Prince Charles has always been in the spotlight of the British public. His marriage to Lady Diana Spencer, beloved by the very same public, seemed to be a match made only in a fairytale – but all was not as it seemed…
His First Marriage
The prince and princess had two children together, but the marriage, which dissolved in 1996, was constantly overshadowed by various rumors. More than 20 years after their bitter split, Prince Charles is ready to share his true feelings about his first, failed marriage.
No Happily Ever After In Sight
Despite no longer being in line to become Queen Consort, Princess Diana was still a British hero. She had a natural charisma and charm that caused the public to fawn over her, and she offered the same love back to the people. The only problem was that she didn’t feel the same way about her husband. Their divorce was a shock to the system, but as new details of their union emerge, it’s clear they were far from a match made in heaven…
Finding Mrs. Right
Prince Charles was not only royal, but was heir to the throne of England. Like many who are given the opportunity, Charles took advantage of his position to enjoy the company of those females who wanted his attention, having a whole slew of women on his arm. Eventually though, he would have to settle down with a woman who would make a perfect queen.
Finding The One
Before settling down with Diana, Prince Charles had been linked to Georgiana Russell, Davina Sheffield, Lady Jane Wellesley, and Diana’s sister, Sarah Spencer. Charles and Diana were introduced in 1977, but it would be three years before the two would begin a romantic relationship. Once they did, however, the media went crazy, prompting Prince Charles to propose at his father’s urging in February 1981. Even at the time, neither Diana, who was 13 years younger than Charles, or the Prince were sure if they were a good match.
The Pressures From His Father
When Prince Phillip refused to allow Charles to marry Camilla the first time around, he felt like his hand was forced into proposing to Diana. Charles and his father always had a fraught relationship, so it’s no surprise that Phillip was able to bully his son into proposing to a woman he didn’t truly love. With that as the start of their marriage, it’s no wonder they wouldn’t find a happy ending in one another.
At only 20 years old, Diana Spencer would become a princess, while many of her peers were still enjoying university life. It may have seemed a daunting task for any young woman, but the British public ate it all up, enjoying every second of the newest member of the royal family’s time in the spotlight. In public, Diana’s life seemed like a fairytale. The only problem was that she seemed to struggle to earn that same affection from the person who mattered most: Prince Charles.
He Was Too Young
According to Charles’s cousin, Pamela Hicks, she allegedly read the letter from Prince Phillip that pushed Charles into proposing to Diana. “He wasn’t in love, he wasn’t ready. He saw it as a ghastly threat. Psychologically he assumed his father bullied him, so he read it as a bullying letter,” she was quoted in his 2017 biography, Prince Charles: Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. There was no way such a reluctant union was going to end well in this day and age.
Love For The Country Or Your Bride?
As hesitant as he was towards his impending marriage, his sense of duty to his country kicked in during his extravagant wedding day. Three months after the fact he shared, “We still cannot get over what happened that day. Neither of us can get over the atmosphere; it was electric, I felt, and so did my wife … It made us both extraordinarily proud to be British.” It might have been fun from a patriotic sense, but it said nothing about the marriage to come.
Not The Most Flattering Compliment
Rather than reflecting on how excited they were to be married, it was telling that Prince Charles’s recollections centered more on his pride in being British. The number of people watching should have taken a back seat to the fact that he was supposed to be committing himself to a woman he loved. Instead, Charles seemed to be going through the motions expected of him as the heir to the British throne, rather than following his heart.
Not Having The Best Day Of Her Life
If they had a less-than-enchanting moment of engagement, the relationship would not improve by the time they reached their wedding day. Though it was expected to be one of the greatest days of Diana’s life, and would be watched by millions, she confessed to Andrew Morton,”The night before the wedding I was very, very calm, deathly calm. I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. I knew it and couldn’t do anything about it.”
Why Am I Here?
The pre-wedding jitters that Diana was feeling only increased the closer she got to saying “I do.” Rather than finding any confidence in her decision to marry Prince Charles, she would supposedly divulge to James Hewitt, a later beau, “As I was walking down the aisle of St. Paul’s on my father’s arm, I thought, ‘What on Earth am I doing here?’” In the meantime, the world believed they were watching a fairytale in the making.
It Wasn’t Only Diana Having Cold Feet
Penny Junor, a biographer with the authorization to write about the royal family released a book about Camilla called The Duchess: The Untold Story. The book relied on interviews with Camilla and her confidants, but also spent a considerable number of words exploring Charles and Diana’s marriage. They had one of the biggest weddings of the 20th century, and yet, very few people had taken the time to ask Charles how he felt. Junor claimed that Charles was struggling the night before his first wedding.
