How Princess Diana's bridesmaid India Hicks overcame heartbreak of losing granddad in terror attack
1st December 2020

DESPITE being first thrust into the spotlight as one of Princess Diana’s bridesmaids at her 1981 wedding aged just 13, glamorous India Hicks vowed she'd never marry. 

Which is why it was such a surprise when this week the now 53-year-old announced she was engaged to her long-term partner of 25 years, former Saatchi & Saatchi advertising executive, David Flint Wood, 59.

The former Ralph Lauren model and socialite – who has five children including Bahamian-born Wesley, who she fostered when he was just 15 in 2011 after his own mother died – posted on Instagram: “David and I are getting married. Five children and 25 years later! We quietly decided a few months ago. 

“A celebration of unflinching love. Until death do us part.”

Following the announcement, we take a closer look at interior designer India’s life, from narrowly avoiding the terror attack that killed her grandfather Lord Mountbatten and overcoming family heartache, to her rebellious teenage years and happiness with her partner of a quarter of a century… 

Miraculously avoiding terror attack

There's no denying you would be hard pushed to find someone better connected than India, who was born in London but has lived in the Bahamas since relocating there in 1996. 

Her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, 91, was Queen Elizabeth II's bridesmaid at her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip, and then later acted as her lady-in-waiting, and as well as Prince Charles being her godfather, they are also second cousins. 

But her aristocratic family have had their fair share of tragedy over the years, and India narrowly avoided the 1979 IRA bombing that killed her grandfather, Lord ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten when she was just 11. 

As her family set off from Mullaghmore harbour to go lobster fishing on holiday, India stayed behind at Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo, to watch a Laurel and Hardy film. 

However, in an event that was recently portrayed on Netflix series The Crown, a 50lb remote-controlled bomb – planted the night before by the IRA was detonated shortly after, ripping the boat apart.

The tragedy was responsible for killing the Queen’s second cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten, 79; his 14-year-old grandson, Nicholas; elderly Dowager Lady Doreen Bradbourne; and 15-year-old boat boy Paul Maxwell. 

The only survivors onboard were Nicholas’ twin brother Tim, and their parents John and Patricia – with the latter needing more than 120 stitches to her face and eyeballs, which she later dubbed her "IRA facelift".

Given Valium aged 11 for trauma

While India narrowly avoided the horrifying terrorist attack, she reportedly still heard the explosion, and speaking years later she revealed she was prescribed strong sedatives to help her cope. 

In a BBC documentary marking the 40th anniversary of the atrocity India recalled how she was given Valium in the aftermath. 

India said: "I think it's a reflection of the era that someone would have had Valium and said: 'Let's give it to the children'. I mean, dear God, would you give an 11-year-old a Valium?

"The damage that was done was so much deeper than any of us could ever have imagined and adult lives are still being horrifically disrupted."

Taken to school in a Rolls-Royce and kicked out for inviting boys back

Given her connections and the fact she is 678th in line to the throne, it’s not surprising India had the best education money could buy.

Raised mainly by nannies and taken to school in a Rolls-Royce, India attended world-renowned £40k a year Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland, which Prince Charles also attended. 

And while she went on to be hugely successful it wasn’t all smooth sailing, and she was suspended from school. 

When asked what she wanted to be when younger by the Independent, India replied: “Head Girl I suppose.

"And then I got kicked out of school for a minor incident involving some boys in my room.”

'Never felt the need' to get married

While she leads a very glamorous life in the Bahamas typical of a socialite, perhaps untypically, school rules aren’t the only ones India has refused to follow.

In a move considered by some as 'unusual' for an heiress, India has always earned her own income.

She has worked as a model for the likes of designer Ralph Lauren, is an author, and also owned her own style business before it shut down last year. 

She had also always stated that she "just never felt the need" to get married.

Her stance – which at one point could have been seen as quite 'controversial' among the older generation – was despite the fact she'd been happily in a relationship with David since 'running away' to the Bahamas and falling pregnant just four months after meeting, and going on to have five children.

Stealing a designer coat at the airport

On the topic of 'rule breaking', even more bizarrely, earlier this year India was accused of stealing a £680 Max Mara coat from Harrods at Heathrow Airport.

She was taken to court after being charged with theft following the incident in January this year, and appeared at Uxbridge magistrates’ court where she pleaded guilty.

She was conditionally discharged for three months and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £22 victim surcharge.

A spokesperson claimed she had been "absent minded" and had not intended to leave without paying for the coat.

Adoption after breast cancer heartbreak 

Similarly to Princess Diana, India is a huge fan of using her fortunate position to help others, describing herself on her Instagram account as a 'humanitarian' and is partner of The Harbour Island Food Bank.

She has also taken part in countless fundraising challenges, and in 2011 India also touchingly welcomed 15-year-old Wesley into her home, after his mother Lynne Claire died after being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Writing on her blog, India said: “I first met Wesley when he was in the womb.

"His mother was a waitress in a restaurant we used to go to. His father absent. I was also pregnant. Lynne and I became friends.

"Around the age of two Wesley was with us nearly daily. He grew up alongside my own first born child, Felix."

Despite losing touch when Wesley moved to a neighbouring island, she bumped into him by chance at Nassau airport shortly after as he was on his way to visit his dying mum. 

Ten days later, Lynne died. India and her son, Conrad, went to the funeral, and it was quickly decided Wesley would move in with India's family.

India said: "He arrived the next afternoon with a plastic bin liner. It held his worldly possessions.

"None of them important, except for the few tattered photographs of his Mum."

While India's life so far has been far from 'conventional', it's obviously worked out very well for the mum and businesswoman, and she'll no doubt be looking forward to walking up the aisle on her own special day.

Especially after already being a bridesmaid for one of the biggest royal weddings the world has ever seen.

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