Carry On legend Amanda Barrie reveals she was asked to teach Charles about the birds and the bees

Amanda Barrie is not the sort of woman who’d usually give a second thought to the ‘inglorious episode’ detailed by Prince Harry in his memoirs when he lost his virginity to the ‘older woman’ we now know to be digger driver Sasha Walpole in a field behind a pub.

The actress has, after all, had more than her fair share of passionate encounters, both glorious and inglorious, in her unorthodox life.

There were lovers, lots of them, male and female – or, as she says: ‘I quite often went to bed with the leading man but had a crush on the leading lady. If you’re a lover of backing horses, you’ve got a 2/1 shot with me, haven’t you?’

Indeed, in her own hilarious autobiography, It’s Not A Rehearsal, from which Harry could learn a thing or two about painting a smile on your face when life doesn’t go your way, Amanda told of how for seven years she shared a bed with her late husband Robin Hunter, also an actor, and a female lover.

‘You can’t help what you feel,’ she says. ‘When I told my husband I was gay, he went, “Oh goody, I always wanted one on a lead.” ‘

Amanda Barrie has revealed she was asked to ‘initiate’ a young King Charles in the bedroom

It was around the time she played a wondrously sexy Cleopatra in 1964's Carry On Cleo when actor James Rob­ertson Justice, a friend of Prince Philip, approached her with the request

It was around the time she played a wondrously sexy Cleopatra in 1964’s Carry On Cleo when actor James Rob­ertson Justice, a friend of Prince Philip, approached her with the request

The request to 'initiate' Charles was 'one of the few jobs I've turned down', says Amanda

The request to ‘initiate’ Charles was ‘one of the few jobs I’ve turned down’, says Amanda

Royal connection: Amanda met the future king on several occasions, including here in 2001

Royal connection: Amanda met the future king on several occasions, including here in 2001 

Now, at the age of 87, an astonishingly vibrant, beguiling Amanda flutters her sweeping eyelashes (they really are real) and says: ‘The act of sex isn’t dainty, whoever’s doing it, from your beloved dog to your best friend.

‘As for your parents, you think, “Oh my God. You must have had to do that to get me.” Yuck.’

Yet, here we are, in the enchanting ‘cottage in the country’ near Taunton, Somerset, that she shares with her wife of nine years, crime writer Hilary Bonner (there’s also a London flat in Covent Garden).

Amanda has the sort of hugely expressive face that can pull at your heart one minute and make you laugh out loud the next.

Right now, as we discuss Harry’s brief, inglorious fumble in a field, she raises an eyebrow in the manner of Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Duchess in Downton Abbey. 

‘They obviously didn’t sort out a – how can you put it – coach for him, did they?’

Amanda, you see, knows a thing or two about these matters. It was around the time she was setting goodness knows how many male pulses ­racing playing a wondrously sexy Cleopatra in 1964’s Carry On Cleo when the ebullient late actor James Rob­ertson Justice, a friend of Prince Philip, approached her on a rather delicate and surprising business.

He was looking for someone to act ‘as a sort of early coach’ in matters of the bedroom – and her pupil-to-be, she revealed briefly in her autobiography, was a young Prince Charles.

The Palace has since poured cold water on her story, with Charles’s official biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, maintaining that the Prince was introduced to such things as a student at Cambridge.

But Amanda doesn’t easily lie. In fact, she says she was expelled from two schools because ‘they just read my face’.

‘I only have James’s word for what he was putting to me,’ she says. ‘But, I have fished about ­asking. Mark Bolland [who was Charles’s deputy private secretary from 1997 to 2002] and [his partner] Guy Black are friends so I said to Mark, “You must be able to check on this story as to whether it’s true or not.” 

'At my age you think about lots in life. If I'd done that, what would have been the consequence?'

‘At my age you think about lots in life. If I’d done that, what would have been the consequence?’

‘He said, ‘Oh darling, I don’t know, I don’t know, but it sounds as if it could be.’ ‘

We sit beside Amanda’s indoor swimming pool on a gloriously bright day. The sun shines through the doors, illuminating her. You sense she is at her best when she’s in the spotlight.

Amanda made her professional debut at four, then as plain Shirley Broadbent, at the Theatre Royal, Ashton-under-Lyne, owned by her grandfather.

There, she did eight shows a week with her pushy mother, whom she adored, hissing ‘Sing up, baby, smile’ from the wings.

More recently she was the lovable Alma Halliwell in Coronation Street for 13 years before leaving in 2001 to take a leading role in ITV’s prison drama Bad Girls.

She then appeared in several ­episodes of the sitcom Benidorm as a dotty psychic, starred in The Real Marigold Hotel, and in 2018 was a contestant in the Celebrity Big Brother house, entering to cheers.

But it was back in the 1960s when James Robertson Justice offered her what she says is ‘one of the few jobs I’ve turned down’.

‘I remember everything, absolutely, right from the table to the chair I was sitting in,’ she recalls. ‘It’s not like somebody was saying, “Can you do an audition for Crossroads next week?” ‘

And so she tells the full story of this astonishing proposition for the first time.

‘We were at Pinewood Studios in the wonderful restaurant and were having drinks. I adored James. He was a great raconteur and wonderful company.

‘Normally somebody like me at that age doing bits and pieces of film wouldn’t have registered with someone like James, but we never stopped talking on the set.

‘That day he said, ‘We ought to go and have a drink. There’s something I really want to talk about.”

