- Tall tales: A story circulating in the U.S. media claims Diana and Charles had a secret daughter – although not quite in the way one would expectAmerican tabloid claims ‘Sarah’ is Charles and Diana’s IVF daughter
- Says she is the result of a fertilised embryo implanted into doctor’s wife
- Globe goes as far as to claim Kate had a ’44 minute’ meeting with ‘Sarah’
- Ridiculous tale has even caught the attention of the Spanish media
This weekend, the nation is poised to celebrate the birth of a new royal baby. The Duchess of Cambridge, having already provided us with the heir — a bonny future king in the person of Prince George — is about to complete her dynastic duty by delivering ‘the spare’.
Under the terms of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which now allows females the same priority in the order of succession as males, the new baby, even if it is a girl — as William and Kate are rumored to be hoping — will be fourth in line to the throne, after Charles, William and George, and will maintain that position regardless of the birth of future sons to the Cambridge.
But is this really the case? Certainly not if you pay attention to sensational and scandalous claims that have been circulating in the U.S., and are now making headlines in Spain and other parts of Europe.
Prepare to suspend your disbelief for a moment. For it is alleged that Prince William was not his mother’s first child: that he has a ‘secret sister’, now 33, called Sarah and living incognito in a small New England town in the United States.
How, you may well wonder, can this possibly be true when William was born in June 1982, only 11 months after his parents’ marriage?
The answer, according to this unbelievable claim, is that in December 1980, Lady Diana Spencer, then a 19-year-old virgin, was ordered by the Queen to undergo gynecological tests to establish that she was capable of bearing children before her engagement to the heir to the throne could be announced.
During these tests, so the story goes, Diana’s eggs were harvested and fertilized with Prince Charles’s sperm. The tests proved successful, and the engagement of Charles and Diana was duly announced. Charles, asked if they were in love, responded with his famously cynical observation, ‘Whatever in love means’ — and the embryos were ordered to be destroyed.
But one of the team who examined Diana, a ‘rogue doctor’, secretly held one of the embryos back and implanted it in his own wife. Unknown to her, she became the surrogate mother of the biological child of Charles and Diana.
The baby, a girl, was born in October 1981, ten weeks after Charles and Diana’s fairy-tale wedding on July 29 of that year, and eight months before William’s own birth on June 21, 1982, in the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, where fans are already camping out to catch the first glimpse of Kate and William emerging with their new baby.
There’s more. Sarah is reported as claiming that as she was growing up, she was always being told that she was ‘a dead ringer’ for Diana. Then, in her late 20s, her parents were both killed in a car accident. After their deaths, she came across a diary which revealed that she was the product of a donated embryo and of in vitro fertilization (IVF), which was still in its infancy in the early 1980s.
Sarah says that she attempted to trace the origin of the donated embryo to find out who she really was. But about two years ago, a menacing message was left on her answer-phone, warning her to stop looking if she valued her life.
Terrified by the thought that her life might be in danger, and haunted by suggestions that Diana’s death in Paris was not an accident but murder, she emigrated to America, where she now lives under a secret identity.
This is the extraordinary account that we are being asked to believe. Far-fetched though it sounds, could there be any truth in it?
As with all conspiracy theories — particularly those relating to Princess Diana’s death — there is always a narrow basis in fact. On her own admission, Diana did undergo a gynaecological examination before her engagement to Charles.
‘I had to be checked out before they would let me marry him,’ she told a close friend, Elsa, Lady Bowker, who was also a friend of mine.
The examination was almost certainly carried out by the late Sir George Pinker, the Queen’s highly respected surgeon-gynaecologist. Understandably, its purpose was to confirm that there was no malformation of the womb or uterus, or anything that might preclude normal child-bearing.
That such an examination would ever have gone to the extreme of harvesting eggs and in vitro fertilisation seems incredible, though one cannot state as a fact that such a procedure did not take place.
The whole story of the secret baby began as fiction — which is perhaps where it ought to have remained. In 2011, a former New York businesswoman, Nancy E. Ryan, living in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, self-published a novel entitled The Disappearance Of Olivia.
Mrs Ryan, who never met Princess Diana, had been fascinated by the first in vitro baby, Louise Joy Brown, born in Oldham in 1978. She considered Diana ‘one of the most fascinating women in my lifetime’ and had ‘read many stories about Princess Diana wishing she had a daughter’.
All this was surely on her mind when she conceived the story of Olivia Franklin, an oncologist who ‘admired Princess Diana and wanted to emulate her’. Her task becomes somewhat easier when she discovers she is Diana’s secret daughter — the result of fertility tests and procedures which somehow led to another woman being implanted with a royal embryo.
In the novel, Olivia is living in hiding, fearful for her life, because of the supposed threat her existence would pose to the Royal Family.
It’s outrageous stuff even for fiction, but, in Ryan’s mind, her outlandish tale was far from risible. ‘I believe my story could have been true,’ she said. ‘Many have told me that they believe my story is entirely plausible.
‘These same people also think that Prince Charles wanted Diana to be fertile . . . that he might have pushed Diana into having her eggs harvested to prove her fertility.’
And, despite the book clearly being a work of fiction, when it was published at the end of 2011, an astonishing media metamorphosis occurred. Almost overnight, the possibility of Diana having had a secret daughter ceased to be fantasy and began to be promoted as fact.
Globe magazine, a mass-circulation supermarket tabloid published in America, devoted its entire front cover to the screaming headlines: ‘Bombshell New Book. Princess Diana’s Secret Daughter!’
Opposite a photo of Princess Diana was a picture of an attractive young girl with shoulder-length blonde hair. The girl’s face and smile bore an overwhelming resemblance to Diana.
