- Princess Diana fired Prince William and Prince Harry's beloved childhood nanny, Barbara "Baba" Barnes, believing Barnes had become "too possessive" with the princes.
- Barnes was reportedly prohibited from saying goodbye to William and Harry or otherwise contacting them.
- That's according to new royal biography Battle of Brothers by Robert Lacey.
In new biography Battle of Brothers, royal historian Robert Lacey recounts a difficult experience from Prince William and Prince Harry's early childhood, as Tatler reports. According to Lacey, Princess Diana fired the princes' beloved nanny, Barbara "Baba" Barnes, believing her to be "too possessive" with the boys. Barnes was forbidden to say goodbye to the princes or otherwise contact them after her departure. "So far as the boys were concerned, she just vanished into thin air," Lacey writes.
When Barnes was hired, the historian writes, she "stepped in firmly to assert control." One Kensington Palace staff member reflected, "Barbara guarded the nursery floor like the Vatican… It was her kingdom." Barnes, nicknamed "Baba" by William and Harry, "became something of a surrogate mother" to them as they spent an increasing amount of time in her care, with the nanny teaching them to "walk, talk and read."
Barnes also "comforted them when they awoke crying in the night," and went on to take the princes "away on their own “family” holiday without parents—to Scotland and the Isles of Scilly—where she set the agenda every day as any mother would." But according to Lacey, "less admiring observers felt that Barnes was getting too possessive with 'her' boys," an opinion Diana "came to share."
The last straw for Diana was a trip Barnes took in 1986 "to attend the birthday party of her former employer, the ever-flamboyant Lord Glenconner, on his Caribbean island of Mustique." There, she was "photographed alongside celebrities such as Raquel Welch and Princess Margaret"—which particularly bothered Diana, who felt Barnes had "got above herself." When the nanny returned, Diana reportedly "brusquely informed her that it would be 'better,' as she put it, if Barnes departed."
And her departure was swift and brutal: Diana instructed "that the nanny’s bags should be packed and all trace of her removed," and forbid her from saying goodbye to William and Harry, or even "send them a postcard." From the princes' perspective, Lacey alleges, Barnes "just vanished into thin air."
To Lacey, the loss of Barnes had a formative effect on William and Harry. "Following the death of Diana in 1997, people remarked on how well the two young princes reacted to the unjust and unexpected removal of a mother figure from their lives—surprised, bewildered and distraught though they were," he writes. The historian's theory: The abrupt departure of their nanny meant the princes had already "had a little practice" with loss.
Princess Diana's Most Iconic Fashion Moments
May 22, 1997
Princess Diana visited The Shaukat Memorial Hospital in Pakistan. She wore a traditional blue ensemble and carried a handbag from Tod's, which is named after her.
January 13, 1997
For a visit to the Luanda airport, Princess Di wore Superga sneakers.
January 1, 1997
Princess Diana spotted in NYC wore a foam green skirt suit and carried a white Chanel bag.
September 12, 1996
Princess Diana stunned in a white Versace mini dress while attending a concert in Italy.
Princess Diana wore a John Galliano slip dress to the Met Gala.
June 29, 1994
Princess Diana arrived at the Serpentine Gallery in London. She opted for an off-the-shoulder dress by Christina Stambolian. (You can shop a similar one here.)
Princess Diana and Prince William attended the christening of her niece in Sandringham in a houndstooth ensemble and Chanel slingbacks.
May 1, 1990
Princess Diana donned a Catherine Walker suit with a Philip Somerville hat to visit Heroes' Square in Budapest.
April 11, 1990
The royal enjoyed a beach holiday in Necker with her sons. She chose an animal print one-piece swimsuit and wore a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Princess Diana attended the performance of Swan Lake in London. She wore a Catherine Walker gown.
Princess Diana and Prince Harry were spotted leaving nursery school. Lady Di wore a pink buttoned dress and accessorized with a Cartier watch.
March 17, 1989
Princess Diana visited Dubai during her official tour of the Gulf States. Lady Di wore Catherine Walker ensemble and a Philip Somerville hat.
March 15, 1989
The princess wore a pink and red color block Catherine Walker dress and a Philip Somerville hat during her official tour of the Gulf States.
November 9, 1988
Princess Diana wore Catherine Walker white ensemble in Chambord, France during her official visit to the country.
June 23, 1988
Princess Diana visited the Royal Hampshire Regiment. She was seen wearing a jumpsuit and a pair of pink Converse sneakers.
July 18, 1986
Princess Diana, seen on the steps of her home in Highgrove, Gloucestershire. She wore gingham trousers, pink sweater, and white boat shoes (shop similar).
November 3, 1985
The royal attended a polo match in Australia. She choose a striped shirt dress and accessorized with a D initial necklace and a Patek Philippe gold watch.
Princess Diana visited Raf Wittering. She opted for a Catherine Walker coat dress.
Princess Diana wore green Barbour coat during a tour of the Western Isles.
June 30, 1985
Princess Diana attended a polo match while wearing a white sailor top, floral skirt, and a Patek Philippe watch.
May 4, 1985
Princess Diana wore a Bruce Oldfield dress during a visit to Venice. (Shop a similar blue strong shoulder dress.)
April 1, 1985
Princess Diana visited Livorno while wearing a Jasper Conran suit ensemble and tie.
The royal wore a beige Caroline Charles coat during a visit to Derby.
July 29, 1983
Princess Diana attended a polo match in West Sussex while wearing seersucker trousers, a white top, and acetate aviator sunglasses (shop similar).
July 24, 1983
Princess Diana attended a polo match in Windsor. She was seen wearing a polka dot dress (shop similar), a coin necklace, and two watches. She was known for wearing two watches during matches to bring Prince Charles luck.
Princess Diana opted for a Muir & Osborne black sheep sweater for a polo match.
During an official tour to Australia, Princess Diana wore a pink polka dot dress by Donald Campbell (shop similar) and a matching hat by John Boyd.
Princess Diana wore a green spotted dress and a Patek Philippe watch for a visit to Auckland, New Zealand.
May 6, 1981
The royal couple were photographed together at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. Lady Di wore a colorful alpaca sweater, corduroy trousers, and Hunter rain boots.
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Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.
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