What you never knew about Prince Andrew’s scandalous ex-girlfriend Koo Stark

She was an actress from the US… sound familiar?
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Prince Harry broke from tradition when he wed Meghan Markle in 2018, but almost 40 years earlier another British prince was involved with an even more scandalous American actress.

Prince Andrew’s relationship with ‘erotic film star’ Koo Stark caused an uproar in the 1980s and sparked one of the royal’s first major controversies – though it wouldn’t be his last.

These days he’s considered a disgraced member of the monarchy, stripped of his official duties and patronages over his connection to paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

But long before the Epstein scandal saw Andrew brought low, he had to face the royal fallout of a very different controversy as a result of his romance with Stark.

So who was Koo Stark, how did she meet Prince Andrew and why was their romance so shocking? Read on to find out.

Who is Koo Stark?

Born Kathleen Norris Stark in New York, USA in 1956, the actress went by the nickname ‘Koo’.

(Image: Getty)

Born Kathleen Norris Stark in New York, USA in 1956, Stark came from a family of writers and entertainers, so it was no surprise when she too joined the industry.

After completing her education in New York and London, the aspiring actress landed roles in a string of films in the 1970s, including Star Wars: A New Hope.

She was in talks to play the role of Leia Skywalker but lost it to Carrie Fisher, instead acting alongside Mark Hamill as a friend of Luke Skywalker’s, though her scenes were later cut.

Stark also understudied for stage productions and later pursued a career in photography, which she continues to this day.

When did Prince Andrew meet Koo Stark?

Andrew met Stark in February 1981 at the prince’s 21st birthday party.

(Image: Getty)

Andrew first met Stark in February 1981 when they were introduced by a mutual friend at the prince’s 21st birthday party.

Stark was in the UK understudying for a stage play at the National Theatre in London and Andrew was said to be smitten the moment he laid eyes on her.

He offered to drive her home that night and even invited her to “BP” for lunch the very next day, though Stark initially misunderstood his request.

“Initially I wondered why he was taking me to a petrol station–it took me a moment to realise he meant Buckingham Palace,” she wrote for the Mail on Sunday in 2015.

Their romance quickly took off and Stark was regularly invited to Buckingham Palace to see the prince, and she even scored herself an invitation to holiday at Balmoral with the royal family.

Lady Colin Campbell, who has written several royal biographies, claimed the Queen was “much taken with the elegant, intelligent, and discreet Koo”.

How long did Prince Andrew date Koo Stark?

Stark was regularly invited to Buckingham Palace to see the prince and attended many events with him.

(Image: Getty)

The pair continued to date through the royal’s active service in the Falklands War, where he served as a helicopter pilot in 1982.

Though they came from very different worlds (Stark says she bought Andrew his first pair of denim jeans), the relationship seemed to be going well until the media got involved.

In 1982 the press discovered that Andrew had taken Stark for a romantic holiday to Princess Margaret’s villa on the island of Mustique.

“The press we received rivalled that of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII,” Stark would go on to claim in 2015.

“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 moved address for 2 years every time my address was published.”

The media attention was constant, putting an immediate strain on their relationship, and the public seemed unimpressed that the man second in line to the British throne was tipped to marry American actress.

The media attention was constant, putting an immediate strain on their relationship.

(Image: Getty)

“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,” royal author Ingrid Seward said.

Things only got worse when the press uncovered topless photos of Stark, as well as a lesbian shower scene from one of her films, which was described as a “soft core pornography”.

In 1976 she had starred in The Awakening of Emily (alternately titled Emily), which sees the titular young woman played by Stark explore her sexuality in 1920s England.

There was no way the press or public would have accepted Stark as a future royal given her “erotic” role, and soon after she and Andrew split.

Why did Prince Andrew and Koo Stark break up?

Things only got worse when the press uncovered topless photos of Stark from her film The Awakening of Emily.

(Image: Getty)

Andrew is understood to have ended the relationship after just over 18 months of dating Stark, though the exact reasoning was never made public.

Many believe that media attention and pressure from the royal family to find a more suitable match may have influenced the prince’s decision.

Others claim it was Stark’s salacious past that made her an unsuitable match and that Andrew, recognising this, chose to call it quits in 1983.

He went on to marry Sarah Ferguson in 1986 in a lavish royal wedding, after Stark wed Tim Jefferies, manager of a photographic gallery, in August 1984.

Stark’s marriage lasted just a year and while she was engaged to American Banker Warren Walker in the ’90s, they never tied the knot.

The pair did however welcome a daughter, Tatiana, in May 1997 shortly after Stark called off the wedding. Prince Andrew was named the godfather.

Where is Koo Stark now?

Stark welcomed daughter Tatiana in 1997 and Andrew was named the godfather.

(Image: Getty)

Stark has worked as a photographer for decades now and largely avoids the press, save for when Harry and Meghan’s romance first began.

Royal watchers were quick to compare the situations; an American actress dating the second son of a monarch (or future monarch, in Charles’ case at the time).

Stark herself even recognised the similarities and penned an open letter to the Duchess of Sussex in 2016, warning her of the pressures associated with dating a prince.

She has also given several interviews about her relationship with Andrew but maintains that she never tried to cash in on her royal connections.

In fact, Stark gave up acting after she realised “directors were either interested in the publicity I’d bring or seek to make money for the project based on my involvement” after her split from Andrew.

In 2002 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy to save her life. She’s also a practicing Buddhist, having converted after meeting the Dalai Lama.

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