Princess Diana Banned Prince William and Prince Harry's Nanny From Ever Contacting Them Again

Princess Diana fired Prince William and Prince Harry's childhood nanny, Barbara "Baba" Barnes, believing she had become "too possessive" with the princes.

  • 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."

prince william leaves the lindo wing of st marys hospital holding the hand of his nanny barbara barnes after visiting his mother diana, princess of wales, after the birth of his brother, prince harry, in paddington, london, england, 16th september 1984 harry had been born the previous day photo by k butlerdaily expresshulton archivegetty images

Barbara Barnes and Prince William after the birth of Prince Harry in 1984.

(Image credit: Express)

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.

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Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

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.