This is What Really Happened Between Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Even 25 years after her death, Princess Diana’s voice is still resounding worldwide.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
The People’s Princess decides to go public
Soon after Princess Diana’s marriage and subsequent divorce from Prince Charles, she found herself entangled in a web of tabloid intrusion and public scrutiny. In an attempt to clarify her side of the story, she spilled the details on a series of audiotapes in May 1991. After entrusting the information to her close friend Dr. James Colthurst, she had him proceed to hand-deliver the package (by bike, at that) from Kensington Palace to a UK journalist named Andrew Morton.
Morton then took the tapes to a café, where he listened to Diana finally elucidating her darkest secrets about the Camilla scandal, her ongoing battle with bulimia and even her developing thoughts of suicide. Diana’s closest confidantes worked with Morton throughout the book’s production. Her participation in the novel was initially kept secret, but Morton decided to tell the public after her tragic death in 1997.
The bombshell biography, Diana: Her True Story, based off the tapes, was finally published in 1992. Diana wrote to Colthurst six months before the book was published to relay her anxiety of the public frenzy that the release would entail, and ultimately, relief that her voice would be heard.
The life of a princess was assumed by the mass public to be a royal fairy tale, but the jarring reality was revealed to be very far from that. In the tapes, Princess Diana famously calls Camilla Parker Bowles the “third person” in her marriage. Even more surprisingly, Prince Charles didn’t try to suppress his blatant affections for Camilla throughout their marriage.
Although Diana and Camilla were initially friends, repeating incidents continued to feed Diana’s suspicions about a potentially clandestine romance. Charles and Camilla supposedly had nicknames for each other, Fred and Gladys. Two weeks before he married Diana, Charles had gifted a personalized bracelet to Camilla (a blue disc with “G and F” on it). He was also seen wearing gold cufflinks engraved with interwoven Cs to a formal dinner. His clear affections for Camilla understandingly stirred skepticism and jealousy for Diana, and she even told her sisters she couldn’t go through with the wedding. To that, they told her she had no choice.
A miserable marriage
Sally Bedell Smith claims in her biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, that Charles even cried the night before his wedding as he couldn’t get over his infatuation for his ex-girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles.
According to her personal account, Diana reports she once overheard Charles talking to Camilla on the phone while he was in the bath. After hearing him tell her, “Whatever happens, I will always love you,” Diana confronted Charles about the relationship. His response? The two “had a filthy row.”
As if that’s not heartbreaking enough, the princess also revealed that she witnessed a photograph of Camilla falling out of Charles’ diary. (Things didn’t get any better on Charles and Diana’s honeymoon.)
According to Diana, the stress induced by their failing marriage is what instigated her eating disorder, which she said began after they got engaged. According to the book, Diana reports, “My husband put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me.”
It wasn’t until 1994 that Prince Charles admitted to his adultery with Camilla for the first time. Princess Diana famously stated to journalist Martin Bashir, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” The two royals filed for divorce in 1996. Diana died a year later.
The couple’s stark age difference and Diana’s crumbling mental state is said to have been the primary culprits of the failed marriage, in conjunction with Diana’s reluctance to take prescribed medication and keep up with therapy.
Fallout from the tragedy
A vast majority of the public thrust accusatory fingers at Charles for Diana’s death, dictating she would not have been in the crash had he not committed adultery with Camilla. The extramarital affair is also what is said to have sparked a fallout between Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth.
Charles later issued a statement shortly following Diana’s death that he had “no intention of remarrying,” but proceeded to wed Camilla in 2005. (Here’s why the British public don’t want Charles to become king.)
In the updated edition of Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words, journalist Andrew Morton recounts the phenomenal story that led to the revolutionary book publication in 1992 and unveils how he was able to get his hands on her story.
But every scandal will inevitably leave behind a cookie crumb trail of clues, and closer inspection indicates that their union was doomed for catastrophe from the get-go. One interaction seems to say it all; in a foreboding clip that People uncovered, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are seen talking to a reporter during the announcement of their engagement in 1981. In response to the reporter’s inquiry of their being in love, Princess Diana firmly responds, “Of course.”
Prince Charles replies with a dry chuckle and an ambiguous, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”
Next, check out the 10 most controversial royal memoirs ever published.