‘He said, “I don’t know whether you’ll be offended but actually it’s the greatest compliment I could pay you.” 

He kept going backwards and forwards between thes two statements.

‘Then he said, “We’re going up for the next break [from filming] to Scotland. It would be lovely if you could join us.” 

‘I knew he had a sort of castle and a wonderful mistress because he told me. I think her name was Irena. I thought, “Oh great. That would be nice.” James was such fun.’

James continued to worry over whether he would cause offence and Amanda does a hilarious impersonation of her dear friend as she describes his vacillation.

‘I said, “James, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then he said, ‘… and at the end of the week, Mum and Dad will be up.’

‘I thought, “Is he talking about his mum and dad?”

‘Then he eventually got down to it. He said he was part of a group of eight people who… I don’t know how you’d describe it, really. 

‘What he couldn’t say is that it was arranged before they [young Royals] go off to boarding school that they had some sort of sexual experience with somebody who had – and he did say this – ‘not too much experience, but not none at all’.

‘I was saying ‘Yes’ but my brain couldn’t really chew it into shape.

‘It started to fall into place when he said, “It can be nobody who’s got any Royal connections.”

‘I thought, ‘Shirley Broadbent from Ashton-under-Lyne? Royal connections? I don’t think so.’

 Then he said, ‘I suppose the main thing is a sense of humour. You’ll be introduced to Prince Charles and you’ll sort of initiate him.’

‘Well…’ Amanda sits back in her chair, her face aghast, much as I imagine it was then.

‘My brain was whizzing around. I’m thinking, “Initiate Prince Charles? Meet Mum and Dad at the end of the week?”‘

She gasps theatrically, those huge eyes with their sooty lashes widen at the thought of facing the Queen and Prince Philip. ‘Do you have to go down to breakfast?

‘All these things are flying through my head. I thought, ‘I’m not drunk. I haven’t had a drink. I’m not under any influence. This is insane.’ 

So I listened to what he said would really happen. My brain was going into this strange world of ‘Well, I live in Covent Garden. Nell Gwyn [King Charles II’s mistress] didn’t do too badly. She was an actress.

‘Part of me was thinking, ‘I might get a grace-and-favour house.’

‘I remember going backwards and forwards while he was talking then I thought, ‘Hang on a minute.’ ‘I thought, ‘I’ve got no boobs. I’ve got three-inch eyelashes I’ll have to take off at night because we all did. I’ve got a hairpiece from Vidal Sassoon. 

‘I’ll have no make-up, for God’s sake.

‘It was not my morality that made me hesitate but my ­vanity, and while I was thinking that, James said, ‘Oh, yes, and have you got a pair of khaki shorts?’ ‘

Once more, her eyes widen.

‘Khaki shorts? Is that some kind of sexual thing?’ James said, “No, no, no. We all go grouse-shooting.”

‘The idea of me with no make-up, no boobs, questionable sexuality, even at that age, and a pair of khaki shorts. I thought I’d be in the Tower of London by the end of the month.

‘By the end of the conversation, I didn’t even know who I was… I had a hundred reservations about ­absolutely everything. Wee-ow, wee-ow, wee-ow.’

Her hands turn in circles around her head.

‘Alarm bells were going off. I said, “James, it’s so nice of you to offer me this but I don’t think I’m the right person.” He said, “I haven’t offended you, have I?”

She shakes her head and her dark blonde hair swishes around her jawline.

“You haven’t offended me. You’ve paid me a great compliment as you said, but I don’t think I’m the one for the job, quite honestly. 

“If you saw me in the morning, my God, I could scare the living daylights out of him.”

She pauses for a moment. ‘Mind you, now, in retrospect, I look back and if that had been the case we’d have probably got on rather well because we both like The Goon Show. 

So, possibly, the two of us would have been under the bedclothes listening to that.

‘Actually, when you look back at things you think it might have been useful to be a friend of the King. I’m trying to save the trees in Covent Garden and it would be a help to get him on the phone. 

“Madame du Barrie here…” she says in a ridiculously thick French accent.

‘I’ve met him a few times since, you know,’ she says. ‘Once was at a big fashion show. Mark Bolland invited me and I was introduced to Charles and Camilla. There’s a photo­graph in which I look very startled. I think it was the thought of what might have been.’

Amanda can’t remember the date. She’s at an age now where many of her dear friends have long since gone. 

She says she’s had to erase so many names from her address book that ‘it looks as if it’s been eaten by moths’.

‘At my age you think about lots in life. If I’d done that, what would have been the consequence?’ she says. 

‘At the time I tried not to think about the act itself because he was so young, but later on when I met him I thought he was so lovely.

‘I’m sure he’s like everybody else really. I don’t suppose he’s got a crown on the end of his bed.’

She hoots with laughter. We’ve been sitting in the sun for several hours now, so stand to stretch our legs. ‘He’s always very friendly but I did see him greet a lady once and I thought, “Ah, he’s been nice to her.”

‘There was an intimacy. I wanted to say to him, “It could have been me. I turned the job down.” ‘

Speaking of the very idea of setting the future King up with a ‘tutor’ in sexual matters, she says: ‘I’d always thought it must be so because once you send someone who’s inexperienced off to school, you could have a matron with a pretty daughter or somebody in the school whose parents are desperate to get you introduced to their teenage daughter.

‘The hazards of people you couldn’t trust could be amazing.’

Her eyes twinkle in mischief beneath those eyelashes.

‘Unless, like Harry, you sort it out yourself.’

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