Hiding Behind The Smiles
To the adoring public who watched from home and from the streets, Diana and Charles couldn’t have looked more in love during the drawn-out rituals of the royal wedding. As all royals are compelled to do, Charles and Diana had their first kiss as man and wife on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the millions of people watching in person and at home. None of them had any clue what was going on behind the smiles.
Not Looking Hopeful
After the wedding should come the magical honeymoon, but even on their romantic getaway, Diana was consumed with doubt, likely ruining any chance the couple had of ever having a blissful marital moment. Diana would recount to Simone Simmons in Diana: I’m Going To Be Me: The People’s Princess Revealed In Her Own Words, “I was bored, it was like being stuck with an 80-year-old man.” Considering it was their first married vacation, the feeling did not bode well for their future.
One Major Problem
Diana had reason to fear that there was someone coming between her and her new husband. It was his ex-girlfriend, Camilla Shand. Though Charles has been interested in making her his wife, “Charles’ great-uncle Lord Mountbatten reportedly did not believe that Camilla was aristocratic enough to be the Prince of Wales’ wife.” Even with a more noble wife by his side, he couldn’t forget Camilla, about whom Diana could only say, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Diana Exposes All
In the blink of an eye, the young Diana found herself a married royal princess with two young sons, William and Henry. Despite seeming to lead a magical life, Diana’s marriage was not so rosy. Five years in, the cracks were apparent by all who knew her, and the threat off Camilla loomed over their every interaction. Things were so dire that the press even took to calling them “The Glums.” It was Diana herself who would reveal that Charles didn’t remain faithful to her.
The Truth Revealed
The scandal simmering under the surface seemed to come to a head when details of an incriminating phone conversation between Charles and Camilla were leaked by the media, proving that the smiles they put on in public were all just a show. Charles wouldn’t share that he renewed his romance with Camilla in 1986, which was the point he felt his marriage had “irretrievably broken down.” Until the affair was publicized in 1992, the couple refrained from officially separating.
Different Approaches To Love
The bad omens started early. Diana wrote, “He said: ‘Will you marry me?’ and I laughed. I remember thinking, ‘This is a joke,’ and I said: ‘Yeah, OK,’ and laughed. He was deadly serious. He said: ‘You do realize that one day you will be Queen.’ And a voice said to me inside: ‘You won’t be Queen but you’ll have a tough role.’ So I thought ‘OK,’ so I said: ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘I love you so much, I love you so much.’ He said: ‘Whatever love means.”‘
All About The Ring
The only part of her marriage to Charles that Diana looked back on fondly was the engagement ring she received. Set with a massive sapphire and some illusions to royal history, Diana had gotten to pick out the ring, which Charles dutifully paid for. The public was less than pleased with the choice, feeling that it was too mundane for a royal princess when they could easily pick the same one out of a Garrard catalog.
Following Diana’s untimely death, her sons, the princes William and Harry, inherited her jewelry collection, which included her beloved ring. In her will, Diana stipulated, “I would like you to allocate all my jewelry to the share to be held by my sons, so that their wives may, in due course, have it or use it. I leave the exact division of the jewelry to your discretion.” When the time was right, William gave the ring to Kate Middleton upon their engagement.
The Queen Has Her Say
Though they’d separated in 1992, Diana and Charles weren’t officially divorced until 1996, when the Queen finally advised that the pair divorce. By that time, it wasn’t just Prince Charles who had been having an affair, the press revealed that Princess Diana was also seeing someone else when the media caught wind that there were recordings of their private conversations. The tapes that were publicized of Diana and James Gilbey in 1992 caused a big scandal, which would be dubbed “Squidgygate”
Defending His Actions
Their first tryst was short lived at half a year long, but Charles would remember his time with Camilla as “such a blissful, peaceful, and mutually happy relationship.” Before Camilla married Parker Bowles, Charles begged her to reconsider. She may not have listened then, but their destiny together was clear when they rekindled their love. Charles would later say of their affair, “Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?”
He Couldn’t Hide His True Love
Of course, Diana’s intuitions that Charles still had a flame for Camilla were entirely right, and Charles didn’t do much to dispel those feelings. “It’s hard to believe that anyone as intelligent and well-read as the Prince of Wales could be so stupid—so utterly incapable of imagining what a new wife might conclude if her husband carried a photograph of his old girlfriend in his diary,” wrote Junor. According to the author, Diana once caught a picture of Camilla falling out of Charles’s diary.
