Prince Charles and Lady Diana appeared to have the perfect marriage. Lady Diana Spencer was only 16 years old when she met the then, 29-year old Prince Charles at her family estate Althorp. It was not necessarily love at first sight, but there was definitely some interest. However, as we all know now, and as the Netflix show The Crown has detailed Diana and Charles’ relationship was anything but easy.
In the early days of their courtship, the two were in the spotlight. Any time spent getting to know each other, as well as Diana getting to know Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was constantly scrutinized by the press. Very quickly, the British people fell in love with Diana, which is why she would be dubbed the ‘People’s Princess.’
Her untimely passing from injuries sustained during a car accident in Paris in 1997 shook the world. However, the events that led up to this directly correlated with the rather tumultuous relationship between her and Charles. Keep reading to learn about the ups and downs of Charles and Diana’s relationship, from their first meeting until their divorce. They had one of the most fascinating relationships in the world, and it continues to be a source of interest as season 4 of The Crown has delved into it.
Growing Up A Lady
Lady Diana Frances Spencer grew up as a member of the British nobility. As one of the daughters of the 8th Earl Spencer, John Spencer, Diana was used to playing with other young lords and ladies. That included members of the royal family, specifically Prince Edward and Prince Andrew.
As she was not a commoner, she was considered a suitable choice for the older Prince Charles. Each summer, she and her siblings would play at the Sandringham estate where the Royal family would stay. She was found to be a very happy child, who always wanted to explore and get to know her surroundings.
The Importance Of Education
When it came to education, Charles and Diana had very different views. Charles was something of an academic, being the first member of the British royal family to complete an undergraduate degree. Diana on the other hand, did not excel while in high school and could not pass her final exams.
Academic pursuits were not of interest to Diana, instead she preferred to learn different forms of dance, singing, and other services associated with the hospitality industry. They say opposites attract, and that seemed to be true for this unlikely pair. Diana’s zest for life is what initially caught Charles’ attention.
A Family Affair
Prince Charles and Diana originally met through Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. Charles and Sarah had a brief romance, which eventually reached its end after a few months of dating. Sarah described their relationship to the press, and had some rather negative things to say. This included the fact she would never marry Charles if given the option.
However, that brief relationship led to Charles and Diana meeting at Althorp, when she was just 16 years old. Something about her bouncy spirit caught Charles’ eye, and in a couple of years time the pair would meet again but this time for romance.
Their First Meeting
Diana had been enthralled by Charles since she had first seen him with her sister. She found him incredibly handsome, and felt that they would be better suited to each other. Obviously her sister shared the same sentiment as the relationship would end, and she would marry someone else.
Diana told her piano teacher that she believed she was already in love with Charles. To spend more time with Charles, Diana offered to give him a tour of their family art gallery which dates back to 1508. He cherished that first meeting with Diana, and it was one of the reasons he would pursue her when she came of age.
The Other Woman
There was only one woman that Charles truly cherished, and that is his now wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. Charles and her had an off and on relationship, until Diana entered the picture.
At first it appeared that Diana had managed to enthrall Charles, and as a member of the nobility was much better suited as a partner. Camilla appeared to fade into the background, or at least that was what Diana believed when Charles began courting her.
While Diana grew out of her teenage years, Charles continued in his role as heir apparent to the British throne. In 1980, Lord Mountbatten, the uncle who was like a second father to Charles passed away when his boat exploded. The Irish group known as the Irish Republican Army were the ones responsible for the attack.
Diana saw Charles leaving his uncle’s funeral and offered her condolences. It was at that moment that Charles decided to pursue a romantic relationship with the 19-year old Diana.
Falling In Like
From that moment on, Charles and Diana began dating. They were not often seen at public outings together, but Charles was known for calling her on the telephone quite often. At this point, Diana had begun work on her public speaking abilities with Peter Settelen.
Some of the topics she discussed with him included Charles, which he would later talk about to the press. All Diana really shared was that Charles was quite sporadic in how often he contacted her.
Memories Of When They Met
It became clear that Charles would propose to Diana, although internally he appeared conflicted. Amongst his family and friends, it was well-known that Charles still loved Parker Bowles, even though she was married with children at this point.
