Prince Charles allegedly wept the night before his wedding to Princess Diana, torn over his feelings for his former girlfriend — and then-mistress — Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The claim is made in Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, a new biography of the Prince of Wales by royal writer Sally Bedell Smith. Charles and Camilla began dating around 1971, a love affair that would make headlines for decades to come.
Lady Annabel Goldsmith tells Bedell Smith that Camilla was “an intensely warm maternal laughing creature, with enormous sex appeal.” The two shared a seemingly happy relationship, but split when Charles was stationed overseas with the Royal Navy in 1973.
Patricia Mountbatten, the daughter of the late Lord Mountbatten, says there were “obvious problems” with Camilla and she “had a history” with her on-again, off-again boyfriend — and eventual husband — Andrew Parker-Bowles. “You didn’t want a past that hung about,” says Mountbatten. Camilla and Parker-Bowles reconciled shortly after her split from Charles and the two were married that same year.
Eventually Charles and Camilla started an on-and-off relationship, which the latter’s husband turned a blind eye to.
By 1980, Charles and Diana had began dating, but Charles was supposedly not in a rush to get married. All that changed, however, when the press began speculating that Charles and Diana had spent two nights together — a claim that Diana denied.
Prince Philip sent a letter to Charles, according to Bedell Smith, saying Charles had to reach a decision about his relationship in order to protect Diana’s reputation. Charles read the letter as a demand to get engaged, but he “wasn’t in love, he wasn’t ready. Psychologically he assumed his father bullied him, so he read it as a bullying letter,” writes Bedell Smith.
But Bedell Smith says the letter was less of an order and more of a suggestion that “Charles should either propose to her or release her. In either event, he should make a decision shortly.” Ultimately, the couple got engaged in February 1981 and were married in July of that year.
The married royals reportedly had a very strained relationship. Diana was more than 10 years younger than her spouse and the two shared no hobbies. They also held different ideals. Historian Paul Johnson recalled a story Diana had told him about how Charles’ valet would lay his shirt on the bed before he got dressed. If he wanted a new shirt he would ring the valet to bring him a new one.
When Diana asked why Charles didn’t get a new shirt himself, he replied the valet is “paid to do it.”