RICHARD KAY: Of all those smeared by the BBC’s Princess Diana scandal, none has been so wounded as Tiggy Legge-Bourke
All she ever wanted was a contented life as an ordinary loving wife and mother. But Tiggy Legge-Bourke has never been able to escape the consequences of her time as nanny to Prince William and Prince Harry.
Instead of the happiest of memories, her years with the Royal Family are now tainted with a dark legacy. Outrageous and false claims that she’d had an affair with Prince Charles — and an abortion — were said to have helped convince Princess Diana to give her Panorama interview to Martin Bashir.
Yesterday, these allegations took an even more grotesque twist with the claim that Bashir showed the princess a faked ‘receipt’ for the termination of Tiggy’s pregnancy.
Outrageous and false claims that she’d had an affair with Prince Charles — and an abortion — were said to have helped convince Princess Diana to give her Panorama interview to Martin Bashir
As the Mail reported, the shocking claim has been submitted in evidence to Lord Dyson, the distinguished former Supreme Court judge who is heading an inquiry into the methods used by Bashir to get his exclusive interview — and how the BBC is said to have covered them up.
Of all the figures drawn into the vortex of the Panorama story, none, surely, was less deserving than Tiggy, who is now married with two sons and two stepsons.
As a young woman hired by Prince Charles to look after William and Harry, her job should have been innocently straightforward. During term time breaks with their father and in the school holidays, Tiggy was recruited to help entertain them.
She was with them on the ski slopes in the swish Swiss resort of Klosters, on yachts during summer cruises and was once photographed at the wheel of a Land Rover as a gun-toting Harry took pot-shots at rabbits out of the passenger window.
But to Princess Diana there was nothing innocent or straightforward about Tiggy’s employment.
Diana was suspicious of the larger-than-life former nursery school teacher who seemed so indispensable to her estranged husband and who had fast become a surrogate mother to William and Harry.
All she ever wanted was a contented life as an ordinary loving wife and mother. But Tiggy Legge-Bourke has never been able to escape the consequences of her time as nanny to Prince William and Prince Harry
The younger woman had formed a close and affectionate relationship with the boys, and Diana, destabilised by her presence, was jealous.
As the months passed, Tiggy found herself dragged ever more into the royal marriage crisis.
All the same, it took a dramatic leap to change the nanny’s position from blameless bystander to that of an alleged active participant.
As the Mail revealed last year, it coincided with the arrival of Martin Bashir, who had been introduced to the princess by her brother, Earl Spencer, in September 1995 — two months before the interview in which she famously claimed ‘there were three of us in this marriage’.
At their meeting, Bashir produced an extraordinary dossier of smears about Prince Charles and other royals calculated to feed Diana’s paranoias. They included the jaw-dropping claim that the prince was ‘in love’ with Tiggy and that the two were planning a holiday together.
Preposterous as they sounded, Diana believed them. Indeed, the princess became so obsessed with the idea that Miss Legge-Bourke was pregnant by Charles — and had lost the baby — that she confronted her about it at a Christmas party for palace staff.
Tiggy threatened legal action and Sir Robert (now Lord) Fellowes, the Queen’s private secretary and Diana’s brother-in-law, launched an investigation. His inquiries proved the princess’s claims were groundless.
According to sources, Lord Dyson has been made aware that Princess Diana was convinced about the abortion after Bashir showed her paperwork purporting to be a receipt for the termination.
Not long after meeting the BBC man, the princess had a conversation with her lawyer, Lord Mishcon, in which she told him about the abortion and that she ‘would soon be in receipt of ‘a certificate’ ‘.
Lord Mishcon’s note on this conversation was read out during the inquest in London into Diana’s death.
Since details emerged in November last year, royal aides, servants and friends of the princess all found themselves tarnished by Bashir’s sensational dossier.
But none have been as maligned as Tiggy, who was just 26 when she started working for the Prince of Wales in 1993, on the recommendation of Prince William’s godmother Lady Susan Hussey, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.
Tiggy, who was paid a salary of £18,000 a year, had impeccable connections. Both her mother and aunt were ladies-in-waiting to Princess Anne; her brother had been a page of honour to the Queen; and another ancestor had been Lord Chamberlain to King George V.
Charles himself used to shoot on the Legge-Bourkes’ Glanusk estate in South Wales and he knew the family well.
