Prince Charles’s eight day holiday to Turkey with his mistress two years before split from Diana

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  • The official announcement of the end of the royal marriage wasn’t until 1992
  • As early as 1989 both the prince and princess were having extramarital affairs
  • That was also the year Charles was pictured on holiday with Camilla in Turkey

Richard Kay, the writer who knew Diana best, and his colleague Geoffrey Levy bring you the full untold story of Diana and Camilla’s bitter rivalry

Long before reaching the ears of the public, the royal marriage was in deep crisis. If 1992 marked the official end with a formal separation announced in Parliament, 1989 was the year the couple informally broke apart.

It was a year book-ended by two key events. The year began, of course, with Diana confronting Camilla at her sister Annabel’s 40th birthday party, as detailed on these pages. And at the climax came the two clandestinely recorded phone calls of Diana and Charles secretly talking to their lovers, conversations which became known as Squidgygate and Camillagate when they emerged three years later.

By 1989, both the prince and the princess were having extramarital affairs, but the world at large still did not know of Diana’s love for Cavalry officer James Hewitt or, crucially, of the prince’s involvement with Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles.

A bare-chested Charles – together with a swimsuited Camilla – has a glower for the cameras as he realises their secret holiday has been rumbled

So Charles’s decision to embark on an eight-day holiday to Turkey with his mistress was not just bold, it bordered on the reckless. They certainly had a close call because photographers obtained pictures of the prince with Camilla while the pair were sunbathing and swimming in the Aegean off the Turkish coast.

It was May 1989 and while his sons William and Harry were at Kensington Palace with Diana, he chose that week to take a cruise with the artist Derek Hill during which they stopped to paint at ancient archaeological sites and which also included a short official visit to Turkish leaders in Ankara.

Camilla came too, along with her husband, the ever amenable Andrew Parker Bowles, and the prince’s childhood friend and Tory MP Nicholas Soames, which gave Charles and Camilla cover.

The prince was the guest of the American pop music mogul Ahmet Ertegun, whose money and connections helped ensure that curious holidaymakers and the paparazzi were largely kept at bay by the presence of Turkish Navy patrol boats.

May 1989 and Charles has invited Camilla, along with her husband Andrew, on a painting trip to Turkey

His visit took in the ruined temples of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and he went to Ephesus, the fabled burial site of the Virgin Mary, but mostly he sunbathed and swam with Camilla. Turkish newspapers labelled him the ‘summer bachelor’ for leaving Diana behind while he frolicked in the sun.

His trip had consequences at home, however. For Diana used his absence to entertain James Hewitt at Highgrove.

This was a pivotal moment in their affair, which had begun three years earlier, for the Life Guards officer was about to go on a two-year posting to Germany. Diana begged him not to go and even offered to intercede with superior officers to get his orders changed. But Hewitt, realising that such a move would compromise his Army career, refused. Thus the die was cast for the next move in the royal soap opera.

Andrew (centre), whose presence provided ‘cover’ for the lovers, helps with the catering

It was with Hewitt’s departure that Diana turned to an old friend from her bachelor girl days, motor racing enthusiast James Gilbey. Later that year a tape recording of Diana speaking to Gilbey by phone in which she complained bitterly about the Royal Family and he called her ‘Squidgy’ was made.

It didn’t emerge for about three years until December 1992, at the height of the marriage crisis. A telephone conversation of Prince Charles and Camilla speaking in the most intimate terms was also recorded. It too was only made public some three years later.

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