Who is James Hewitt, the officer who had an affair with Princess Diana?

As Prince Harry attends court in another privacy case, this time brought against the Mirror Group, every aspect of modern royal drama has been under additional scrutiny.

This includes those surrounding the royal family – past and present – such as James Hewitt.

Military man Major James Hewitt was embroiled in one of the biggest royal scandals of the last century, when he had an affair with the Princess of Wales, Diana, during her marriage to Prince Charles.

Well-known to those who lived through the press frenzy of the era, Diana’s and Hewitt’s affair hit all the headlines – especially after the affair was confirmed by the princess herself in her BBC Panorama interview.

But may not know much else about Hewitt and how he came to be caught up in a royal drama.

For years, rumours circulated that Hewitt was Harry’s real father. However, the theory has never been openly discussed by anyone in the family until now.

In Spare, which was leaked last week after it was accidentally published in Spain, the duke writes: “.... the rumour going around at the time that my real father was one of my mother’s ex-lovers: Major James Hewitt.

“One cause of the rumour was Major Hewitt’s red hair, but another was sadism.

“Tabloid readers loved the idea that Prince Charles’s youngest son was not Prince Charles’s son. They never got tired of that ‘joke’, for some reason.”

Prince Harry once again addressed the rumours in his witness statement for his case against the publishes of the Mirror newspaper, referring to an article in The People from 2002 with the headline “Plot to rob the DNA of Harry” which reported a bid to steal a sample of the duke’s DNA to check his parentage.

“Numerous newspapers had reported a rumour that my biological father was James Hewitt, a man my mother had a relationship with after I was born,” Harry said. “At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Hewitt.

Who is Hewitt?

The 62-year-old officer was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1958, where his father was stationed with the Royal Marines. His mother was a dental surgeon.

Hewitt attended the fee-paying school Millfield, in Somerset, and followed in his father’s footsteps, serving in the armed forces. Hewitt retired as a captain, and was given a major rank in retirement.

More recently, in 2004 he appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s reality cooking show Hell’s Kitchen.

In 2009, Hewitt opened a high-end bar named The Polo House in Marbella, Spain, which had al fresco dining and served cocktails and light bites. It closed four years later in 2013.

Hewitt is now reportedly working as a gardener, living in Devon with his elderly mother. Hewitt does not have any children.

How did James Hewitt meet Princess Diana?

According to Town & Country, the pair met at a party thrown by Diana’s lady-in-waiting, Hazel West, in 1986.

In his 1999 memoir, Love and War, Hewitt explained how the Princess of Wales asked him to give her riding lessons. Within months, press got wind of their affair.

"Only one thing went wrong," he wrote in his book. "We fell in love."

James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)
James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)

According to Anna Pasternak's 1994 book Princess in Love – written based on letters that Diana allegedly sent to Hewitt – the pair were romantically engaged for five years, between 1986 and 1991.

The pair are believed to have exchanged notes while Hewitt was serving in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Speaking about Hewitt’s memoir, Diana said in her 1995 interview with Martin Bashir: “There was a lot of fantasy in the book ... and it was very distressing for me that a friend of mine, who I had trusted, made money out of me.”

Asked explicitly whether the relationship went “beyond a close friendship”, Diana replied: “Yes it did, yes”.

And to the question: “Were you unfaithful?”, she said: “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down.”

It’s thought that when Hewitt was posted to Germany to serve in the Gulf War, the affair fizzled out.

Is Hewitt the biological father of Prince Harry?

Physical comparisons between Hewitt and Harry have been made for years, due to their similar colouring and the fact both have red hair. But the speculation has been completely denied by both parties, along with other people connected to the royals.

Former royal butler, Paul Burrell, refuted the accusation that Hewitt is Harry’s father and Hewitt has on many occasions himself also set the record straight.

In 2017, in an interview with Australia’s Channel Seven, Hewitt was directly asked if he was Harry’s father, Hewitt responded “No, I’m not” asked why the rumour is still around, “It sells papers,” he said. “It’s worse for [Harry], probably, poor chap.”

Both have pointed out that Harry had already been born when the romantic relationship with Diana started in 1986. Charles and Diana were married between 1981 and 1996, and Harry was born in 1984.