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Thursday, April 11, 2024

William and Harry: who was Barbara Barnes, their “surrogate mother” and Diana’s rival?


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In his new book, Battle of Brothers, historian Robert Lacey looks back at the significant events in the lives of William and Harry. In an excerpt published in the Daily Mail, the biographer evokes the dismissal of Barbara Barnes, their “surrogate mother” who became a rival in the eyes of Diana.

When William was born, Diana, 21 years old, wanted to give her son the best possible education. On the advice of Anne Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, she enlisted the services of Barbara Barnes, a housekeeper with an established reputation.

Very close to those she calls “her” boys, the nanny became over the years a real “surrogate mother” for William and Harry, as the historian Robert Lacey, quoted by the Daily Mail, relates. A situation that will make Diana angry.

While the Princess of Wales, then suffering from eating disorders and depression, “is increasingly busy with the charities and humanitarian work that will make her famous,” the young princess whom the young princes affectionately dubbed Baba devotes all her time to them.

The housekeeper “teaches the boys to walk, talk, read,” the historian reveals, and adds: “she consoles them at night when they wake up crying,” as any mother would. A dedication that annoys many observers, but also Diana, who finds Barbara Barnes “too possessive” with the young princes.


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Barbara Barnes, coldly dismissed by Diana

Jealous, possessive, but above all impulsive, Diana decides to react. During the Christmas celebrations in 1986, the princess informed her that it would be “better” for everyone if she left her job. “One weekend, she just wasn’t there,” recalls Highgrove’s housekeeper Wendy Berry.

Diana had given instructions to pack her bags and leave no trace of her. Determined to get her rival out of her sons’ lives, the princess forbade Baba to say goodbye, but also to “send them a postcard. Wounded, Barbara Barnes, who had devoted four years of her life to the education of William and Harry, will have no choice but to do so.

Photo credits: BESTIMAGE

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