Of all the men attracted by the vortex of Princess Diana's life, he was one of the few to leave with any credit. He was also the most unlikely of suitors: a close friend of Prince Charles.
Too educated to let his emotions come to light, Oliver Hoare weathered the endless speculation about his affair with the Princess of Wales with carefree nonchalance, maintaining both his dignity and his silence.
Diana never publicly acknowledged her love for Hoare as she did with the cavalry officer James Hewitt, nor did she allow her friends to speak of him as they did later of other friendly men like Hasnat Khan or Dodi Fayed.
The millionaire art seller Oliver Hoare, pictured in 1994, left, and in March of last year, on the right, he had a secret affair with Diana, Princess of Wales.
But then his relationship with the married art dealer was by far the most dangerous, the most destabilizing and the most humiliating of his life. He was also the most passionate.
It has been almost 25 years since revelations about the couple broke out in public consciousness after Diana was accused of bombing the Hoare family home with over 300 annoying phone calls.
However, throughout that quarter of a century, Hoare said nothing. Now, with his death at age 73, after facing the disease with courage and black humor, the Old Etonian has made sure that what he had always sworn: take the secrets of the matter to the grave has been fulfilled.
Diana's infatuation with the handsome father of three was so intense, so absorbing that for a brief moment she thought about leaving Charles for him.
According to reports, Princess Diana, photographed at Ascot in 1986, bombed Mr. Hoare's family home with hundreds of annoying phone calls
In fact, he was the only man for whom he really thought to give up everything. At the height of her unhappiness with Charles, the address where Hoare lived in Chelsea, Tregunter Road, was the code word she and her sister-in-law the Duchess of York devised to describe their clandestine plans to abandon their husbands and their real lives. .
"Tregunter Road was our escape code," he once told me, "it meant our jump to freedom." By then, however, his love for Hoare had diminished, but his desire for a life outside the Royal Family did not.
It has always been said that Diana lost her nerve because of that double jump with Fergie from behind the walls of the palace. And when Fergie's separation from Prince Andrew was announced, the princess, whose marital unhappiness was the eldest of the two women, changed her mind in silence.
That, however, was only half the story. Many believed that if the push had come to an end, Hoare himself would not have abandoned his own family anyway. He once joked that, no matter how rich he became, he would never be rich enough to take care of a princess.
It was also significant that, while Diana's domestic life was not pleasant, his was happy, though chaotic. His wife, Diane, of French descent, had shown great reserves of emotional resistance to guide her family through the crisis caused by the princess's inextinguishable ardor for her husband.
Hoare's continued devotion for Diane, for her daughter and her two children were also key factors.
Mr. Hoare and his wife Dianne, on the right, talk to Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Guard's Polo Club in June 1986.
And unlike others on which Diana casts a shadow, Oliver handled it much better, and infinitely more elegantly.
Surprisingly, he remained a friend of the Prince of Wales, who for many years spent part of each summer in the French retreat of the Hoares in rural Provence, sometimes with Camilla. He had also been one of the few connoisseurs who knew the prince's relationship with the former Mrs. Parker Bowles.
In part, their friendship survived thanks to their closeness to the family of the prince's parents-in-law. The businessman Simon Elliot, who is married to Annabel, the sister of the Duchess of Cornwall, was one of his closest confidants.
But it also involved his shared fascination with all things Islam, a curiosity about antiquity and a deeper consideration for the mysticism of life and the spiritual.
Mr. Hoare made no public comments about his affair with Princess Diana, pictured, and took his secrets to his grave
"Oliver greatly admired the prince," says an old friend of Hoare. "He never stopped liking him, although his relationship with Diana at the time meant that they would not see each other anymore." He always saw Charles as a force for good in the country, often misunderstood, but a man with decent values.
So maybe it was inevitable that after Diana's death in 1997, the two men should rekindle their friendship and resume the path where they had left it many years before.
While it served to illustrate a unique vision of the marital infidelity of the upper class, it also demonstrated the prince's remarkable capacity for forgiveness.
When he first learned of the affair, Charles was incredulous that someone apparently as learned and read as Oliver might have something in common with Diana, whom he did not regard as his intellectual.
But for Diana, he would be remembered as one of the most influential figures in the art world. His experience made him quite possibly the most important authority of Great Britain in the Islamic art in which he made and lost a fortune.
Although his success in the sales room attracted much attention in the art halls of London, it was through his wife that Hoare began to socialize with royalty.
Oil heiress Diane, whose aristocratic mother, Baroness Louise de Waldner, was a friend of the Queen Mother, was close enough for the couple to be invited to a party at Windsor Castle during the Royal Ascot in 1985.
Princess Diana, who was then only 24 years old, was immediately attracted by the handsome and dark Hoare. Images at the time showed them smiling. She later admitted that she had felt a little shy when they introduced themselves and blushed when they shook hands.
Princess Diana, in the photo, was immediately attracted to the dealer when they met in 1985.
Four more years passed before his adventure began.
Hoare was 16 years older than her and attractive, and some of her friends suggest that her sophisticated manner met her need for a father figure instead of a lover.
Others believe that for her there was an additional chill of satisfaction in the relationship because he was a close friend of Charles.
And since he was also Camilla's friend, that meant he could keep the princess up to date on her rival. With the Waleses' marriage moving into an open state of war, Hoare and his wife began acting as intermediaries.
Diana interrogated Oliver constantly, trying to understand what her husband saw in the woman he called "the Rottweiler." Soon he was more than a simple intermediary. Years later it was claimed that Diana smuggled him into Kensington Palace in the trunk of the car and that security personnel found him half naked smoking a cigar behind a potted laurel when a fire alarm was fired in the middle of the night.