Suffering The Consequences
When the public heard about the affair between Charles and Camilla, they were inclined to turn on him for betraying Diana. Even Queen Elizabeth wasn’t very supportive. Once it became public knowledge, much of the scrutiny was also focused on Camilla herself. She revealed to Mail on Sunday in 2017, “It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time, and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it. I couldn’t have survived it without my family.”
Whether or not she was married to Prince Charles, Diana was forever considered a princess by the people of Britain. The public loved everything about her, even if her marriage wasn’t working out. It was hard to tarnish the public image of the “People’s Princess.” Despite the turmoil, Diana exemplified just how unnecessary a man was to happiness. She would say in 1995, “People think that, at the end of the day, a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me.”
An Untimely Death
The year following their divorce, Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. She might not have been officially a part of the royal family anymore, but the entire nation mourned for her, nonetheless, and her funeral was broadcast on television screens around the world. Even more than the grief of losing such a popular public figure, many were particularly moved by the sight of William and Harry in her funeral procession with their father, despite Queen Elizabeth not attending.
The Tragic Grief
As difficult as it may have been to divorce in the public eye, it was harder still for William and Harry. Having your parents separate is often a traumatic event in and of itself, but to then lose their mother when they were only 15 and 12 just made those years even more difficult. Because of the compounded grief, the boys were hesitant to speak out about their experiences during that tragic time until they were much older. Now, they hope their insight can help others.
Can’t Escape It
The royal family has always had a difficult relationship with the media, who were constantly hungry for stories about their lives. “I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also it is not like most people’s grief, because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her. It is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love, it can be hidden away or they can choose if they want to share their story.”
Breaking The News
When Charles was given the news about Diana’s fate, he decided to lay low and stay in Scotland, having to make a decision as to when he should tell his young sons. The palace was alerted to Diana’s death in the wee hours of the night, which left Charles to deliberate whether or not he should wake the boys to tell them. The Queen ultimately decided it was better to let them sleep and to tell them in the morning.
The Blame Is Put On Charles
When Diana passed away, Charles was already in a relationship with Camilla Shand. Though they were trying to keep it under wraps for fear of public retaliation, Diana’s death would make it even more difficult for them to be openly romantic. Given the public’s love of Diana, many of them were inclined to blame Charles and his affair with Camilla for the tragedy. Charles, of course, was absolutely right about the public’s reaction towards him during the people’s mourning.
A Troubling Period
When the news of the crash first hit, the reports only mentioned that Dodi Fayed, Diana’s current companion, had died. This led everyone else to believe that Diana might still have been alive. When Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth were informed, for some reason, neither of them spoke to each other, despite being in the same room. In the meantime, the palace staff concerned themselves with the logistics of getting Charles to Paris as quickly as possible.
The One Who Was There For Him
Even if their marriage had already dissolved, Prince Charles was still deeply affected by Diana’s death. For whatever reason though, the Queen kept her distance during that period of time, despite Charles being in desperate need of some motherly comfort. At first, Charles and Camilla were under the impression that Diana had broken an arm, so the ensuing report that she had died was even more of a shock, prompting a sleepless night for the pair.
The Queen Keeping True To Their Brand
The palace may have been scandalized by Camilla’s presence in Charles’s life, even though the Queen didn’t dislike Camilla during the time she was married to Andrew Parker Bowles. Even so, the royal family otherwise blamed Camilla for many of the woes that afflicted the union between Charles and Diana. Queen Elizabeth tried to remove Camilla from Charles’s life, but he insisted that he would do no such thing after a turbulent 15 years with Diana.
Something She Hasn’t Got
It wasn’t only the Queen who was dissatisfied by the romance between Prince Charles and Camilla. The couple may have been very happy with one another, but Diana also couldn’t see why there was such a spark. She would supposedly say to her hairstylist, Richard Dalton, “Charles must be wearing beer goggles to have an affair with Camilla.” The people might have loved Diana more, but Charles loved Camilla in a way he never loved Diana.
The Prince’s Turn
Even with the country set against them, Charles and Camilla would finally make it to the altar in their later years. The couple broke many rules set for members of the royal family, but their love has continued to demonstrate that Charles and Camilla were always meant to be. Their romance is an example of everything that Charles and Diana’s marriage was not. Diana may have had time to share her thoughts about the union before her death, but Charles is only starting to speak out now.