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Love is a funny thing; at times it can feel inevitable. Then there are those instances where love feels forced. But perhaps the saddest tale is unrequited love – when one person loves someone who doesn’t love them back.

It’s widely believed that Princess Diana loved Prince Charles. There may have been a moment when he loved her, too. But for most of their highly-publicized, closely followed royal marriage, Prince Charles was in love with someone else. Her name was Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Why didn’t Prince Charles love Princess Diana? And if he didn’t love her, why did he bother marrying her in the first place? The answer is more complicated than you might imagine.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana | Tim Graham/Getty Images

Prince Charles had feelings for Camilla from the beginning

Prince Charles met his current wife, Camilla Shand, before he met Lady Diana Spencer. But there’s was a relationship of bad timing and following tradition. The royal family didn’t believe Camilla had the proper lineage to marry the future King, so they steered him in another direction.

Prince Charles followed the rules and ignored his passionate interest in Camilla. But this proved to be a mistake. In a joint interview that Charles and Diana gave shortly after they announced their engagement in 1981, the interviewer asked a strange question and received an equally bizarre answer. When the couple was asked if they were in love, Diana replied “Of course!” while Charles responded with, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

Diana later said this moment haunted her for most of their marriage. In taped interview, she revealed: “That threw me completely. I thought what a strange question and answer. God. Absolutely traumatized me.”

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana | Tim Graham/Getty Images

Charles forgot to kiss his bride on their wedding day

The so-called “balcony kiss” that a royal couple shares before crowds of cheering fans was born of a mistake – namely, that time Prince Charles forgot to kiss his bride, Princess Diana, during their wedding ceremony.

With millions of people tuned in and watching the ceremony, it’s easy to justify this mistake by saying Prince Charles was feeling the pressure and stress of the day. But knowing what we know now, it speaks to a deeper truth: Prince Charles probably forgot to kiss her because deep down, he knew he was making a terrible mistake.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana | Tim Graham/Getty Images

Their relationship took a turn for the worse

The bad days in Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship far outnumbered the good ones. Besides Diana’s well-documented struggle with bulimia, she also engaged in several other dangerous activities to get the attention of her disinterested husband. “When I was four months pregnant with William, I threw myself downstairs, trying to get my husband’s attention, for him to listen to me,” she said in an interview.

Another time Diana experimented with self-harm. “I picked up [Charles’] penknife off his dressing table and scratched myself heavily down my chest and both thighs. There was a lot of blood — and he hadn’t made any reaction whatsoever.”

Both Charles and Diana engaged in extramarital affairs

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Princess Diana And Prince Charles | Tim Graham/Getty Images

Prince Charles eventually followed his desires back to Camilla, whom he began an affair with in 1986 while he was still married to Princess Diana. And yes, she definitely knew about it and even confronted Camilla at one point. When a distraught Diana asked Queen Elizabeth for advice on the matter, she apparently called her son, “hopeless.”

Meanwhile, desperate for love, Diana allegedly took up with a security guard who worked at the palace. The man was let go and then tragically died in a motorcycle accident less than a month later.

The pair finally divorced thanks to the Queen’s urging

The Queen ordered their divorce
The Queen ordered their divorce | Johnny Eggitt/AFP/Getty Images

The relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana eventually became so toxic that they legally separated, though they were hesitant to formally divorce because of royal protocol and because of the impression it would make on their young sons, William and Harry. But after years of living apart, the Queen wrote them a letter essentially saying it was time to be done with the marriage. They divorced long after their relationship failed.

Would Charles have been better off marrying Camilla from the get-go? It certainly seems that way now. But then we wouldn’t have Prince William or Prince Harry, or any of the other beloved royals we know and love today. Sometimes even the most tragic events have surprisingly positive outcomes. Even a terrible marriage like Charles and Diana’s.