For his part, Oliver said the stories were funny, but false.
Doubtless, Diana was infatuated with him, and she told her confidant and surrogate mother, Lady Bowker, widow of a diplomat, that she "dreamed of living in Italy with the handsome Hoare".
But this would become the most dangerous liaison of the princess in which even the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, then Sir Paul Condon, became involved.
Princess Diana made 20 annoying calls to Mr. Hoare's house in 1993 and 1994
Because when Hoare tried to end the relationship, several silent "annoying" calls were made to the Hoale house in Chelsea. These particularly annoyed his wife, who called the police.
Consultations began and some of the calls went back to the private line of the princess at Kensington Palace, some to cell phones she used, and others to telephones in the Kensington area. For several months she was accused of bombing the house of the Hoares with up to 300 anonymous calls. Sometimes Hoare would answer, sometimes his wife, but every time he called he would not say anything and just hang up.
In its heyday, it was claimed, there were up to 20 calls per week. On one occasion, three arrived in the space of nine minutes.
In January 1994, the Kensington police finally placed a tap on the line, which could trace the origin of the mysterious calls.
Then, suddenly, the Commissioner announced that the questions had ended "at Mr. Hoare's request".
It was clear that some, but not necessarily all, of the silent calls had been made by the princess herself.
The revelations were very damaging to Diana's reputation, but in fact the issue that began in 1989 was over when news of the phone call scandal broke about four years later.
As the crisis unfolded, Hoare quietly moved out of the family home. But he came back when the dust settled and he and his marriage to Diane survived.
I had already survived an & # 39; amoureuse & # 39; previous, as he said once. This was with Ayesha Nadir, the wife twice divorced from the fugitive Cypriot Asil Nadir, who fled infamous Britain when his company Polly Peck failed in 1991 leaving debts of £ 1.3bn. His adventure lasted four years.
The romance between the art dealer and Princess Diana began in 1989 and ended in 1993.
"I would never have left Diane, despite everything I adored her," says a friend. & # 39; She was his rock. But it was her great fortune that she was French and, therefore, much more understanding. No Englishwoman would have appeased her infidelities.
Blessed with good looks, quick wit, and a warm, throaty laugh, it had always been attractive to women.
Born in 1945, Hoare was related to the family of banks and brokers in the city of the same name. His father Reginald, a descendant of the landowners of Norfolk, was an officer of the War Office and his mother Irina was a member of the Kroupensky family who had come to Britain from Moravia, a province in the Czech Republic.
Her father died when she was 18 years old and it was the exotic and very traveled Irina, according to the family legend that worked for MI6, who fired her interest in antiquity.
After Eton, where a contemporary was the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who recalled his enthusiasm for boxing, he moved to the Sorbonne in Paris, where he delighted in the artistic world.
However, a meeting with a woman was to put him in the direction of his life. Hamoush Azodi-Bowler, an immensely rich Iranian princess, took him under his protection, timidly referring to him as "my protege".
Hoare was about 20 years old, while Hamoush was a couple of decades older, but she encouraged her interest in Islamic art and took him to Tehran, where she learned to read the Arabic and Persian alphabet. "He was very studious, very serious," he recalled later. "Everyone loved him, he played the guitar and sang beautifully."
It was in Iran that Hoare began to collect art, beginning with kilims, fine Persian rugs and ancient pots. Back in London and working for Christie's, he moved in bohemian circles and became friends with ballet star Rudolf Nuryev, actor Terence Stamp and travel writer Bruce Chatwin.
He took aikido with Mark Shand, brother of the Duchess of Cornwall, and the couple had classes with Hollywood actor Steven Seagal. In recent times, actor Rupert Everett had become a close friend.
The women adored him. "Many wanted to have adventures with him," recalled a friend. But he was not a simple dilettante.
With his own established business, he was eager to marry someone he admired. That someone was Diane Waldner. They met at a dinner in London in 1974 and pursued it avidly. They married two years later.
Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge, he traveled the world searching and buying beautiful objects.
For eight years he held a shopping spree of 1,700 million pounds for the late Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar, the world's greatest art collector, buying treasures for the Museum of Islamic Art in the Gulf state.
That relationship came to an end when the Sheikh was arrested and charged with embezzling millions of pounds from Qatar using hugely inflated bills. It is alleged that some of the invoices were supplied by Hoare.
Although the case faded, Hoare then attacked the Qatari authorities for destroying Sheikh Saud's reputation and for "throwing away the cultural future of his country."
In recent years he held two exhibitions entitled Each object tells a story, showing his extraordinary collection of treasures, from the bone of a Dodo to a cane that claimed to be "made of unicorn horn". and a silver pomp: a perforated container to keep perfume – property of King James II.
This year he was also working on at least six books & # 39; about his life and the treasures he felt compelled to seek. One referred to his triumph in the engineering of an exchange in 1994 between the Iranian government and the Houghton Family Trust in Britain of a valuable Persian manuscript illuminated with a painting by the Dutch abstract artist Willem de Kooning.
Hoare's interests spread everywhere. He was attracted to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, but he also enjoyed lavish parties and boxing.
We met for the last time a few weeks ago. Although he had been ill for some time, he was determined to move forward with his many projects. During lunch of caviar and white wine (nothing more) he told me for the first and only time something of his adventure with Diana.
Of course he regretted the pain, especially Diane. To the princess, he told me, he had said this: "I told him that before something happened, it would end with a lot of pain for both of them, but it would be very funny on the way …"