Did Prince Charles Want to Marry Camilla Even Before Princess Diana?
Prince Charles and Princess Diana weren’t exactly a picture of marital bliss. Long after their divorce, Charles eventually remarried, tying the knot with current wife, Camilla. But did Charles always know he wanted to be with Camilla, even before he married Diana?
Here’s what we know about the circuitous timeline of the relationship between Prince Charles and his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.
Prince Charles and Camilla met for the first time in 1970
Let’s start at the beginning. Prince Charles and Camilla Shand met for the first time in 1970, at a polo match in Windsor Great Park, according to Town & Country. They bonded over their mutual love of polo and the outdoors, plus their sense of humor. Camilla reportedly told Charles, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.”
They began dating, and Good Housekeeping reports that they met up frequently at polo matches, and later spent time at Broadlands, the estate belonging to Charles’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten. But then Charles left to serve in the Royal Navy for eight months, beginning early in 1973. And instead of asking Camilla to wait for his return, Charles “reportedly refrained from expressing the strength of his feelings,” Good Housekeeping reports.
Camilla reconnected with Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973
In his absence, she reconnected with her longtime beau, Andrew Parker Bowles, whom she first met in 1965. By the time Charles returned, Camilla had become engaged (thanks to the intervention of her father, who published an engagement notice in the Times to force Andrew to propose). In July 1973, Camilla and Andrew married. They would go on to have two children, Tom and Laura. Charles and Camilla remained friends, and Charles even became Tom’s godfather.
Prince Charles missed his chance to propose to Camilla. But Good Housekeeping reports that things might not have turned out differently had Prince Charles asked Camilla to wait. Camilla didn’t have a “sufficiently aristocratic background” to make her a serious contender as a future queen.
Plus, “deeply rooted sexism surrounding the prerequisite virginity of a royal bride doomed the match from the start.” Princes Charles had been told by Lord Mountbatten that he should “choose a suitable attractive and sweet-character girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for.”
Charles met Diana in 1980
Town & Country reports that Prince Charles began dating Diana Spencer in 1980. USA Today reports that in January 1981, tabloids reported on a liaison between Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Prince Philip wrote a letter to his son, uring Charles to either propose to Diana or to end the relationship.
According to USA Today, Charles interpreted Philip’s letter “as an order to propose.” The next month, the young couple went public with their engagement. In July, they tied the knot at St. Paul’s Cathedral, with an estimated 750 million people watching around the world.
Though Philip didn’t intend to pressure Charles into marrying Diana, The Daily Telegraph reports that Charles didn’t see it that way. “Pressured and panicked, he had rushed into a decision before he was ready.” In a letter to a friend, Charles wrote that he felt confused and anxious. He said that he wanted to “do the right thing for this country and for my family.” But he also felt “terrified sometimes of making a promise and then perhaps living to regret it.”
He rekindled his affair with Camilla in 1986
Prince Charles and Princess Diana had two children: Prince William in 1982 and Prince Harry in 1984. But that didn’t prevent their relationship from souring. Town & Country notes that according to Charles’s authorized biography, he began an affair with Camilla in 1986, when he was still married to Diana. Three years later, in 1989, Diana confronted Camilla at a party, saying, “I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that.”
After news of the affair broke, questions arose over whether Charles could ever become king if he were to divorce and remarry. At the time, he wouldn’t have been allowed a second marriage in the Church of England, and the monarch is the secular head of the church. In December 1989, the couple announced that they had officially separated.
After Charles and Diana separated, Camilla and Andrew divorced
It wasn’t until 1995 that Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles announced their divorce. At that point, Diana was asked whether Camilla was a factor in the breakdown of her marriage. She responded, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in 1996. Diana died in a car crash just a year later, in 1997.
After Diana’s death, Charles gradually resumed the process of “legitimizing his relationship,” according to Town & Country. He confirmed reports that Camilla had met Prince William, and the couple appeared in public together at a birthday party for Camilla’s sister. In 1999, Charles, Camilla, William, and Harry vacationed together in Greece. But it wasn’t until 2000 that Queen Elizabeth II accepted an invitation to an event at Highgrove, signaling her approval.
They announced their engagement 35 years after they first met
In 2003, Charles and Camilla moved into Clarence House together. And in 2005, they announced their engagement, approximately 35 years after they first met, according to Town & Country. The queen didn’t attend their wedding but did go to the reception afterward.
To have Diana remain the only Princess of Wales, Camilla received the title, “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.” The royal family also said that when Prince Charles becomes king, Camilla will be Princess Consort instead of Queen.
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