- The world watched Prince Charles and Princess Diana marry on July 29, 1981.
- They had met when Diana was 16 when Prince Charles dated her sister, Sarah Spencer.
- They only had 13 in-person meetings before their wedding.
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While Prince Charles was serving in the Royal Navy, Camilla became engaged to an Army cavalry officer, Andrew Parker Bowles. They married in 1973, but the couple remained good friends with the prince. Prince Charles was even named the godfather of Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles’ first son.
However, the two were not meant to be. According to Town and Country, Spencer told Time in 1978 that she did not see a future with the royal.
“There is no chance of my marrying him. I’m not in love with him,” she reportedly said. “And I wouldn’t marry anyone I didn’t love whether he were the dustman or the King of England.”
However, all was not lost — Sarah’s younger sister, Lady Diana Spencer, was introduced to the prince at a shooting party in 1978.
“I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was,” Charles recalled in a 1981 interview with the Telegraph. “I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.”
According to Town and Country, many of Charles’ and Diana’s first conversations took place over the phone. Less than a year after the couple began dating and after only 13 in-person meetings, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement.
“We had this ghastly interview the day we announced our engagement,” she said in the documentary, “Diana: In Her Own Words.” “And this ridiculous [reporter] said, ‘Are you in love?’ I thought, ‘What a thick question.’ So I said, ‘Yes, of course, we are,’ and Charles turned around and said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And that threw me completely. I thought, ‘What a strange answer.’ It traumatized me.”
According to the BBC, it marked “a highpoint” in the popularity of the British royal family in the 1980s, largely due to Diana’s growing celebrity status.
But Diana would later say of that day: “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. And I knew it.”
“I don’t think I was happy,” she said in recordings used by journalist Andrew Morton to write the 1992 biography, “Diana: Her True Story.” “I never tried to call it off, in the sense of really doing that, but I think [it was] the worst day of my life.”
According to Stephen Barry’s book, “The Diana Chronicles,” Prince Charles called Camilla Parker Bowles daily.
Princess Diana also spoke about Camilla’s invisible presence on the honeymoon and a gift the prince received from his former lover.
“On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists,” Diana said. “Two C’s entwined like the Chanel ‘C’. Got it. One knew exactly. So I said, ‘Camilla gave you those didn’t she?’ He said, ‘Yes, so what’s wrong? They’re a present from a friend.’ And boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy. And it was such a good idea the two ‘C’s but it wasn’t that clever.”
Diana and Charles reportedly disagreed on what their first son should be named. According to Diana herself in Andrew Morton’s book, “Diana: Her True Story,” Charles originally wanted William to be named Arthur.
However, while Prince Charles was initially intended to be the star of the tour, it was Princess Diana’s charm, warmth, and image as a doting mother that truly won over the people of Australia.
Nearly 100,000 people cheered for Prince Charles and Princess Diana as they drove through the streets of Tokyo in 1986, exemplifying that Diana’s popularity reached far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.
However, inside, Diana was in turmoil. Struggling with an eating disorder and marital troubles, the princess’ mental health was in crisis.
In a 1995 interview with Martin Bashir of the BBC, Diana described bulimia as a “symptom of what was going on in [her] marriage,” and described it as “a secret disease.”
“You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable,” she said. “You fill your stomach up four or five times a day — some do it more — and it gives you a feeling of comfort.”
“I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: They decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable,” she said.
According to private recordings, Diana apparently referred to her married bodyguard as the “greatest love” of her life and that she would have been “quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him.”
Months after being transferred, Mannakee was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Parker Bowles’ husband, Andrew, reportedly knew about the affair and did little to stop it. Princess Diana also reportedly knew about the affair.
According to the recordings, Diana went downstairs where she found her husband speaking with Camilla and another friend. After her husband and the friend left the room, Diana told Camilla, “I’d just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on.”
Diana then recalled Camilla defending herself by saying that Diana had “all the men in the world.” However, when asked “what more could she want,” Diana replied by saying, “I want my husband.”
“I’ll just live inside your trousers or something,” he said. “It would be much easier.”
Both royals continued to go on royal engagements, though they now did it alone.
Though the documentary was initially intended to improve public opinion of the prince, he ended up admitting to his infidelity, saying he was “faithful and honorable” to Diana during their marriage “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
Dimbleby’s biography of the prince, “The Prince of Wales: A Biography,” later confirmed that Camilla Parker Bowles was the woman involved with Prince Charles during his marriage to Diana.
The same night the documentary was released, Princess Diana attended a Vanity Fair party wearing what would be called the “revenge dress” — a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder LBD by designer Christina Stambolian.
The interview went into other details of the marriage, her relationship with the royal family and press, as well as her struggle with bulimia. She also admitted to an affair with her riding instructor.
Following the interview, Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, alleged Bashir showed Diana fake documents to persuade her to take part in the interview.
The BBC apologized in May 2021 after an inquiry found “deceitful” tactics had been used to secure the interview, and Bashir resigned from his role as the BBC’s religion editor.
In her interview with Bashir, Princess Diana admitted she never saw herself ruling the United Kingdom, but wanted to remain “a queen in people’s hearts.”
Following her death, Prince Charles traveled to Paris to bring her body back to England. He also reportedly halted plans to formally announce Camilla as his partner.
There was an immense public outpouring of grief for Diana, “the people’s princess,” following her death.
At her funeral, her brother, Earl Spencer, said in his eulogy, “For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever hope to offer her today.”
More than 30 years after the couple met at a polo match, Prince Charles and Camilla married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall.
In 2007, Camilla chose not to attend a royal memorial service recognizing the 10-year anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, saying she believed her “attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion which is to focus on the life and service of Diana.”
A source told The Times of London, “He does find it terribly difficult. These moments have the potential to resurface old wounds, and it brings back memories for him; happy, sad, regretful.”
However, their sons, William and Harry, did attend the unveiling of the statue, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Gardens. Harry traveled to the UK from his home in Santa Barbara, California, to attend the event.
“Today, on what would have been our mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength, and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” they said in a joint statement. “Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”