The love story of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles spans almost 50 years, but their journey to romance was hardly a conventional one.
Years after first locking eyes in the early 1970s, the longtime friends struck up an unlikely relationship that would take a romantic turn while they were both married to other people – Camilla to Andrew Parker Bowles and Prince Charles to Princess Diana. News of their covert love affair was a scandal for the British monarchy, especially when Prince Charles announced that he would be divorcing Diana.
The public backlash was swift and then magnified as the world mourned Princess Diana’s untimely passing in 1997.
Yet, since her marriage to Prince Charles in 2005, Camilla Parker Bowles has cemented her status as one of the royals and is now the Duchess of Cornwall.
Here’s a complete timeline of the turbulent relationship between the longtime couple leading up to their 2005 nuptials.
June 1971: Charles and Camilla’s love story began.
Prince Charles and Camilla Shand reportedly met for the first time at a party, setting the stage for an on-and-off relationship that would span the next five decades.
They began dating soon after. Camilla appeared to foreshadow their future relationship as she is credited with making a cheeky joke regarding her ancestor’s affair with King Edward VII. She reportedly told him, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.”
While the pair appeared to be smitten, Prince Charles’ service in the Royal Navy quickly put a damper on their fledgling romance.
February 1973: Prince Charles returned to the Royal Navy and Camilla got engaged.
Prince Charles failed to propose before heading back to sea after months of courtship, and reportedly tired of waiting, Camilla accepted the proposal of an army cavalry officer named Andrew Parker Bowles.
July 1973: Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles, setting the stage with a platonic relationship with Charles.
After Parker Bowles tied the knot that July, she and her husband developed a close friendship with Prince Charles over the next couple of years, according to People magazine. Prince Charles was even named godfather to her son Sam.
November 1977: Prince Charles met then-16-year-old Lady Diana Spencer.
Camilla reportedly encouraged the relationship with Lady Diana, which soon captivated people around the world.
February 3, 1981: Charles asked the 19-year-old Lady Diana to marry him.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married on July 29, 1981, during a fairytale ceremony that was called “the wedding of the century.” However, their relationship reportedly turned rocky soon after because of the relationship between Charles and Camilla.
June 21, 1982: Prince William was born.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana welcomed their first child,Prince William, about a year after their wedding.
September 15, 1984: Prince Charles and Princess Diana welcome their second baby — Prince Harry.
When Prince Harry was born, Prince Charles was reportedly disappointed because he wanted a girl.
As another sign of their marital issues, Princess Diana reportedly knew her whole pregnancy that she was carrying a boy but refrained from telling Charles because she knew he would be disappointed.
1986: Prince Charles and Camilla began an affair.
According to Prince Charles’ biography, he and Camilla reportedly began having an affair in 1986, although some sources contest that their off-and-on physical relationship started somewhere from 1978-1979.
Per “The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown,” Andrew Parker Bowles was well aware of the infidelity and did nothing to stop it. Diana also reportedly knew about the affair.
November 1992: “Camillagate” happened.
In the winter of 1992, the public heard the intimate and highly embarrassing details of a secretly recorded 1989 phone call between Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, in which he said he would love to be reincarnated as her “knickers” or her tampon. The fallout of the scandal was dubbed “Camillagate” by the press.
December 1992: Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated.
Shortly after “Camillagate” made headlines, Prime Minister John Major confirmed that the Prince and Princess of Wales had separated. Their split raised questions about Prince Charles’ future relationships since as the king, he was not permitted to divorce and remarry in the Church of England at that time.
June 1994: Charles publicly admitted to having affair.
Following months of speculation, Prince Charles spurred public backlash when he finally admitted to being unfaithful during an interview with documentary filmmaker Jonathan Dimbleby. When Dimbleby asked him if he was “faithful and honorable” during his marriage to Princess Diana, he said, “Yes, absolutely. Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
While he didn’t specifically name Camilla as his lover, he called her “a great friend of mine,” and said that she “will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”
November 1994: A biography of Charles confirmed that Camilla was the other woman.
Dimbleby’s biography of the prince, titled “The Prince of Wales: A Biography,” officially confirmed that Camilla was the woman in question.
January 1995: Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles divorced.
The announcement that Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles were planning to divorce set off a media firestorm with speculation that Prince Charles and Diana were next.
Buckingham Palace sought to put the rumours to rest by releasing that a statement that, “There is no truth in reports which state that it has been agreed that a divorce should take place or that there have been discussions about a financial settlement between the parties.” However, the Prince and Princess of Wales would divorce the next year.
August 1996: Charles and Diana finalised their divorce.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana made their divorce official in the summer of 1996, after which he began trying to endear Camilla to the public and to his family, including hosting a 50th birthday party for her at his home of Highgrove.
August 31, 1997: Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident.
Neary a year after the former couple signed their divorce papers, Princess Diana died during a car accident in Paris. Amidst the outpouring of public grief and mourning, Prince Charles travelled to Paris to bring Princess Diana’s body back to England and temporarily put his campaign to publicly introduce Camilla as his girlfriend on hold.
June 1998: Camilla reportedly met Prince William for the first time.
After the public’s emotional response to Princess Diana’s passing, Camilla and Prince Charles tried to keep their relationship out of the public eye while trying to get the royal family to warm up to it.
Prince William and Prince Harry were resistant to meet Prince Charles’ new love interest at first, and Prince Harry reportedly did not come along to the initial introduction in 1998. And while they invited Camilla to Prince Charles’ 50th birthday that year, the Queen was notably not in attendance, which many took as a snub to her son’s relationship.
January 1999: Camilla and Charles were photographed together in public as a couple.
Camilla and Charles started 1999 off on a fresh foot as they took their relationship public for the first time. The pair was photographed leaving Camilla’s sister’s birthday party at the Ritz Hotel in January.
August 1999: Camilla reportedly accompanied Prince Charles and his sons on a trip to Greece.
It appeared that Prince William and Prince Harry were starting to warm up to their future stepmother in the summer of 1999. The foursome reportedly took a family trip to Greece, seeming to signal that things were becoming more serious.
June 2000: The Queen finally agreed to formally meet Camilla.
In 2000, Queen Elizabeth accepted an invitation to the 60th birthday party for the King of Greece, which was held at Highgrove. As she knew that Camilla would be there, her gesture was seen as a tacit acceptance of the relationship.
August 2003: Camilla and Charles moved in together.
When Camilla and Charles moved into Clarence House together in the summer of 2003, the Royal Palace quickly issued a statement letting their constituents know that no taxpayer money had been used to decorate the home.
February 2005: The couple announced their engagement.
The longtime couple announced their engagement on February 10, 2005, immediately fuelling speculation about Parker Bowles’ new title, specifically if she would be known as Queen or Princess Consort in the event that Prince Charles ascended the throne, and whether she would take the title of Princess of Wales, the name given to the late Princess Diana, in the meantime.
Sidestepping any potential controversy, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Queen was gifting her new daughter-in-law the title of Duchess of Cornwall and that she’d be known as Princess Consort, not Queen Camilla if Prince Charles became king.
April 2005: The longtime couple made it official.
About 35 years after they first locked eyes, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were married in a civil ceremony in April at Windsor Guildhall. Prince William served as his father’s best man, and while the Queen and Prince Phillip were not in attendance, they did come to the reception at Windsor Castle.
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