Princess Diana‘s former lover James Hewitt is working as a £4,000-a-year gardener in the grounds of the flat where he lives with his elderly mother, MailOnline can reveal.
The 62-year-old, who spent decades mixing first with Royalty and then celebrity, now spends his days digging up soil, cutting trees and blowing away fallen leaves.
Dressed in crumpled khaki trousers, a smart mauve shirt, flat cap and sunglasses the debonair ex-military man was seen this week driving his mower and raking leaves in the grounds where his mother has a two-bedroom flat.
But even in the tranquil setting of a Devon estate, the former Cavalry Officer simply can’t avoid controversy and, as ever, it comes with a royal flavour.
Residents of the 17th Century manor house near Exeter say he has mangled a century-old Yew tree in a vain bid to ‘make it look regal and shape it like a wine glass’.
Great grandparents Pauline and Barry Presswell who have lived in the building in Farringdon near Exeter, for three years say they fell out with him over the Yew tree debacle.
Former Cavalry Officer James Hewitt, 62, was this week atop a sit-on lawn mower that he uses to tend to the greens in the grounds of the 17th Century manor house where he lives with his mother Shirley, 92, where she owns a flat
The former polo-playing military man takes pride in his job as the block’s gardener in Farringdon, near Exeter, where he was this week seen his suitably attired in green khaki trousers raking up leaves in the grounds in time for Spring
For a time Hewitt lived in Marbella but when the bar he was running closed, he moved to the west country and into his mother’s £350,000 two-bedroom flat (above) where he tends grounds that stretch across six acres and include two ponds
Mr Hewitt came to prominence in 1991 over his affair with Diana. An iconic photo, taken during the fling, shows the princess presenting the Captain and Subalterns Cup to him after leading his Army polo team to glory at Tidworth, Wiltshire
Mr Presswell, 76, a retired company director said: ‘He made a dog’s dinner of a beautiful 100-year-old yew tree which we can see from our window and used to love.
‘Hewitt said he wanted it to look ‘regal and shaped like a wine glass’ and brought a tree surgeon in which cost the residents £1500 and he cut it down.’
Mrs Presswell, 71, added that the tree had been reduced from 18 foot to 10 foot: ‘It looks like an octopus. It is dreadful.
‘I went down to try and stop them and even said I would stay there until they stopped. But I was too late.
‘It is ruined. Hewitt did say sorry and that there had been a mistake, but we are extremely upset about this.
‘Now we can see right through to the road where before it was a lovely view of the tree.
‘We have had a few angry words with him which went both ways. He can use four letter words when he wants to and my husband called him a b***ard. We no longer speak to him.’
Dressed in his crumpled khaki trousers, smart checked shirt, flat cap, Hewitt has been whiling away the hours on his mower
The ex-Army man has also spent his time raking up leaves and generally tidying the grounds for residents at the smart block
Mr Hewitt came to public prominence in 1991 when his ex-fiancee revealed that they had split over his affair with Diana.
The affair had lasted for five years from 1986 when he had been asked to give the mother-of-two horse-riding lessons.
A now iconic photo, taken during their secret relationship, shows Diana presenting the Captain and Subalterns Cup to Mr Hewitt after leading his Army polo team to glory at Tidworth, Wiltshire.
Hewitt has recently tried his hand at online dating where his Tinder profile says he is seeking women around the age of 50
After the affair was made public, he was repeatedly accused of cashing in on the relationship.
In 1994, three years before Diana’s death and two years after her formal separation from Prince Charles, Mr Hewitt co-operated with author Anna Pasternak for the book Princess in Love. It became a best seller.
It led to Diana telling Martin Bashir in her famous tell-all Panorama interview: ‘Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down,’
In the years that followed her death, Mr Hewitt wrote two more books about the relationship while appearing on reality TV shows.
He was repeatedly accused of plotting to sell the private letters he had been sent by the Princess but no sale has ever been revealed.
He moved to Marbella to open his own bar, the Polo Club, but that closed in 2013 and he moved back to the West Country to be closer to his mother.
In a 2011 interview, he credited his mother Shirley, now 92, for saving his life when he was suicidal in the 1990s.
Now he is sharing her £350,000 flat and tending grounds that stretch across six acres and include two ponds.
The former military man, who was mentioned in dispatches in the first Gulf War, is responsible for the upkeep of the front of the house and the immediate back garden.
His salary is funded by the residents’ association at the block of flats where his mother lives, called the Farringdon House residents, who all pay into a fund which is then overseen by a management company.
For this, he is paid £15-a-day plus two extra payments of £250 every six months to upkeep another neighbouring plot.
Earlier this week he could be seen using a hand-held blower to remove fallen leaves from the front of the property, whose residents include the father of Coldplay singer Chris Martin.
The only sign of Hewitt’s former Playboy lifestyle is his Porsche that he parks next to the main house.
This allows him to use his official parking space for his gardening tools to save him trudging back and forth to the shed.
Mr Hewitt has fallen out with some neighbours in the block after he reportedly recruited a tree surgeon at a cost of £1,500 to cut back an 18ft Yew tree (pictured above before) and said he wanted it pruned into the shape of a regal wine glass
Barry Presswell (above) says he has fallen out with Mr Hewitt after the tree was trimmed (pictured as it is today) to just 10ft tall
But no matter how hard he blows the leaves or mows the lawn, some residents are simply not satisfied.
One, who asked not to be named, said: ‘He acts as if the garden is his own. He has upset us by cutting back that tree without consultation. It was beautiful before, but it looks unloved after what he had done to it.
‘Few of us here care about his association with Diana and the Royal family and he’s lost his looks.’
Only four years ago Hewitt suffered a stroke and heart attack and spent several weeks in hospital recovering.
Now he is feeling well enough to try online dating where his Tinder profile says he is seeking women of around the age of 50 to enter his affections.
It is all a far cry from his earlier life where he had won the heart of a Princess and would even read bedtime stories to her young sons.
MailOnline attempted to ask Hewitt what thoughts he had on the Sussexes plans for an interview with Oprah Winfrey but he refused to comment.