Was it perhaps a little too overwhelming? A careful study of ‘Sarah’ — as she had started to be named in reports — revealed identical eyeliner to that used by Diana, identically placed eyes, and identical eyebrows, nose and teeth.
In support of its alleged scoop about ‘rumours the Palace has battled to keep under wraps for decades’ and the ‘amazing details about the young woman’s bizarre birth and why she’s living in hiding’, it appeared that the magazine had taken a picture of the real Diana, tilted it to a different angle and Photoshopped out the lines on her face, then superimposed it on to the body of a young girl.
And if the photograph was a fabrication, the next question to be asked, of course, was whether ‘Sarah’ existed at all — or was she simply a cynical media creation?
Mystery: Exactly how Prince Harry felt about his ‘secret sister’ was not revealed in the ‘expose’
But the legend of Diana’s secret daughter had now been given lift-off into that stratosphere where bizarre rumours are instantly believed.
Four months ago, Globe returned to the subject, devoting its front cover to the announcement, Kate Meets Diana’s Secret Daughter!, again with the computer-created photograph of the elusive ‘Sarah’, who seemed remarkably unwilling to be either seen or heard.
This time the magazine assured its readers that ‘Prince William’s pregnant wife Kate carried out a top-secret mission while in New York — quietly meeting with a woman Palace insiders believe is Diana’s secret daughter’.
A ‘royal insider’ insisted: ‘This was the real reason for the couple’s trip to The Big Apple. The other events were just a cover. William wants to know the truth.’
By way of further explanation, it was alleged that Nancy Ryan’s novel ‘spurred a Palace investigator to probe the old rumours about a secret Diana baby — and the path eventually led to Sarah. That’s when William first learned of her existence.
‘Insiders say William didn’t think it “appropriate” to meet Sarah himself, so he asked Kate to have an informal private chat in New York — and arranged the trip.
‘William was stunned when Kate told him she was a mirror image of his mother and really could be his sister.’
It hardly seems necessary to point out that there is not a word of truth in any of these statements. William and Kate’s visit to the U.S. in December — the first made by either of them to New York and to Washington DC — was planned months in advance and undertaken partly on behalf of the British government.
It was certainly not arranged with the object of meeting a ‘secret sister’ whom neither William nor Kate had any reason to believe exists. The couple carried out ten official engagements during their three-day visit.
In spite of all this, the magazine insisted that Kate ‘nervously waited’ in her suite at New York’s Carlyle Hotel ‘for the arrival of the mystery woman, known as Sarah, who believes she is William’s older sister’.
‘Sources say Sarah was smuggled into Kate’s sitting room by aides under the guise of being part of the royal party’s domestic staff. And an informed insider [yet another one!] has revealed exclusively to Globe that Kate was left almost speechless at her first sight of Sarah.
‘“She’s tall, elegant and the spitting image of Princess Diana,” declares the source. “They spent exactly 44 minutes together while Sarah answered Kate’s questions about her upbringing with apparent honesty.”’
Even if any of this story were true, can anyone believe that William — whose protective attitude towards Kate was so manifest on the day of their engagement — would allow his pregnant wife to deal alone with such a woman?
Globe magazine is also deeply unconvincing in its attempts to suggest the ‘Sarah’ saga has profound constitutional significance.
‘Sources say’, it maintains [still more of those ‘sources’] ‘the existence of a secret Diana daughter won’t sit well in the corridors of power. With historic changes in the constitution imminent, the oldest child — male or female — inherits the Crown. And that would be Sarah, if DNA tests confirm she really is a royal.’
Celebrate: Mail writer Michael Thornton argues the birth of George’s brother or sister should be a time to celebrate ‘not for inventions and falsehoods’
Wrong. Globe is a bit out of step over this. The Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which amended the long-established rules of succession, allowing the eldest child to succeed regardless of gender, received the Royal Assent in April 2013.
But the Act only applies retrospectively to people born after October 28, 2011, the year in which it was first tabled.
It would not apply therefore to the mythical ‘Sarah’, supposedly born in October 1981, even if she did exist. The Duke of Cambridge’s position as the future King William V would not be threatened in any way. And even if ‘Sarah’ were genuine, it is highly debatable legally whether a biological child of Charles and Diana, born from the womb of a surrogate mother, would have any right of succession to the throne.
But Globe is not about to surrender its prized myth. This month, it has returned to the saga yet again, claiming that ‘Sarah’ has now travelled to Britain for a showdown with the Prince of Wales.
With yet more shrieking front-cover headlines, it insists: Di’s Secret Daughter Confronts Charles: You Killed My Mother! The Most Shocking Royal Story Ever.
And in another highly dubious-looking photograph, a gesticulating Charles is shown apparently in conversation with a young woman with long blonde hair who has her back to the camera.
According to Globe, there is ‘surveillance camera footage’ of this encounter that ‘caught the entire confrontation on tape’. We await its release with bated breath.
And the story has been taken up in Spain, too, where a magazine called Pronto — another supermarket tabloid — has re-told the tale. One result is that an entirely sensible and well-read friend of mine called from Spain to ask if it might be true.
It’s almost comic. But this tasteless nonsense — part of a long history of ghoulish exploitation of William and Harry’s adored mother — seems particularly tawdry at a time when Kate is about to give birth to Diana’s second grandchild. Surely the time is more than overdue for the late Princess of Wales to be allowed to rest in the peace she deserves.
The nation has taken William and Kate, and Prince George, to its collective heart.
The birth of their second child should be an occasion for rejoicing and celebration, not for inventions and falsehoods that might overshadow the new young life that is about to begin.