- In season 4 of The Crown, Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) alleges that Princess Diana had an affair with her bodyguard.
- Diana said her bodyguard was the "greatest love" she ever had, and was devastated when he died in 1987.
- Here's what we know, and what we don't, about Princess Diana and Barry Mannakee's relationship.
After their official separation in 1992, Prince Charles and Princess Diana both admitted to having extramarital relationships in interviews. In season 4 of The Crown, Charles and Diana's marital straying becomes an open secret within the royal family. When speaking to Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) lists Diana's alleged affairs—including one with her bodyguard.
Though The Crown only devotes a throwaway sentence to Diana's relationship with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee, it was a much bigger deal in her life. Unlike Diana's well-documented affair with Major James Hewitt, though, questions remain about the nature of her bond with Mannakee.
This much is for sure: The duo was definitely close. In private tapes recorded with Diana's voice coach, Peter Settelen, and released after her death, Diana described her relationship with an unnamed bodyguard, whom she called the "greatest love" she ever had. Diana said she was "deeply in love" with this man, and would have been "quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him. And he kept saying he thought it was a good idea too."
Though Diana never mentions Mannakee by name in the tapes, the biographical details align: She said she met him at 24, the age she was when Mannakee was assigned to be her bodyguard, and that he died in a motorbike accident, just as Mannakee did in 1987. This is what to know about the great love that The Crown never shows.
Barry Mannakee was assigned to be Diana's bodyguard in 1985.
It was 1985, and Princess Di needed a new bodyguard, as her Chief Inspector Graham Smith was leaving his post. In The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown describes the qualities considered during the search: "What kind of man do you cast to guard a beautiful and unhappy young princess? Someone very strong, very sane, and very married. Someone who could steer her out of trouble."
Enter: Sergeant Barry Mannakee, former police dog handler who had been working at the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group since 1983. In April 1985, 37-year-old Mannakee was assigned to watch over Diana. According to The Diana Chronicles, Mannakee came into Diana's life at a time when she was feeling vulnerable. The mother-of-two was "still trying to live within the chafing confines of her marriage but increasingly unwilling to give up on her need for love," Brown wrote.
Like Diana, Mannakee was married to a reflexologist named Susan, and had two children, both teenage girls. Brown described Mannakee as a "cocky East Ender with kind eyes," and later as "dark and handsome in a blokey way, with a nice helping of spontaneous warmth." Biographer Sally Bedell Smith wrote in Diana in Search of Herself that Mannakee "had a jocular personality" and "put Diana instantly at ease."
They grew close after a cringe-worthy fishing accident at Balmoral Castle.
Diana and Mannakee knew each other prior to his assignation as her PPO. However, their relationship deepened during a fishing expedition in Balmoral in 1985, the Scottish retreat where the royal family summers annually. Brown recalled the incident in her book.
"As she glumly watched her husband at his favorite occupation, a salmon hook from a careless cast became embedded in her eyelid. Personal protection was radioed to take Diana back to the house to receive medical attention. It was Mannakee who drove the car, Mannakee, not her husband, who consoled her," Brown wrote.
According to Brown, Mannakee continued to support Diana emotionally, including ahead of speaking events. "She kept saying she couldn't go ahead with it, and just collapsed in my arms. I hugged her and stopped her crying. What would you have done?" Mannakee recalled to housekeeper Wendy Berry, per Brown's book.
In the tapes released after her death, Diana described her attachment to her security officer: "I was only happy when he was around...I was like a little girl in front of him the whole time," she said.
Mannakee was fired for becoming "too close" to the princess.
Much ado has been made over the nature of Diana and Mannakee's bond. Clearly, they were close—but did their connection ever deepen into a full-blown affair?
Diana never confirmed that her relationship with Mannakee became physical in the interview—and Ken Wharfe, Mannakee's successor as Diana's bodyguard, said that's because it never did. "Diana did not have a sexual relationship with Mannakee. I think Mannakee was a shoulder to cry on and I think that all of us, both male and female, working with the princess were all potential shoulders to cry on. That was her style," Wharfe said in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words.
However, in his book Love and War, Diana's ex-lover James Hewitt wrote that Diana confirmed she and Mannakee were lovers. Brown also wrote that she believed the two had a physical affair.
Certainly, though, Mannakee outright broke protocol of maintaining distance from his principal. Ken Wharfe, Mannakee's successor, wrote that Mannakee had tea with Diana in her private drawing room, which was "unheard of." The two were also overheard flirting, as Brown wrote in her book: "'Barry, how do I look?' she would ask him coquettishly. 'Sensational, as you know you do. I could quite fancy you myself.' 'But you already do, don't you? Escort me to my car.'"
In the tapes, Diana said she "played with fire" with this relationship—but really, it was Mannakee who played with fire. Brown wrote that the two were caught in a "compromising position" in July 1986. Soon after, Mannakee was removed from his position as Diana's bodyguard. "It was all found out and they chucked him out," Diana said in the tapes.
Nine months later, Mannakee was killed in a motorbike accident.
On May 22, 1987, Mannakee, then 39, was struck by a 17-year-old inexperienced driver while he was riding a motorcycle. Diana heard the news while she was arriving to the Cannes Film Festival, and was devastated.
"This was the biggest blow of my life," Diana said of his death, in the tapes. "I just sat there all day going through this huge high profile visit to Cannes, thousands of press, just devastated. Because, you know, I wasn't supposed to mind as much as I did, if you know what I mean."
Diana never lost the suspicion that Mannakee was deliberately killed due to their relationship, telling voice coach Peter Settelen she thought he was "bumped off." Wharfe disputed Diana's claims. "Of course I don’t think he was killed, there was no reason for him to be killed," Wharfe said in Diana: In Her Own Words. "He died tragically in a road traffic accident." Just like Diana.
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As a culture editor at Oprah Daily, Elena covers the latest in books, movies, TV, pop culture, and the ever-expanding world of streaming. Prior to Oprah Daily, Elena worked as an entertainment writer at Refinery29 for three years, writing about everything from royals to reality TV, and developing the site’s book section. She also got to meet Jane Fonda, but that’s another story. For fun, she likes reading, writing romances on Wattpad (and elsewhere), taking long walks in the city, and cracking herself up with elaborate Instagram stories. Her super-power is matching people up with the right book.
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