Prince Edward used to “smuggle” former girlfriend Ruthie Henshall into Buckingham Palace, the stage star has revealed.

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The singer – who first met the prince when she starred in musical Cats – admits she often went to visit her royal love but their meetings had to be conducted in secret.

Ruthie said: “We dated solidly for a couple of years, but on and off for five. We couldn’t quite let go. When we dated I used to go to Buckingham Palace quite a lot because he lived there, but I was smuggled in in my car.

It always used to make me laugh – I’d sort of say ‘I’m going to my boyfriend’s tonight’. Nobody knew who he was.”

Ruthie – who attended the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones, now the Earl and Countess of Wessex, with her former fiance John Gordon Sinclar, in 1999 – also revealed the reasons behind her split from Edward.  

She said: “It was very exciting, but I genuinely fell in love with him. I think I had hopes that we could walk on in our relationship but really and truthfully I think I was very aware that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living if I’d have stayed with him.

“If you think about it I would be in the theatre doing eight shows a week, they’d have to check out the theatre every night, check everyone’s bags, it would be just impossible, and there was nothing – at that stage – that was more important than what I did.”

The 41-year-old beauty – who now has two children with husband Tim Howar – also said she was surprised by the normalcy of Britain’s royal family.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs, she said: “When they are behind closed doors they are a family, and they have barbeques like a family and they talk like a family.

“I never saw the queen turning sausages on the barbeque but I did see Charles!”