Tiggy’s job, however, would require both diplomacy and discretion, and it wasn’t long before there were clashes with Diana. As endless photographs emerged of Tiggy playing Pooh-sticks with the boys and other rough and tumble activities, Diana wondered about hiring a male nanny as a surrogate father for when the two boys were with her.
Outdoorsy and a lover of country pursuits, especially shooting and fishing, Tiggy was remembered at Heathfield, the girls’ boarding school at Ascot, for being ‘reliable, capable and very responsible — although not in the least bit academic’.
In many ways, Tiggy was just what William and Harry needed — part servant, part big sister, part mother.
But her closeness to the boys stirred maternal jealousies in Diana, especially when she learned that Tiggy liked to refer to the boys as ‘my babies’.
She believed the nanny had too much influence — not only over the boys but also over Charles.
It certainly didn’t help matters when, unwisely, Tiggy said of her royal charges: ‘I give them what they need: fresh air, a rifle and a horse. She (Diana) gives them a tennis racket and a bucket of popcorn at the movies.’
But after Martin Bashir came into the princess’s life, Diana allowed herself to become convinced that Tiggy and Charles were having an affair. Even though she once told me Charles would ‘never sleep with a servant’, she became convinced it was true.
Many believe it was Bashir who fed this frenzied belief.
‘It was ludicrous, but at the time Diana was beleaguered and felt isolated,’ says a friend.
‘Also, it coincided with Charles being encouraged by some courtiers to drop Camilla, and it’s easy to see how the idea of the personable Tiggy, who was single and well-connected, becoming close to the prince could take a grip in the princess’s mind.’
Unfairly maligned: Tiggy with Charles at Balmoral in August 1995
The two had been seen kissing — chaste kisses, just pecks on the cheek — but they set gossips talking. While his staff dismissed them as the natural, affectionate actions of an older man for a younger woman he had known since she was a child, Princess Diana was unconvinced.
Cuttingly, Diana noted that Charles had never been known to offer even the most cursory public show of affection to white-haired nanny Olga Powell, stalwart of the Kensington Palace nursery since William’s birth.
The die that was to lead to the Christmas party confrontation was cast. The seven words Diana uttered to Tiggy — ‘So sorry to hear about the baby’ — triggered uproar. Tiggy fled the party in tears, and days later instructed libel lawyers who wrote to the princess demanding she withdraw the remarks and apologise.
That apology never came and details of the princess’s obsession only emerged at the inquest into her death, which also heard suggestions that Diana believed Charles wanted her dead to clear the way to marry Tiggy.
A more timorous figure might never have recovered from such a confrontation, but Tiggy was made of stronger stuff. So strong, in fact, that sometime later the two women managed to conduct a civilised telephone conversation.
In fact, Tiggy came into her own in those dark days after Diana was killed in Paris, providing comfort and consolation for the princes, and especially for Harry, who was consumed with grief.
‘The truth is she never wanted to replace their mother, but rather to protect them from the effects of their parents’ feuding,’ says a friend. And she did that rather well — earning William and Harry’s love, as well as the Royal Family’s gratitude.
She continued working for the royals until 1999, when, aged 34, she married Charlie Pettifer, a former officer in the Coldstream Guards. He now works in the world of private security, guarding merchant ships from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
William and Harry were at their wedding in Wales.
The couple converted their home in the Brecon Beacons into an upmarket £110-a-night bed and breakfast. Guests describe Tiggy as a ‘sensational hostess’, full of ‘generosity and kindness.’
In the nearby River Usk, which brims with brown trout and is where she taught the princes how to cast a fly, Tiggy gives lessons to guests — ‘the best fun you can have with your clothes on’, she jokingly once said of fishing.
But for last year’s 25th anniversary of the Panorama interview, and revelations that Bashir had used forged bank statements to first get to Earl Spencer and then to his sister, the monstrous claims about Tiggy might have remained a relatively forgotten chapter in the Charles and Diana marriage saga.
Instead, Tiggy has found herself at the centre of allegations over vile slurs used to lure a vulnerable Diana into giving an interview she went to her grave largely regretting.
Unable to defend herself publicly, Tiggy has resorted to a characteristic stiff upper lip, safe in the knowledge that she retains the lasting affection of the royals, and particularly of William and Harry, who invited her to be godmother to his son Archie.
How tragic that as she readies Ty’r Chanter (it means House Of The Singer) for when lockdown finally ends and she can welcome guests, Tiggy once again finds herself in the long shadow of Diana.
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