Do you know who this dashing former cavalry officer is?

EXCLUSIVE He only gets a cameo in The Crown but his real-life role in the royal family spawned a thousand headlines …so do you know who this dashing former cavalry officer is?

He was the handsome Army officer who captured Princess Diana’s heart – before recently working as a £4,000 gardener at a flat he lived in with his mother.

But in the days after the final series of The Crown was released, the man nicknamed ‘The Cad’ was spotted flying home from Ireland in a sign his own circumstances may have improved.

James Hewitt, 65, was seen with a group of friends that included a Diana-esque Italian countess and a film producer.

The group, who had been on a private shoot in the west of Ireland, was heard discussing the Netflix show, its historical accuracy and its portrayal of the Royal Family over pints of Beamish Irish stout in the bar at Shannon Airport.

At one point the retired Major, who only appears briefly in The Crown when he is  dumped by Diana, ‘politely laughed and replied that he was sure it [the show] wasn’t entirely accurate’, a witness said. 

With him in Ireland was Countess Alessandra de Michelis di Slonghello, a glamorous Italian aristocrat who has run fashion, art and high end design businesses in Rome, Paris, New York and London.

Major James Hewitt arriving back from Shannon at Heathrow Airport on Sunday after a shoot in Ireland

Princess Diana’s former lover was with a group of friends heard discussing TV and films including The Crown, one witness claimed

Glamorous Italian aristocrat Countess Alessandra de Michelis di Slonghello (left) was apparently part of Major Hewitt’s shooting party

In a now iconic image at the height of their affair, Diana was pictured presenting the Life Guards officer with a polo trophy in 1989 

Daniel Donskoy as James Hewitt in  Series Four of The Crown. ‘The Cad’ only made a brief appearance on the show

Hewitt is only depicted for a few seconds on The Crown, in episode 9 of season 4 (pictured), after being dumped by Diana and warned he is not welcome at Kensington Palace

Hewitt was played by Daniel Donskoy in season four of The Crown and his companions were apparently discussing its merits over a drinks before taking off for Heathrow with Aer Lingus on Sunday.

A fellow drinker told MailOnline: ‘The group arrived in good spirits at Shannon Airport. They enjoyed a drink at the bar in departures where they were overheard discussing films and new television releases – including The Crown’.

A spokesman for Mr Hewitt declined to comment, saying the shoot and the circle with him was a private matter.

Hewitt’s appearance in The Crown was brief, although there was a fictitious scene in which his affair with Diana was discussed by Charles and the Queen.

The then Prince of Wales tells his mother that he wants to start separation proceedings after learning that Diana has resumed her affair with Hewitt.

He tells the Queen: ‘She has resumed her affair with Major Hewitt with flagrant disregard for our agreement we made in our meeting with you. A meeting in which it is now clear, she brazenly lied to your face.

‘It leaves me with no option but to start the process of formal separation.’

He exclaims: ‘She makes me brazenly unhappy and there is someone else out there who would make me perfectly happy.’

Hewitt also pops up in conversation when Diana tells her therapist that she has ended their relationship and he is no longer welcome at Kensington Palace, telling her staff to send him away.

Major Hewitt (left on Sunday and right in the 1990s) met with Princess Diana when he taught her to ride a horse. He claimed they had an affair lasting several years

Prince Charles (left) was locked in a fierce battle with Princess Diana’s lover Major James Hewitt (right) during this polo match in 1991

Hewitt has links to Ireland. He was born in Londonderry while his marine father was based there with the Royal Marines before moving to Kent and going to Sandhurst.

The former cavalry officer became one of the most famous men in the world after his affair with William and Harry’s mother emerged. 

There were even false rumours he was Harry’s father, but it was later confirmed he didn’t meet Diana until after the Duke of Sussex was born.

Princess Diana met him when he was hired to teach her to ride in an effort to overcome her lifelong fear of horses in late 1986.

Their relationship became intimate the following year. By then, her marriage was over in all but name — Prince Charles had returned to his former lover, Camilla Parker Bowles. He later claimed he did so only when his marriage had become ‘irretrievably broken’.

The couple remained together until 1992. By then, Hewitt had been named as a significant figure in Diana’s life and the letters she sent to him were supposedly locked in his safe. In 2003, Hewitt apparently tried to sell his 64 personal letters from Diana for £10million.

The couple were forced apart when he was sent to Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War and split after their affair was made public.

Hewitt had spent 17 years in the Household Cavalry and was a tank commander in the first Gulf war.

But when it emerged that he had enjoyed a long correspondence with the Princess of Wales during the Gulf War, he was discharged from the Life Guards in 1994.

Major James Hewitt pictured with Princess Diana in 1994. The Major and the Princess met at a party in London in 1986 when she was aged 25. He was 28

Major Hewitt at The Royal Berkshire Polo Club in 1991

Hewitt then revealed details of their affair in Princess In Love, a book which he co-authored and published in 1994.

Diana gave her Panorama interview months later.

In an interview with an Australian news network in March 2017, Hewitt recalled the moment he fell in love with the Princess.

‘She had an aurora of something special around her,’ he said. He also admitted he wanted to ‘whisk her away’ from the spotlight.

‘It’s a gradual period and then, you know, suddenly you can’t get enough of each other or see each other as much as you want,’ he said.

He revealed the pair used to spend quality time together, enjoying walks along the beach or a mall and cooking dinners.

‘Well, I’d cook and she’d wash up. Just dinner and relaxing and laughing,’ he added.

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