As the heir to the throne, it was time for Charles to get married and produce his own heir. Charles reflected on when he met Diana, and how vibrant she was. Diana’s memory of their first meeting was rather different.
Time To Propose
Charles asked Diana to marry him in 1981, when she was 19. It appeared that Charles had little choice in the matter. Diana had been deemed a suitable match by both the Queen Mother, and his father Prince Philip.
They wanted her to become a member of the Royal family, and Charles was over 30 and unmarried which in itself was unusual. Thus, Charles with the advice and backing of his family decided to choose an engagement ring and propose.
The Engagement Ring
Traditionally, Royal engagement rings are heirloom pieces that are passed down through the family. Instead of asking for an antique ring for Diana, Charles opted to choose a ring from jeweler Garrard’s collection.
This is a common practice for regular people, but for the future bride of a prince this seemed like an untraditional decision. When Charles eventually proposed to Camilla post-Diana, he used a family ring that held a lot of sentimental value.
There was a specific moment during the engagement of Charles and Diana that stands out for people. During a televised interview for the announcement of the engagement, the young couple was asked if they were in love.
Diana, gazed at Charles adoringly and replied, “Of course.” In response, Charles simply laughed and said, means.” This marked the moment that Diana began to realize she may not have been his one true love.
The Best Of Friends
Once Charles and Diana’s engagement was announced, Camilla began inserting herself into Diana’s life. At first she tried to befriend the young future princess, by inviting her to lunch with her.
However, Diana quickly realized that the relationship between Camilla and Charles was more than friendship. On the eve of his tour to Australia and New Zealand, she overheard him on the phone with Camilla professing his feelings for her. This would only be the first of such instances.
Struggling With An Eating Disorder
The next few years were about to be some of the most difficult of Diana’s life. Diana had always struggled with her weight, but after Charles commented on her so-called chubby stomach, she developed an eating disorder.
She took it upon herself to lose a substantial amount of weight after receiving that comment from her husband to-be. For the next decade she would continue to live with this disorder, and work to overcome it.
In an effort to bring Diana and Charles closer together, Diana was invited to move into Buckingham Palace. She and Charles were able to get to know each other better, but it quickly became apparent that Camilla was still a large part of Charles’ life.
There were pictures of Camilla hidden in books, and whispered phone calls at night. Reportedly, Diana even heard Charles mention that he still loved Camilla on the phone right before the wedding.
The Big Day
The wedding day dawned for Charles and Diana, and it promised to be the wedding of the decade. In the summer of 1981, on July 29th Diana prepared to make her way into St. Paul’s Cathedral and marry the love of her life, knowing that he loved another woman.
Around the globe 750 million people tuned into watch Charles make Lady Diana Spencer a princess. To onlookers, they looked like a couple out of a fairytale.
The wedding was beautiful, but one guest managed to draw attention to herself – Camilla. She and her husband were two of the 3,500 guests in attendance for the wedding. Diana later mentioned during an interview that she noticed the woman, and the fact that she looked ill as Diana prepared to say her vows.
In fact, Diana managed to confuse two of Charles’ names, calling him Philip Charles by accident during the vow ceremony.
The Birth Of Prince William
When Diana got pregnant with the Royal couple’s first child William, everyone thought that it would be a blissful time. Instead, Charles became more distant towards Diana and she began to think that he may never love her the way he loved Camilla.
When Diana was halfway through her pregnancy with William, it was reported that she had taken a tumble down some stairs. Later, her butler Paul Burrell confirmed that Diana had fallen on purpose, hoping Charles would finally notice her.
Getting Used To The Paparazzi
Early on in their relationship, the paparazzi began to follow Diana hoping for a few good pictures of her. She began to develop tactics to hide her face, and try and avoid the camera flashes.
She spoke out many times about her dislike of the paparazzi, and was even seen in tears one day in her car. The constant bombardment of stories and photos of herself were hard to handle, and she was not used to being the center of attention.
Heading To Australia
After being married for nearly three years, Diana and Charles were sent to Australia for a royal tour in 1983. The two traveled throughout the country and New Zealand for 40 days, with baby Prince William in tow. On the surface, Diana and Charles seemed to be the perfect Royal couple.
