Obituary: Edward Adeane, CVO, courtier to Prince Charles

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Born: 4 October, 1939, in London. Died: 20 May, 2015, in Hampshire, aged 75

Edward Adeane was in the service of the Prince of Wales when the latter announced his engagement to Diana Spencer in 1981. He came from a family who had given loyal and discreet service to the Royal Family over many years and was imbued with the sense of service and public spirit. Unfortunately, that sense of the traditional did not figure well with the younger element at Kensington Palace and his later years there were not entirely happy.

Adeane experienced the turmoil of the ensuing years with a kindly equanimity and his relationship with Princess Diana was not particularly close. In truth, Adeane represented the traditional royal courtier, par excellence, and Diana was a new and very different broom.

Nevertheless, he was appointed private secretary to the Princess in 1984 but resigned the following year when he felt he had lost the confidence of the Prince. In a 1984 television biopic of the Charles and Diana story Adeane was played by the Hollywood hunk Rodney Taylor.

George Edward Adeane was the son of a long-serving private secretary to the Queen and educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read law. He acted as a page of honour to the Queen in the 1950s.

He was called to the Bar in 1962 and specialised in libel cases, gaining a considerable renown in some high-profile cases – most notably in 1975 when he represented Lady Falkender, Harold Wilson’s political and personal secretary, when she was falsely accused by the Evening Standard of forging Wilson’s signature on documents.

In 1979 he was appointed private secretary to the Prince of Wales, who he had known for some years as the two were keen anglers. They had often fished the Dee on the Birkhall estate in Aberdeenshire and on the River Test in Hampshire. Their friendship was further enhanced when Adeane organised a fishing trip for the two in Iceland.

But life at Kensington Palace was not easy and as the marriage came under greater stress the tension mounted. After six years in office Adeane resigned, in a move that reportedly shocked the prince.

The informality of the princess undoubtedly jarred with Adeane, always a stickler for protocol, and their lines of communication were not easy. Her custom of letting Prince William roam free around Kensington Palace irritated Adeane, as did her onsistence in playing pop music on her radio when they were discussing her schedules.

But there was some stress with the prince also. Adeane tried to increase his presence in Wales without much success.

For Adeane the tension came to a head during the prince and princess’s 1983 tour of Australia. It was a strenuous tour with the baby Prince William in the party and Adeane was blamed by the princess for scheduling far too gruelling a programme.

A former valet to Prince Charles, Stephen Barry, wrote about his time working with Prince Charles (“a look through the Royal key-hole”). The media started to investigate and the floodgates opened.

Adeane’s resignation caused a storm in the press and was undoubtedly an embarrassment to Prince Charles – Adeane was the most senior of his staff to have left since his marriage.

Within months of his resignation he was appointed CVO (a personal gift of the Queen) and an Extra Equerry to the Prince. In that capacity he represented the prince at royal household memorial services.

He returned to the Bar and was involved in some lucrative cases.

The problems he experienced at Kensington Palace were not reflected elsewhere in the Royal Family. Adeane, a retiring and invariably courteous man, remained a close friend of the Queen Mother. He was a regular guest at her Balmoral house, Birkhall, where they enjoyed fishing on the Dee and grouse shooting. She also invited him annually to the Castle of Mey where he fished the Naver.

Adeane gave of his experience and legal mind to various worthy causes. For many years he was a member of the British Library board and a trustee of both the Lambeth Palace library and the Leeds Castle Foundation.

Adeane was a devoted angler all his life – one friend commented: “Edward was only ever happy with a fishing rod in his hand and in the middle of a fast lowing river.”

Indeed, he had been fishing the Test within days of his death. He is survived by his companion, Brent Snape.