The Sunday Telegraph
‘We would look up at the brightest star and I would say: That’s daddy’
Widov oCPrince’s friend tells how she has coped in the 20 wars since her husband died on a royal skiing trip
IT IS 20 years since she was told the news that every wife dreads. But only now does Sarah Horsley feel strong enough to visit the mountains where her husband died.
When the winter snows have melted, Mrs Horsley will travel to Klosters, Switzerland, where an avalanche claimed the life of her husband, Major Hugh Lindsay, while he was skiing off piste with the Prince of Wales.
The Prince, who two decades ago dug frantically in the snow with his bare hands in a vain attempt to save his friend’s life, will return to the picturesque village separately later this month for a holiday. He has visited Klosters several times since the accident.
Yet Mrs Horsley, who was seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child when disaster struck, has only just begun to feel mentally strong enough to fly to the Alps to see the place where her husband, at the age of just 34, was buried under a deluge of falling snow.
Now she has broken her 20-year public silence over the Klosters tragedy in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph. Mrs Horsley spoke affectionately of the man she had hoped to grow old with, while their daughter Alice, who will be 20 in May, spoke fondly of the father she never met.
“Hugh was great,” said Mrs Horsley. “He was enormous fun — one of those people who brightened a room. He was very kind — he would speak to the old and the young alike – and hugely enthusiastic about life.”
On the day of the avalanche, March 10, 1988, Mrs Horsley, now remarried but then Mrs Lindsay, was working in the press office at Buckingham Palace. Her husband had enjoyed a successful career in the Army, where for three years he had been seconded as an equerry to the Queen and had become friends with Prince Charles.
“I was in my office and the telephone kept ringing. The reporters would say ‘Who am I speaking to?’ I would say ‘Sarah Lindsay’ and the phone would go dead.
“At first, I put it down to a bad line from abroad but then I was told by Sir Robin Janvrin [then the Queen’s press secretary and later her private secretary] that there had been an accident – he said the Prince was safe but somebody was dead. For half an hour, I said an awful lot of prayers, but then poor Robin had to tell me it was Hugh who had died.” The next two months were desperately difficult. “Each day before Alice was born [at St Thomas’ Hospital in London] was a struggle. I though nothing mattered any more. But the moment Alice was born, she was the focus of my life.
“Yet even then, when I was collected from hospital by my parents, I felt it was the loneliest moment of my life. I was very ‘unbrave’ for two or three years.” Mrs Lindsay, now 55, had great support from her own family and the Royal Family at the a time when the Waleses were still together. Diana, Princess of Wales, with the Duchess of York, had been in Klosters at the time of the avalanche but were not with the ski party that included Bruno Sprecher, the mountain guide, and Patti Palmer-Tomkinson, a friend of the Prince who received horrendous injuries in the disaster.
Prince Charles became a dutiful godfather to Alice and the Princess of Wales was a constant source of strength. “The Princess was fantastic. She used to ring me every Sunday evening. She was a dear friend — someone I could ring at midnight and say: ‘Life is pretty grim’.”
On Alice’s first birthday, the Princess invited mother and daughter to Kensington Palace, her London home. There was a cake for Alice and Princes William and Harry, then aged five and three, joined in the birthday party.
Slowly, Mrs Lindsay began to rebuild her life. “I have always talked to Alice about Hugh. When she was old enough to understand, I said she always had daddy with her because he was in her heart.
“At night, we would look up at the brightest star and I would say ‘That is daddy and he is looking down on us and looking after us’.”
Some six years after her husband died, Mrs Lindsay met Paul Horsley, a businessman with two children from a previous marriage. The couple married in 1996 and they now live in a six-bedroomed Georgian house in a village in Wiltshire.
A year after their wedding, they had a daughter together – Emilie, who is now 10. “Paul has been fantastic,” said Mrs Horsley. “I feel very lucky to have met him.” Alice Lindsay, an attractive, bright-eyed red head, is in her first year of a four-year degree course at Manchester University.
She has a collage of photographs of him in her bedroom that Mrs Horsley arranged for Major Lindsay’s mother, Audrey, shortly after his death. Audrey Lindsay died a year ago in her late eighties.
Alice is grateful that she has inherited some of her father’s traits.
“Of course, it is hard that I never met him but I have spoken to all his family and I feel I know what he was really like,” she said.
“He loved music and sport — and so do I. He loved parties — and so do I. I am glad that I am like him in so many ways and I often think: ‘I hope my father would be proud of me and what I have done’.”