Though Prince Charles and Princess Diana‘s wedding was one of biggest TV events ever, no one would ever say the royal couple had a love story for the ages. The Prince and Princess of Wales seemed miserable in their marriage, and Charles was clearly in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles, whom he dated before his relationship with Diana during their marriage. So why did he marry Diana in the first place?
Well, according to biographer Sally Bedell Smith, Charles was bullied into his first marriage — or so he thought, at least. As the biographer wrote in her 2017 book, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, the then-32-year-old prince had only gone on a few dates with Diana, then 19, before the media became convinced she was the one. And that’s when Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, wrote to his son to tell him to either propose or let her go, explaining that Charles’ indecision wasn’t fair to Diana’s reputation.
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Charles’ cousin Pamela Hicks said she read the letter and found it “measured and sensitive,” but Charles apparently believed otherwise. “He wasn’t in love, he wasn’t ready,” Pamela said in the biography. “He saw it as a ghastly threat. Psychologically he assumed his father bullied him, so he read it as a bullying letter.”
Charles and Diana married in 1981 and welcomed sons Prince William and Prince Harry in 1982 and 1984, respectively. But soon the couple’s unhappiness became evident. Much as she might have loved Charles, Diana knew he still had feelings for Camilla. She was “high functioning” in public but a mess in private, according to Sally Bedell Smith. Diana reportedly fought her husband — both verbally and physically — and suffered from anxiety, bulimia, depression, and self-harm. She and the future King of England separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
And to think, it all might have turned out quite differently if Camilla hadn’t married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Like Charles, Andrew might have felt forced to commit to his future wife, as well. As Sally Bedell Smith reported, Andrew’s brother and Camilla’s father conspired to make them marry by publishing an engagement notice in the newspaper before Andrew had actually popped the question. “His hand publicly forced, Andrew proposed to his girlfriend of nearly seven years,” the biographer wrote.
Thus, Camilla married Andrew, and Charles moved on with Diana… to disastrous effect. All of this salacious gossip is making us very excited for future seasons of The Crown!
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