Libel lawyer born into a family of courtiers who became private secretary to the Prince of Wales.
Edward Adeane, who has died aged 75, was a former private secretary and treasurer to the Prince of Wales, descended from a distinguished line of courtiers.
He was the son of Sir Michael (later Lord) Adeane, a long-serving private secretary to the Queen. Neither would have served had the Zulus not severed the arteries of the Prince Imperial in 1879. Queen Victoria wished to recognise the services of one Arthur Bigge to the ill-fated prince, and thus she adopted him into her household. He went on to become private secretary to King George V, dying in office as Lord Stamfordham in 1931. His daughter, Victoria, was the mother of Michael Adeane.
An only son, George Edward Adeane was born on October 4 1939. His mother, Helen, was the daughter of Richard Chetwynd-Stapleton. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, and was a page of honour to the Queen from 1954 to 1956.
He was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1962 and specialised in libel. In 1973 he appeared for Playboy Publications Inc, the publishers of Oui magazine, who had printed an article about the film actress Fiona Lewis, suggesting that she had been involved in revolutionary activities in South America. She was paid substantial damages.
In 1974 he represented the owners of The Spectator when they libelled the publishers Jonathan Cape by suggesting that they were in financial difficulty. Damages were paid to Cape.
The following year, Adeane was more successful in his representation of Lady Falkender, Harold Wilson’s political and personal secretary, when she was falsely accused by the Evening Standard of forging Wilson’s signature on a document when he was leader of the opposition. She was paid “appropriate damages and legal costs”.
Adeane gave up his practice at the Bar in 1979 to succeed Squadron Leader David Checketts as private secretary to the Prince of Wales. At the time of his appointment it was widely thought that he would become a permanent fixture, emulating his great-grandfather, Lord Stamfordham, of whom King George V wrote: “He taught me how to be a king. He was the most loyal friend I have ever had.” Adeane was certainly a friend of Prince Charles, and they shared an interest in shooting and fishing – both were members of the Houghton, the Hampshire fishing club on the Test, near Stockbridge, where Adeane caught his limit on the last weekend before he died.
Adeane was in the Prince’s service when he became engaged to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. This led to an amusing misunderstanding in the forecourt of Albany, where Adeane had a set. In the late spring of that year, Adeane informed the porters that he was expecting “Lady Diana” to lunch with him. There was instant panic, and valuable cars were moved to safer parking places, in fear of the arrival of the 88-year-old Lady Diana Cooper in her brown Mini. She was a regular visitor to friends in Albany and her erratic driving and heterodox method of parking had caused them grief on many occasions in the past. The porters laboured in vain, since it was Lady Diana Spencer who drove up, parking her Mini Metro neatly.
This lunch did not lay the foundations for a felicitous relationship between the Prince’s bride and his private secretary. Adeane soon found himself one of several figures who were sidelined by the nervous and suspicious Princess as she disposed in quick succession of a number of the Prince’s long-serving and loyal staff. Nevertheless he was additionally appointed private secretary to the Princess in 1984, following the resignation of Oliver Everett.
In 1985 Adeane resigned after a number of disagreements, including accusations that he had made plans without consulting the Prince and that his style was too much of the old school. On the other hand, Adeane found that the Prince almost invariably did the opposite of what he advised. A point at issue was the lack of time that he spent in the Principality of Wales, something Adeane tried in vain to alter.
The Queen honoured Adeane with a CVO, the Prince of Wales appointed him an Extra Equerry – which involved occasionally representing the Prince at Royal Household memorial services – and he returned to the Bar. He was probably not surprised that after his departure there was a succession of private secretaries who remained in office for very short periods.
Adeane may have lost the official favour of the Prince of Wales, but he continued to be a regular guest of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Birkhall each September. Latterly he held various directorships and was for some years a member of the British Library board and a trustee of Lambeth Palace library.
Edward Adeane was a retiring figure, remembered as having disliked games at school, and as being fond of fine food (he always ate out, even breakfast). He was a well-liked man.
He is survived by his companion, Brent Snape.
- Edward Adeane, born October 4 1939, died May 20 2015