Diana and Charles would greet the 40,000 or more Australian subjects and pose for countless pictures. This was the moment that the world truly fell in love with Diana.
The People’s Princess
Diana possessed a star power that Charles did not. She had the ability to empathize with the public, and had no problem shaking hands while people shared their life stories with her. In contrast, Charles rarely deigned to bend down and talk to children, or shake hands unless he has to.
It became obvious during the Australian tour, that the Australians were coming out to meet Diana rather than Charles. This led to him experiencing extreme bouts of jealousy.
In 1984, Diana and Charles announced that they would be bringing a new prince or princess into the world. Charles had been hoping for a girl, and apparently exclaimed that he was disappointed when presented with his new son – Harry.
To make it even worse, he also commented on the fact that their new baby boy had red hair. Diana found his negativity around their newborn son heartbreaking, and her mother Frances Kydd shared her sentiments.
While Charles had continued to see Camilla, it did not appear that they had a physical relationship during his early years with Diana. After Harry’s birth, the couple was deeply unhappy with each other and they both began to have romantic relationships outside of their marriage.
Charles returned to Camilla in 1986, and Diana became involved with a number of men close to herself and the Royal family. Her first reported affair was with James Hewitt, a member of the army who had been tasked with teaching her to ride.
All Grown Up
Now that Diana had been in the spotlight for a number of years, and come into herself as an adult she was ready to separate from Charles. It was largely acknowledged that members of the Royal family do not get divorced, which is why it would be very difficult for Diana to get what she wanted.
She was ready to leave Charles behind, and live her adult life away from the Royal family. But would Charles be willing to give her the divorce she wanted?
By 1989, Diana was tired of seeing Charles and Camilla talking to each other at parties, spending weekends together at their estates, and generally having the kind of intimacy she had dreamed of with him.
She decided it was time to confront Camilla and explain that Charles was her husband, these personal moments are known because of the tapes that Diana recorded regarding her feelings towards Charles’ other woman. Diana decided that Camilla’s sister’s birthday was the perfect time to do this.
After explaining to Camilla that Diana loved Charles and wanted him to be a faithful husband, Camilla had a response of her own. She declared that everyone loved Diana, and the only person who didn’t love her was Charles.
As much as Diana wanted Charles to love her, he would always be committed to Camilla. Diana continued to try and make their relationship work, but the writing appeared to be on the wall. Charles would never love Diana.
The Book That Shook The World
Once Diana realized that her marriage would not be everlasting, she agreed to taped interviews with writer Andrew Morton. He would turn these secret interviews into a best-selling book called Diana: Her True Story, which was released in 1992.
It detailed everything that had gone wrong with her marriage, the affairs, and even some personal information about key members of the Royal family. The release of this book marked the beginning of the end.
In the same year the book was released, the Prime Minister at the time, John Major made the announcement that Charles and Diana would begin a trial separation.
There was no mention of divorce, but with Charles’ affair with Camila known to the public it was not a surprise that a separation was announced. The British people began to wonder if they would lose Diana as their princess.
Three’s A Crowd
Once Charles and Diana began living apart, Diana embarked on a media campaign to provide perspective to the people. In her televised interview on the BBC, she answered pointed questions about her marriage.
She specifically spoke about how there were three people in her marriage, and she could not compete with Camilla for Charles’ affection. Royal family members did not do candid interviews like this.
By 1996, Charles and Diana were officially divorced. It had been a bitter four years, in which custody, alimony, and all the other little details had needed to be worked out. Diana received $22.5 million dollars as her settlement, which coming from the future King of England seems like a small sum.
She also had her title Her Royal Highness withdrawn, as she was no longer a member of the Royal family except through her sons.
The World Mourns
Sadly, Diana would only enjoy her life away from the Royal family for a year until her untimely passing. In 1997, just a year after getting divorced she was in a car crash which would claim her life, and that of her new partner’s – Dodi Fayed.
The world mourned for Diana, and Charles would not marry again until 2005. He married Camilla Parker-Bowles after having been in love with her for decades.