Hindsight tells us with clarity that Princess Diana and Prince Charles' royal marriage was always unlikely to succeed. Not only was there a 13-year age gap between Charles and Diana, there was also a complete lack of shared interests. The emotionally reticent Charles read ponderous philosophy books and loved country pursuits. Heart-on-her sleeve Diana loved to bop to Duran Duran and hated horseback riding.
That Charles was still involved with Camilla Parker Bowles — even as his engagement to Diana was announced — also destabilized the marriage. Yet, Diana hoped for the best. “I desperately wanted it to work,” she once told biographer Andrew Morton. “I wanted to share everything together.” Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
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Once Diana welcomed William in 1982 and Harry in 1984 — the heir and the spare — the marriage had already almost completely broken down, behind closed doors at least. But the clues that all wasn’t well were there. In the early to mid-1980s, Diana’s weight plummeted — and she later admitted she was bulimic. In 1985, Diana’s public engagements outnumbered Charles’ for the first time and he could barely conceal his unease with her rapidly growing fame.
By 1987, Diana was secretly embroiled in an affair with dashing riding instructor Captain James Hewitt while, among his circle at least, Charles was openly in a relationship with Camilla. By the beginning of the 1990s “their living arrangements began to hint strongly at a marital rift,” according to the couple’s former press officer Dickie Arbiter, as revealed in his book On Duty With the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Secretary. “The Princess was spending all her time at Kensington Palace, while Prince Charles was usually to be found at Highgrove, more than 100 miles away,” Arbiter wrote.
In February 1992, Charles and Diana could barely conceal their mutual animosity during an official tour of India. Diana publicly snubbed a kiss from Charles at a polo match in Jaipur as the world’s press eagerly looked on. “I’m not about to pander to him,” Diana later raged to Ken Wharfe, her royal protection officer. “If he wants to make a fool out of me with that woman he deserves it.” Diana further telegraphed the sadly deteriorating state of her marriage by being photographed alone at the Taj Mahal — a monument to love.
But it was the publication of Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton in May 1992 that truly laid bare the woeful royal marriage. Following a final, awkward, pre-arranged tour of Korea in November 1992, the British prime minister John Major announced the royal couple’s official separation on Dec. 9, 1992.
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But the separation did little to cool interest in Charles and Diana’s personal lives. In 1992, the release of intimate recorded conversations between Charles and Camilla, and Diana and another rumored loved, James Gilbey, embarrassed the royals. Then in 1994, Charles gave a frank televised interview in which he admitted adultery and implied that he’d never loved Diana.
She retaliated in a 1995 interview when she famously commented that there were “three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.” Less than a month later, Queen Elizabeth wrote to Diana and Charles, advising divorce. The Decree Absolute was finalized on Aug. 28, 1996. Diana, Princess of Wales, was then free to make her own way in the world.
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This post was written by Kate Wagner. It originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.