Diana, friends warned to check for bombs under their car, former flatmate reveals
Virginia Clarke, one of four girls who lived at the west London flat with Lady Diana, said they received no other help from the palace after being besieged by the press
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The young Diana, Princess of Wales and her teenage flatmates were advised to check under their cars for bombs after she started dating Prince Charles, one of her friends has revealed, as she unveiled a blue plaque at their “laughter filled” London flat.
Virginia Clarke, one of the four girls who lived at 60 Coleherne Court in west London with Lady Diana, said they received no other help from the palace after being besieged by the press, with the friends “revelling” in beating the paparazzi at their own game.
Describing the situation as “surreal.” she said they had been advised to investigate under their cars.
“Sadly none of us had read the handbook for bomb spotting so we didn’t know where to begin with that one,” she said.
Calling the home in Earl’s Court a place to “cherish,” she said she knew the late Princess would have been “thrilled” to have a blue plaque there.
Clarke, then Virginia Pitman, lived at the flat in Old Brompton Road with Carolyn Bartholomew, Ann Bolton and Lady Diana, from July 1979 to the royal engagement in 1981.
Joking that it was “not quite as Netflix would have you believe in The Crown,” she said the girls lived “very happily with much laughter.”
Detailing how they had lived an ordinary life until Lady Diana “one day met up with Prince Charles,” she said their lives soon changed with a knock on the door from a gentleman she thought was from the local garage before learning he was in fact from the Daily Express.
“We used to call them by their full names. Always ‘Mr’ in some desperate attempt to put some distance between us. We thought if we were polite, we never lied — we just evaded the truth — and smiled, they would be gentle with us and step back a bit.”
In a speech before the unveiling of the English Heritage plaque, she said: “Interestingly, none of us, including Diana, received any help.
“I’m not sure who might have helped us, but there might have been someone. Some PR or palace person, I don’t know.
“The only thing I remember being told was we should look under our cars for bombs. The situation was surreal.”
Speaking to a small crowd outside the flat yesterday, she said: “It was at Coleherne Court that Diana learnt to play cat and mouse with the press, with the backing of us flatmates.
“We thought it was really funny at the time, and Diana revelled in it.”
The Princess was nominated for the plaque for her work supporting the Red Cross and Aids charities, along with five other women honoured this year.
“Strangely I have a clear memory of discussing blue plaques with Diana in her car as we drove around London,” said Clarke. “So I know she would be thrilled to have her own.”