Stage star Ruthie Henshall has spoken of her former secret relationship with Prince Edward, which often involved being "smuggled" into the Royal palace.
Talking to BBC Radio Four's Desert Island Discs, she said they broke up because she would never have been prepared to give up her career.
Henshall met the prince when she was in West End show Cats and they were together "on and off" for five years.
She is now married to musical performer Tim Howar, and has two children.
Henshall and her former fiance, actor John Gordon Sinclair, attended the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones in 1999 - now the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
I'd sort of say 'I'm going to my boyfriend's tonight' - nobody knew who he was
She told Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young she had dated the prince "solidly for a couple of years, but on and off for five".
"We couldn't quite let go," she added.
During the courtship she would go to Buckingham Palace "quite a lot.. because he lived there," she said.
This would usually involved being "smuggled" in in her car because the relationship was not public knowledge.
"It always make me laugh, I'd sort of say 'I'm going to my boyfriend's tonight'. Nobody knew who he was."
When asked about the romantic notion of "the Prince and the showgirl" she said: "It was very exciting, but I genuinely fell in love with him."
Despite her feelings she could not see herself becoming part of the Royal family, she said, because she was aware she would not be able to continue her stage career.
"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.
Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys Jones in 1999
"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."
Henshall said she met the Royal family often and found them to be "lovely".
"When they are behind closed doors they are a family, and they have cook-outs (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," she said.
Henshall has performed in countless West End shows such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Chicago and Oliver!
She met her Canadian husband - who is also part of a rock group called Van Tramp - when they were both cast in Peggy Sue Got Married.
"He blew me away," she said.
"When I met him my ovaries were screaming, I knew he was the father of my children."
During the programme Henshall also talks of the abuse she suffered as a child, and the suicide of one of her three sisters last year.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.