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When Prince Andrew met Koo Stark, his most scandalous girlfriend

9Honey logo 9Honey 5/01/2020 Libby-Jane Charleston

Years before Prince Andrew was caught up in the Epstein controversy, he almost caused a different kind of embarrassment to the royal family over his romance with 'erotic film star' Koo Stark.

American-born Stark met Andrew in February 1981 at his 21st birthday party. They were introduced by mutual friends and the Prince, who was then second in line for the throne, was said to be immediately besotted with her.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York wearing a suit and tie: Prince Andrew was instantly besotted with American actress Koo Stark. © AP/AAP Prince Andrew was instantly besotted with American actress Koo Stark.

But it wasn't long before the British press discovered their relationship. It all went pear shaped when Andrew and Stark enjoyed a romantic holiday in the Caribbean. On the surface, their trip was nothing scandalous - but it was while they were away that the media discovered Stark had starred in some racy movies.

That was when the story of their romance really made headlines, as Stark was labelled the 'erotic actress' who'd featured in the steamy 1976 film The Awakening of Emily.

Stark the actress

Koo Stark, whose real name is Kathleen, was born in 1956 in New York to showbiz parents, who encouraged her to follow in their footsteps when she left school.

Her first film role was in the 1974 comedy All I Want Is You... and You... and You... which was produced by her father. Then in 1975, she had a small role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Koo Stark sitting on a sofa: Actress, photographer and one time girl friend of Prince Andrew, Koo Stark pictured in 1984. © Getty Actress, photographer and one time girl friend of Prince Andrew, Koo Stark pictured in 1984.

When she was 17, Stark appeared in the film Marquis de Sade: Justine, an erotic film that follows the rather alarming plot of a man who fantasises about torturing naked women. Later, Stark's role in The Awakening of Emily saw her take on the character of Emily and featured a lesbian shower scene.

It was this role that would come back to haunt her and ensure that she would never become a royal bride.

Stark meets the parents

In October 1982, Andrew and Stark thought they'd escape media attention by holidaying on the private island of Mustique, a favourite destination for royals and celebrities. But news of their romantic getaway was leaked to the British press, and when they returned to London they found themselves at the centre of a media storm.

Surely the man who was second in line to the throne wasn't seriously contemplating a serious relationship with an American actress?!

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Koo Stark holding wine glasses: Prince Andrew and Koo Stark, seen here at a party in 2002, kept their relationship quiet for over a year in the 80s. © Getty Prince Andrew and Koo Stark, seen here at a party in 2002, kept their relationship quiet for over a year in the 80s.

Recalling the controversy in 2016, Stark wrote: "We landed in Mustique and immediately found ourselves subjected to a frenzy of media attention. We had managed to be together for about a year-and-a-half before we were discovered, and the point at which we were finally exposed and hounded by the press was rather emotional for both of us."

"We carried on despite the attention and there was, from that point, a bounty on my head."

"The attention in those days was unprecedented and the paparazzi were everywhere. I was once dragged from the back of a motorbike by the hair; I was hit in the solar plexus by a long lens. Photographers on motorbikes literally rode into restaurants to attempt to get pictures of us together."

According to aristocrat Lady Colin Campbell, Andrew was very much in love with Stark and the family thought highly of her. The Queen herself apparently described her second son's girlfriend as "elegant, intelligent, and discreet."

Prince Charles, Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth II posing for a photo: Queen Elizabeth II with the Duke of Edinburgh and their children Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince Andrew, at Balmoral. 01 Sep 1979 © PA/AAP Queen Elizabeth II with the Duke of Edinburgh and their children Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince Andrew, at Balmoral. 01 Sep 1979

But once the British media got hold of semi-naked photos of Stark, along with stills from the lesbian shower scene in the "Emily" movie, everything changed. Andrew and Stark's romance was doomed, once and for all.

Ingrid Seward, author of Diana: An Intimate Portrait, said it would have been virtually impossible for a marriage between Andrew and Stark to work out, regardless of the erotic films.

"In those days, a prince of the realm might have had an actress as a mistress – just like his ancestors would have done - but never a wife," Ingrid said.

The end of love

Once the couple's relationship was exposed, Andrew knew he had to call it quits. Regardless of how in love they might have been, or how much his family liked Stark, the actress would never be accepted as a member of the royal family.

We'll never know if Andrew was devastated to break up with Stark or whether he just accepted his fate, but he bounced back very quickly. He dated several women, including Fionola Hughes, Katie Rabbit and Carolyn Herbert before settling down with Sarah Ferguson, the daughter of Prince Charles's polo manager Major Ron Ferguson, in 1986.

Sarah Ferguson wearing a hat: Prince Andrew and his bride, Sarah, wave as they leave Westminster Abbey following their 1986 wedding. © AP/AAP Prince Andrew and his bride, Sarah, wave as they leave Westminster Abbey following their 1986 wedding.

Though the match between the prince and a relative 'commoner' wasn't entirely expected, Princess Diana has been credited for helping gain approval for Sarah to marry into the royal family.

In 1988, Stark admitted being in the spotlight was also a major factor in the failure of the relationship. She told the media, "The amount of attention and pressure on me became unbearable. It was a nightmare."

She's also been quoted as saying about Andrew: "He walked into my life and that was it: he was my life."

Koo's open letter to Meghan

Prior to Prince Harry marrying Meghan Markle, Stark decided to write an open letter in Britain's Mail on Sunday in 2016, as a warning in regards to the fierce media attention.

"I moved address for two years every time my address was published. For Meghan, too, this will be a turning point," Stark wrote.

"She'll have to think very carefully about how she presents herself in public What she does, what she wears, how she behaves and what she's seen doing with whom. Her behaviour to a certain extent, now reflects upon Prince Harry."

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wearing a suit and tie: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement in 2017. © AAP Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement in 2017.

"It's hard to explain, a bit like the job of an ambassador, or a celebrity associated with an international luxury brand. It is crucial she does not offend anyone."

Stark also let Meghan know that the royal family won't step in to help her.

"I'd advise her to ask for their advice and counsel – after all, they are experts in their field. But she can't expect any real professional help from them until the day she marries Harry," Stark said.

"Because of my personal experience and association with the Royal Family, people are still interested in me decades after the headlines faded. It's absurd. Welcome, Meghan, to the Twilight Zone. And as for the fact that she's American – well, the Royals have some experience of that particular issue. Remember Wallis Simpson?"

Kathleen Starke standing in front of a building: Koo Stark penned an open letter to Meghan Markle in the years before she married Prince Harry. © PA/AAP Koo Stark penned an open letter to Meghan Markle in the years before she married Prince Harry.

The good news is that Stark and Andrew stayed friends, evident in the fact that Andrew became the godfather of Stark's daughter Tatiana. Stark has also jumped to Andrew's defence whenever a fresh scandal arises.

She's publicly described him as a man with Christian values; "a nice man, a tender, loving, caring and normal boyfriend".

Pictures: The most controversial prince: Andrew, a life in pictures

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