Why Princess Diana Referred to a Time in Her Marriage as the ‘Dark Ages’

Princess Diana was a unique member of the Royal Family who helped change the way the monarchy is viewed today. She was the “People’s Princess” who easily related to the common people. She was adored during her life and treated as a martyr after her tragic death in a car accident.

Princess Diana married Prince Charles

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles | Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Princess Diana’s marriage was never a happy one. From the beginning, she was treated as a hot commodity as a woman bred well in the aristocracy who would be perfect for having royal children. The courtship with Prince Charles didn’t last long, and she was married in just a short time.

Princess Diana had a hard time conforming to her new role in the spotlight. She wasn’t given a rule book on what was expected of her as the Princess of Wales and she was utterly terrified of being front and center. She even had a hard time making eye contact with the press and the public. In the early days, she refused to do royal engagements without being by her husband Prince Charles’ side.

‘The dark ages’ of their marriage

Diana tried to make the marriage work with Charles, who seemed almost indifferent at times. In Andrew Morton’s royal biography of the Princess’ life, Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, it’s revealed the profound way Charles affected Diana. In the beginning of their marriage, it seemed to be more pronounced.

“Her speech, normally rapid, energetic, coloured and strong, degenerated instantly when he was with her. Diana’s voice became monosyllabic and flat, suffused with an ineffable weariness,” Morton wrote about the changes that occurred in Diana when she was around Charles. “It was the same tone that infected her speech when she talked about her parents’ divorce and what she calls ‘the dark ages’, the period in her royal life until the late 1980s during which time she was emotionally crushed by the royal system.”

Princess Diana couldn’t be herself and was constantly judged

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana wasn’t herself around Prince Charles and essentially walked on eggshells around him constantly, especially in the early days of their marriage. Even then, they lived virtually separate lives in many ways. Diana clearly never felt like herself completely, and always felt she had to conform to what he wanted from her.

Diana quickly realized what she had gotten herself into. She never received a word of encouragement from her husband or her new family she found herself in. She felt stifled and didn’t know where to turn. She developed an eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and it didn’t leave her for years. It was worse when they were together and was something Charles even commented on from time to time.

In a Channel 4 documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words, footage was aired that was originally filmed in 1992 and 1993. “I was brought up in a way that when you got engaged to someone, you loved them,” Diana revealed. She clearly tried to make the marriage work with her whole heart, but her husband was also having a notorious affair at the same time.

Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles devastated Princess Diana

Princess Diana was fully aware of her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, something she couldn’t do anything about. She had confronted Charles about it on numerous occasions which didn’t seem to help matters. Eventually, she got up the courage to confront Camilla, which only seemed to make it known that she was fully aware of the affair.

Eventually, Diana came to a place where she wasn’t obsessed with her husband’s affair and began to sadly accept it for what it was. She distanced herself from Charles as much as possible and she eventually blossomed into an important humanitarian and advocate who wasn’t afraid to stand up for her beliefs or say what was on her mind.