The late Queen and King Charles defied terrorist attacks by Welsh and Irish nationalists, narrowly avoiding bombs sometimes by just yards, a documentary claims. The brave royals faced down and shrugged off the deadly threats. But after one particularly close call Queen Elizabeth II was forced to take to her bed to recover from nervous exhaustion.
ITVX’s extraordinary five-part documentary series The Real Crown: Inside the House of Windsor also reveals how, in her youth, Queen Camilla was compared to a “honeypot” because of her fun-loving personality.
But she “wasn’t really seen as someone who could become a future Queen”.
And the programme also says the then-Prince Charles met up with his great-uncle Edward VIII, to discover what life was like after abdication.
Detailing the terror incidents, the documentary tells of Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle in 1969 and the two bombs that exploded as the royal party was arriving.
The police searched for other devices but the Queen, having been told about the blasts by officials, “showed no emotion”.
Prince Charles joined Welsh Secretary George Thomas – Lord Tonypandy – in a carriage and, as they headed off to the castle, a bomb went off nearby.
Lord Tonypandy, who died in 1997 aged 88, had previously recalled the attack.
In an interview included in the series, he said: “It was quite clearly a bomb but Prince Charles looked at me and asked, ‘What was that, Mr Thomas?’.
So I said, ‘Royal salute, Prince Charles’. He looked at me with a question mark in his eyes, ‘Peculiar royal salute?’
“‘Peculiar people, up here, sir’. I had to say something, to cover up. None of us knew if the next bomb to go off would get the coach.”
But the investiture went ahead regardless.
Of the two remaining bombs, one failed to detonate while another went off days later, seriously injuring a child.
The film reveals that the Queen “spent the next few days in bed with nervous exhaustion from the stress of the event”.
In 1977, she was due to speak at Belfast’s Ulster University when a warning was received from the IRA that a bomb had been planted on the campus.
The monarch refused to cancel her speech calling for peace. The bomb went off “four or five hours” later. As the royal party left the university, Prince Philip was heard to say, ‘Well, that’s that. All they can do now is try to sink the royal yacht!’.”
Two years later, the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten and three other people, including two children, when a bomb exploded on his 30ft boat Shadow V, off County Sligo, in August 1979.
The loss was particularly felt by Prince Charles.
The former Viceroy of India had played a key role in helping Charles decide who he should marry and would gather prospective brides for Charles at his country house.
The film suggests the young prince was smitten with Camilla Parker Bowles.
The late Queen’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Glenconner, 90, said: “Camilla is the most fun you could ever wish to meet. She was attractive, bubbly, she was like a honeypot for a bee.”
But royal reporter Robert Jobson added: “She wasn’t really seen as someone who could become a future Queen.”
And back in 1970, the newly crowned Prince of Wales was intrigued to know what it would be like to give up a life of duty.
He arranged a secret meeting with his great-uncle the Duke of Windsor – formerly King Edward VIII – who abdicated in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
Charles wrote in his diary: “The whole thing seems so tragic, the existence, the people, the atmosphere. I was glad to escape it.”
- The Real Crown: Inside the House of Windsor, ITVX, all episodes available from Thursday
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