Harry isn’t the only prince to have fallen for an actress. As Michelle Davies reveals, Charles and his brothers were all once involved with women famous for their showbiz careers
It was March 1974 and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Jupiter had just docked in San Diego with a very special crew member on board – Princes Charles. Serving as the ship’s communications officer he was supposed to be treated like anyone else on board, but when the Hollywood glitterati in nearby LA heard he was in town they were having none of it. Invitations were dispatched to the ship asking if there was anyone the 25-year-old would like to meet – and immediately he answered: ‘Barbra Streisand.’
According to author Christopher Andersen, Charles described the actress and singer as ‘my only pin-up’ after repeatedly watching her in the movie, Funny Girl, so it was arranged for him to meet her on the set of its sequel, Funny Lady, at Columbia Studios in LA. Both were nervous as they shared a cup of tea, but such was the chemistry between them that Charles reportedly wrote of her ‘great sex appeal’ afterwards. The two of them kept in touch throughout his marriage to Diana and Anderson claimed that when Charles visited LA in November 1994 for a gala, the two of them – both single at the time – cleared their diaries so they could have an ‘intimate’ tea date at his Bel-Air hotel.
Streisand, who was six years Charles’ senior and is now married to actor James Brolin, has always been coy about what exactly went on between them, but did tell an audience in Hyde Park last summer that, ‘If I had played my cards right, I could have been the first Jewish Princess.’ How brilliant if she had been – she could’ve serenaded the rest of the Royals at the Trooping of the Colour with her Funny Girl hit, Don’t Rain On My Parade.
And then there was Koo
Prince Andrew, currently embroiled in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal, went one step further than his big brother by making actress Koo Stark his official girlfriend. They began dating in 1981 after she attended his 21stbirthday party and Royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell said the Queen was ‘much taken with the elegant, intelligent and discreet Koo’. There was even talk of them marrying, but the relationship ended after eighteen months because American-born Koo found the attention too overwhelming. ‘We were watched 24 hours a day, chased, harassed, libelled, lampooned and tormented,’ she said in a 2015 interview. The pair remained good friends, however, and Andrew is godfather to Koo’s daughter.
Finally there was Prince Edward and his showgirl. Of the three brothers, he was always the most likely to have a showbiz girlfriend – after dropping out of the Royal Marines he joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company as a production assistant. Yet his relationship with West End stage star Ruthie Henshall was conducted in secret throughout the late Eighties/early Nineties and it was only in 2008, while appearing on Desert Island Discs, that she admitted they had dated ‘solidly’ for two years and on and off for another three after that.
Ruthie, who has appeared in Cats, Chicago, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, said she ‘genuinely fell in love’ with the prince. ‘It didn’t make me nervous who he was,’ she said, adding it was ‘exciting’ to be smuggled into Buckingham Palace where he still lived at the time. ‘I met all the [Royals]. What I found was a lovely family.’
The couple eventually called it quits for good because Ruthie could never reconcile being an actress and a Royal – something Meghan Markle has since learned. ‘I had hopes but really and truthfully I think I was very aware that I wouldn’t be able to do what I did for a living if I’d stayed with him.’
Ruthie was later a guest at his 1999 wedding to Sophie Rhys Jones, now the Countess of Wessex, which she attended with her then fiancé.