Late journalist and diarist Kenneth Rose's private journals reveal behind-the-scenes moments from the royal family

By Simon Perry
November 06, 2019 02:39 PM

A service to put Princess Diana’s spirit to rest at Sandringham, family members’ opinions on fellow royals, what courtiers really thought of historical royal moments and the personalities behind some of the House of Windsor’s recent past are unveiled in a revealing new book.

The work, by late veteran journalist and diarist Kenneth Rose, has been serialized in the Daily Mail and sheds new light on some of the behind-the-scenes thinking of the royals.

Here are some of the biggest revelations in Who Loses, Who Wins: The Journals of Kenneth Rose, Vol II 1979-2014.

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Putting Princess Diana’s Spirit to Rest

In 2001, four years after the tragic death of Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth gathered the Queen Mother, close family friend Prue Penn and the “local parson” at her country home of Sandringham after some servants complained that a room was haunted and they did not want to work in it.

“The parson walked from room to room and did indeed feel some sort of restlessness in one of them,” Rose wrote.

The service was held in a room that was once used as a bedroom for the Queen’s father George VI before his death in 1952. But the parson suggested the room could have been haunted because of Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

“So the parson held a service there, not exactly of exorcism, which is the driving out of an evil spirit, but of bringing tranquillity,” Rose continued. “The congregation of three took Holy Communion and special prayers were said, I think for the repose of the King’s soul in the room in which he died.

“The parson said that the oppressive or disturbing atmosphere may have been because of Princess Diana: he had known such things before when someone died a violent death.”

Letting Down the Firm

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew
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It’s long been known that Prince Philip has not been a fan of his former daughter-in-law Sarah Ferguson since the demise of her marriage to Prince Andrew. In one diary entry — dated September 14, 1994, when she was separated but not yet divorced from Prince Andrew — Fergie showed Rose a letter from Philip, who thought she “had let down the Firm.”

In the letter, “He wrote that he had been reading a book about Edwina Mountbatten [who was notorious for having had many lovers], and that my conduct reminded him of hers.”

Making the Guest List

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
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At her wedding in 1981, Princess Diana was shown a list of people who her father John Spencer wanted to invite to fill some of the 50 seats allocated to him in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Diana “crossed out all the family who had not bothered to come to the weddings of her sisters! One day she will be very formidable,” according to Rose.

Seeing the Early Signs

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Tim Graham/Getty Images

By the summer of her wedding year, Diana’s boredom became clear to visitors to the Scottish retreat of Balmoral.

“The Prince [Charles] goes out at nine to shoot or fish, and she does not see him again until seven,” wrote Rose. [Duke Hussey who was married to the Queen’s lady-in-waiting] “wonders if he will make a sufficiently good king: he thinks not. The prince is too immature, and the contrast with the firm style of the Queen will be most marked.”

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Dog

Queen Elizabeth
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The Queen has a longtime love of corgis (her last corgi, Whisper, died last year). Her passion for her pets was evident in 1995 when she wrote a rare letter following the death of one of her dogs.

“I stay for the weekend with [interior decorator] David and Pamela Hicks,” Rose wrote. “Pammy says that she sometimes writes to the Queen to tell her things of supposed interest.

” ‘The only time she has ever replied was when I sent my sympathy after one of her dogs had been killed by a Clarence House corgi. She then wrote six pages.’ ”

Keeping Company

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Tim Graham/Getty

Five years after Diana’s death, in 2002, she is still the talk of courtiers. At a lunch with Prince Charles‘ former private secretary John Riddell, he tells of how he tried to “jolt” the prince “out of his self-absorbed life by telling him that he ought to learn how ordinary people live by talking to Diana more: she, after all, lived an unsheltered life with her friends in a London flat. Charles replied: ‘I prefer to talk to [author and philosopher] Laurens van der Post.’ ”

The Queen’s Refusal to Heal Rift with Uncle

According to Rose, the Queen refused to make moves towards healing the royal family’s rift with her uncle after his marriage to Wallis Simpson resulted in his abdication.

“Edward Ford [Extra Equerry to the Queen, and her former assistant private secretary] tells me that he used to suggest to the Queen that she might publicly heal the breach with the Windsors [Edward and Wallis] by inviting them for a day or two of Ascot races, where they would be swallowed up among the other guests. But the Queen said no.”

Holding the Queen’s Attention

Queen Elizabeth
Lichfield/Getty

In March 1997, Prince Charles told Rose of a time when the head of Wimbledon pondered if the Queen would come open a new tennis court.

“I doubt it,” Prince Philip reportedly replied, “unless there are dogs and horses.”

Serving a Memorable (But Perhaps Cold) Dinner

Queen Elizabeth
REX/Shutterstock

Rose wrote that Brigadier Geoffrey Hardy-Roberts, Master of the Royal Household from 1967 to 1973, would worry at the difficulty of keeping food hot when served on gold plate.

“People come here not to eat hot food, but to eat off gold plate,” the Queen told him.

The Queen’s Issue with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

In 1985, Rose wrote: “Jean Trumpington to dine. She relates how when she went to take her leave of the Queen as a Baroness-in-Waiting on being promoted to be Under-Secretary in the Department of Health and Social Security, the Queen said of the PM [Mrs Thatcher]: ‘She stays too long and talks too much. She has lived too long among men.’ “

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