Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ Bitter Marriage Was Reportedly Troubled From Day 1

Every little girl dreams of growing up to be a real-life princess and living happily ever after, but those two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand. As an example, just look at Princess Diana.

Long before the violent car accident that killed her, Diana’s personal life was anything but happy. It was tumultuous, at best. Her marriage to Prince Charles was particularly troubled, tainted by scandal and deceit, and made worse by being under constant public scrutiny.

Where did things go wrong? At what point did things take a turn for the worse in the royal couple’s marriage? According to numerous insiders, the relationship between Diana and Prince Charles was doomed from the very start.

How Diana met Charles

Princess Diana wears a tiara during a visit of Bahrain
Princess Diana | Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Many couples have romantic, inspirational stories of how they met. Diana and Prince Charles do not. In fact, the tale of their first meeting in November 1977 is borderline scandalous — telling, isn’t it?

At the time, Prince Charles was actually dating Diana’s older sister: Lady Sarah Spencer. The romance was brief and Sarah was evidently less than smitten with Prince Charles, as she was happy to pass him off to her then-16-year-old sister.

Although the prince seemed to be quite taken with Lady Di from the outset, it was no secret that he was still in love with Camilla Shand, who the world knows today as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Why did Prince Charles marry Princess Diana?

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The pair were introduced by a mutual friend in the early 1970s and quickly fell in love. Despite coming from a wealthy, upper-class background and being the granddaughter of a baron, Camilla was technically a commoner with no real pedigrees, so the prince was strongly encouraged to turn his attention to someone else.

While both Prince William and Prince Harry married commoners, this was a few decades earlier, which may as well have been a lifetime in terms of the rules of modern-day royalty.

Several people in Prince Charles’ circle successfully convinced him that finding a young, virginal bride was critical to upholding the monarchy’s clean public image. At just 16, Diana was 12 years Prince Charles’ junior, naturally beautiful, and full of life. She also came from a noble aristocratic background. Diana ticked every requisite box as a potential spouse for Prince Charles.

Charles and Diana were not typical newlyweds

After just 13 dates, Prince Charles proposed to Diana in early 1981. Outwardly, it certainly seemed to be a passionate, whirlwind romance. However, when the couple met with the press immediately after formally announcing their engagement, Prince Charles said something that indicated otherwise.

When asked if the pair were in love, Prince Charles responded with, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” A truly odd — and chilling — comment from a man who just popped the question and introduced the world to his stunning bride-to-be.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles married in an opulent royal ceremony six months after their engagement, and the blissful honeymoon period was just as brief. Sally Bedell Smith, author of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, details an incident following one of the couple’s wedding rehearsals, where the princess was crying inconsolably in the car. Shortly after the wedding, she was also reportedly spending a great deal of time crying by herself in her bedroom. 

Diana and Prince Charles’ fights are well-reported. In the 2017 biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbably Life, Bedell Smith writes that Diana’s frustration over Camilla led her to pick fights. Smith says, reports History, Prince Charles told his cousin: “Diana would resurrect a row with him even when he was saying his prayers. She ‘would hit him over the head’ while he knelt.”

Further supporting these claims, Tom Quinn, who wrote Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir from Queen Mary to Meghan Markle, says palace staffers sensed trouble almost as soon as the marriage began. Quinn wrote: “There is a myth that Charles and Diana were living happily in this beautiful palace, at least for their first few years together, but, actually, you could hear them rowing almost from the day they moved in.”

People all over the world felt tremendous sadness, but certainly not surprised, when the royal couple separated in 1992 and ultimately divorced in 1996.