The Real Reason Prince Charles Never Thought He’d Marry Camilla Parker Bowles

Before Princess Diana ever came into the picture, Prince Charles was infatuated with another woman by the name of Camilla Parker Bowles. The two met in the summer of 1971, and they reportedly had an instant connection. Charles loved that she was “not in anyway overawed by him, not fawning or sycophantic.” 

Despite the fact that Charles was in love, he never actually thought he’d get married to her — let alone on his second go-around with marriage. Many have questioned: Why didn’t he just propose to her the first time around? Here’s the real reason Charles wrote off the possibility of ever tying the knot with his now-current wife, Parker Bowles.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles | Abdelhak Senna /AFP/Getty Images

Parker Bowles was in love with another man

Charles and Parker Bowles just weren’t at the right places in their romantic lives to commit to each other. Even though Charles was in love with Parker Bowles before he met Diana, Parker Bowles actually fell for another man before ever meeting Charles.

When she still went by her maiden name, Camilla Shand met Andrew Parker Bowles at her debutante party in 1965. According to royal biographer Penny Juror, “He was 25 and a rather beautiful officer in the Household Cavalry; she was 17 but remarkably self-assured. Andrew went over to her and simply said, ‘Let’s dance.’ They danced and she fell in love.”

They had an on-and-off relationship for a number of years. It happened to be during one of those “off” periods that Parker Bowles ended up meeting Charles.

She got engaged while Charles was overseas

No matter how strongly Charles felt about Parker Bowles, he didn’t make it very clear. In 1973, Charles was sent to leave on the HMS Frigate with the Royal Army. Unfortunately, that put an end to his relationship with Parker Bowles.

Rather than ask Parker Bowles to wait for him to come back (in just eight months), they cut things off. It was that very same year that Parker Bowles instead got engaged to Andrew, and they wed in 1974.

Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles arrive at Lacock Cyraiax Church

Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles | Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

She didn’t live up to royal standards at the time

Even if the timing of their relationship worked out, Parker Bowles just wasn’t cut for royalty. Protocol was much stricter back then than it is now (though Diana would eventually break plenty of those rules, anyway).

According to Good Housekeeping, Parker Bowles “did not come from a sufficiently aristocratic background to make her a serious contender for a future queen.”

Plus, as sexism was far more prevalent back then, it played a major part in Charles writing her off as a contender. Lord Mountbatten wrote in a letter to Charles at the time, “In a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down.”

He added, “But I think for a wife he should choose a suitable attractive and sweet-character girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for.”

Charles didn’t seem to have a choice

Whether or not Charles decided he wanted to marry Parker Bowles back then, it became clear that it wasn’t really up to him. Though he wouldn’t be subjected to an arranged marriage, he did have plenty of family members pushing suitable matches toward him.

Lord Mountbatten was reportedly hoping for his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull, to marry Charles. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother had other women in mind — one of whom was Lady Sarah Spencer. Though they dated in 1977, that’s how he ended up meeting her younger sister and his eventual wife, Lady Diana Spencer.