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Despite their majestic 1981 wedding and their beautiful boys, Prince William and Prince Harry, Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ marriage was a horror story. Princess Diana was just 20-years-old in 1981 when she married Prince Charles who was 33 at the time. The princess was introduced to the future King of England by her older sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and coming from a troubled childhood; the princess was looking for a fairytale ending.

Prince Charles for his part was being pushed into a marriage that he did not want. His ex-lover, Camilla Parker Bowles was labeled an unsuitable match for him, so she married someone else. In 1981, he was still reeling from the end of that relationship. However, he sincerely hoped that he would grow to love Princess Diana. Sadly, that was not to be the case. After years of strain, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage would collapse in the early ’90s under the pressure of abandonment, adultry, and anger.

To cope with his unhappiness, Prince Charles went to therapy during and after his marriage to Princess Diana.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana | Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Off to a rough start

By the time the hoopla surrounding Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s royal wedding was over, the newlyweds were already in shambles. The princess had developed an eating disorder before the wedding due to an errant comment her husband made about her waistline. Meanwhile, Prince Charles was still weeping over his loss of Camilla Parker Bowles.

The princess wrote to her secretary about her honeymoon saying, “The honeymoon was a perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep.” Prince Charles’ friend, philosopher and conservationist Laurens Van der Post observed the couple as they vacationed in Scotland. In her book, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, author Sally Bedell Smith quoted Van der Post saying, “[The] princess had spent much of her honeymoon suffering insomnia and growing thinner by the day… when she wasn’t berating her new husband about his former mistress or complaining about the oppressive atmosphere of the royal court.”

Van der Post quietly recommended that Prince Charles and his new bride begin couple’s therapy with Dr. Alan McGlashan.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

14 years of healing

The prince and princess did begin therapy with Dr. McGlashan, however, the Princess of Wales stopped attending therapy after just eight sessions. Prince Charles would continue until well after the couple’s marriage had ended. According to Bendell Smith, “The doctor would go on to help the struggling husband deal with his wife’s emotional storms, which shocked him in their intensity and suddenness. [Princess Diana] tormented by feelings of emptiness and detachment; she feared abandonment; she had difficulty sustaining relationships, and she kept those closest to her on tenterhooks with her sudden mood swings, explosive rages, and prolonged sulks. Charles was sympathetic, but he lacked the knowledge or the temperament to help a very disturbed young woman.”

Though he couldn’t force himself to fall in love with his wife, or get her to continue therapy, the prince used his therapy sessions to unpack his own demons which had been growing since childhood. He had been bullied mercilessly as a child. He also felt as if his parents had abandoned him by shipping him off to boarding school.

In the end, there would be no reconciliation between the prince and the princess. In 1986, Prince Charles rekindled his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, and by 1992, he and Princess Diana were legally separated, divorcing in 1996, one year before the princess’ tragic death.

The royal couple was never meant to be, and all the therapy in the world couldn’t have saved them.

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