their relationship as domestic bliss. "I’d cook and [Diana] would wash up,” he said on the Australian television program, Sunday Night in 2017. "Just dinner and relaxing and laughing," he added.
In his 1999 book, Love and War, he said that they did something they shouldn't have. "Only one thing went wrong," he wrote, according to Harper's Bazaar. "We fell in love."
Brown wrote in her book that the Princess of Wales took charge of the relationship. "She made the first overture by reaching to kiss him when they were alone in the Officers' Mess, telling him, 'I need you. You give me strength. I can't stand it when I'm not with you," Brown writes. "From beginning to end, it was Diana who ran this affair."
Author Pasternak wrote in Daily Mail that Hewitt would be transported to Kensington Palace hidden in the car boot. "Charles knew of and welcomed their affair as it distracted Diana, taking pressure off him and Camilla," she wrote, adding that Camilla's husband was aware of her affair with Prince Charles and "condoned" it.
Eventually, the Princess of Wales felt betrayed when Hewitt refused to give up his career for her. Towards the end of the 1980s, he had to go abroad for work, so she "did everything she could to prevent him from going, even threatening to speak to his commanding officer," Wharfe writes. "When James refused to give up his career, Diana let the affair wane," he added. Eventually, the relationship ended even though she stayed in touch with him while he was stationed in Saudi Arabia.
In 1995, the princess herself acknowledged the relationship in the famous tell-all interview with BBC's Panorama. "Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down," she said. Since then, he has tried to sell their private letters unsuccessfully.