Princess Diana’s former bodyguard is to present an evening of his favourite memories at The Mowlem in Swanage, Dorset to raise money in memory of his aunt, local dance teacher June Ranger.
Ken Wharfe, who served as royal protection officer first to princes William and Harry and later to their mother, has spent summer holidays in Swanage since the age of 10, and when June died in January 2023, decided that the family should give something back to the town.
An evening with Ken Wharfe at The Mowlem will recall the joy brought by Diana
Treasured memories of Princess Diana
Proceeds from the show, An Evening With Ken Wharfe, on Friday 22nd September 2023, will go to the Ranger School of Dance and to Swanage Medical Centre, and he’s hoping for a sellout show.
Rather than dwell on the unhappiness of Diana’s collapsing marriage, Ken will concentrate on the joy and happiness that the Princess spread – including some treasured local moments.
His stories will include the day that Diana ran into some elderly nudists on Studland beach and spent 40 minutes shopping incognito in Corfe Castle without anyone realising who she was.
A summer holiday haunt for life, Ken now wants to give something back to Swanage
A real Swallows and Amazons holiday
Ken Wharfe said:
“My attachments to Swanage have been from a kid, because when we were young my parents used to ship us off to my aunt June Ranger and we had crazy summer holidays by the sea – they lived near Durlston Head so we had the countryside, clifftop walks and then the beach if we wanted it.
“We were put on the train from Canterbury to London, across London in a taxi, then the steam train down to Wareham and a further steam train to Swanage, so it was a real Swallows and Amazons start to a holiday.
“Since then I have been down to Swanage every year for the past 60 or 70 years. June sadly passed earlier this year and her daughter Caroline, my cousin, decided that her funeral had to be more of a celebration than a morbid singalong, but it turned out to be a piece of theatre.
“I’ve never been to a church funeral where it was like a play, a dance, a routine, and I thought that June was so grateful to all the medical services and was a long-term giver to people that I wanted to give something back.
“I decided to do a one-man show at The Mowlem where all the proceeds would go to the June Ranger School of Dance and the Swanage Medical Centre.”
From Studland Bay to the Khyber Pass, Ken was always close by
Sent to end noise nuisance caused by the Beatles
As a Special Cadet in the Metropolitan Police, Ken’s early career included being sent out to investigate an ‘awful noise’ in London’s West End, which turned out to be the Beatles jamming on the roof of the Apple music headquarters in Mayfair.
Later, as an Inspector, he was responsible for the security of serial killer Dennis Nilsen ahead of a murder trial attended by the world’s press.
In 1986 over a drink with colleague Jim Beaton, who had been awarded the George Cross for saving Princess Anne during an assassination attempt and subsequently became the Queen’s personal protection officer, Ken was advised of an opening in the royalty protection department for a bodyguard to Princes William and Harry.
Having become increasingly disillusioned with the police force, especially after the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during riots in Tottenham, he applied for the job and had an eye-opening interview with Princess Diana before being appointed to the elite group.
By her side for six years – Ken Wharfe was Princess Diana’s bodyguard
Harry, three, mumbled and fell off a table
“I always remember my first meeting with Diana at Sandringham in 1986, William was playing a piano and three year old Harry was stood on a table destabilising this vase of royal lilies and Diana said, ‘I don’t envy you looking after my kids, they can be a bloody nuisance!’
“William, who was five, turned around and said, ‘We are not a ruddy nuisance, are we, Harry?’ who mumbled something and fell off the table, and as the two ran off chased by Diana I was left kicking my heels. She was very easy to get on with, and good fun.”
He believes that Diana’s gift was immediately being able to put people at their ease and feel like they knew her as a friend, someone who would always prefer to sit with the common people rather than with the dignitaries on the top table.
Although she modernised the monarchy almost single handedly and hugely raised its public popularity, Diana wanted nothing more than to live a ‘normal’ life and do everyday things.
The Studland chain ferry once carried a princess, incognito, in a Ford Mondeo
Crossing on the chain ferry in a Ford Mondeo
“In the late 1980s, I had returned from Swanage one weekend and told Diana how I had been on the chain ferry and walked along the beach at Studland to the Bankes Arms pub for a pint.
“Diana said how lucky I was and what a shame it was that she could never do anything like that.
“I told her that if she really wanted to I would arrange it, but she could not involve the press, so we set out at 7.30 am one morning in a black and red Ford Mondeo and drove down to Poole to get onto the chain ferry.
“She was in the passenger seat and there were people looking at her and saying how much she looked like Diana, but they were not in a position to challenge it because they didn’t believe for one moment that a princess could be in a Ford Mondeo.”
The dunes at Studland Bay include a popular nudist stretch – but Diana didn’t know
Diana recounted her adventures over a cup of coffee at the Bankes Arms, Studland
“You never told me about the nudist beach!”
“She was wearing a leather jacket that she had been given by Michael Jackson about a year before, so I gave her a radio when we got to Studland, said I’d be waiting for her at the other end of the beach and that if she had any problems to just call me.
“About half an hour later the radio sprang into life and she was laughing, so I asked her if everything was alright. She said, ‘Yes, but Ken, you’d never told me about the nudist beach!’
“So there was Diana staggering through the nudist section of Studland Bay with all these naked septuagenarian males going in for a swim, who had no idea who this woman in the Michael Jackson jacket was.”
The National Trust gift shop was Diana’s first port of call in Corfe Castle
Sweets for the boys – William and Harry – were on the royal shopping list
Princess Diana browsed Corfe Castle Shops
After having a coffee in the Bankes Arms, they drove on to Corfe Castle where Diana decided she was going into the National Trust gift shop to get some presents.
She then went into another shop to buy sweets for the boys and browsed other village shops for about 40 minutes, with no one once realising who she was.
Despite the difficulties in her private life and the demands of the job, Diana never once cancelled any engagement and had an overwhelming sense of duty to the Queen and the Crown.
But Ken says there were still many fun and inspiring moments which he would like to share with Swanage to raise money for the town.
June Ranger, Ken’s aunt, ran dance classes in Swanage for more than 50 years
“June was like a second mother to me”
“June’s school was set up teaching children outside a caravan in the 50s and 60s. She was like a second mother to me, and I know that she wanted to give to people, if they couldn’t afford dance lessons, then they had dance for nothing.
“In the last 10 years of her life she made fairly substantial demands on doctors and certainly through Covid she was so praiseworthy of their actions, and for that reason I want to give something back as one of her relatives.
“We will try to sell as many tickets for the evening at The Mowlem as we can and regale the audience with some anecdotes of not only my police career but also of working with the Royal family for 16 years.
“I want to make sure it is entertaining – it won’t be a history lesson on the Spencers, but the journey that I had from working with the Metropolitan Police to working for the Royal family and all the good, fun times we had.”