Charles and Camilla’s relationship has an unconventional history to say the least. They dated in the Seventies but it was only a brief love affair that ended when the Prince of Wales toured the Caribbean with the Royal Navy and returned to find her engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Charles was heartbroken and history tells us he never truly moved on.
He first met Diana in 1977 – when she was just 16 – while he was dating her sister, Lady Sarah Spencer.
In 1980, Diana was a guest at a country weekend and, in between playing polo, Charles started to take an interest in her as a potential bride.
Before proposing in 1981, Charles courted Diana in London for several months – albeit with his friend Camilla an ever-present influence.
Charles continued to spend extended periods of time with Camilla long after her marriage to Andrew.
The Prince of Wales was named godfather to Camilla and Andrew’s son, Tom, while the Parker Bowles family remained close with the royals.
Ironically, some believe it was Camilla who encouraged Charles’ relationship with Diana, mistakenly thinking she would be a malleable presence in his life.
Tina Brown recalls a conversation with Camilla’s former brother-in-law Richard Parker Bowles in her 2007 book ‘The Diana Chronicles’.
She notes that Camilla “initially encouraged the relationship between Charles and Diana because she thought Diana was gormless”.
Ms Brown’s comments in a 1985 Vanity Fair article expand on this further.
She notes how Camilla characterised Diana as “the blushing little Spencer girl” and describes how, by 1980, Charles was under ever-increasing pressure to marry from his family and the press.
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Ms Brown writes: “His family wanted it. The public wanted it.
“Like the last Prince of Wales, he liked to confide in married women, and his two favourites, Lady Tryon and Camilla Parker Bowles, wanted it.
“They had met the blushing little Spencer girl and deduced she was not going to give them any trouble.
“Prince Charles was exhausted. He proposed.”
Camilla’s intrinsic link to Charles and Diana’s relationship did not stop there, though.
As royal author Anthony Holden points out: “Where, after all, did Charles propose to Diana? Beside the cabbage patch in the Parker Bowles’ back garden.”
Charles even chose Andrew Parker Bowles to be head of security for his wedding to Diana, thereby ensuring Camilla would be in a prominent position during the service.
Former royal butler Paul Burrell recalls how Diana, knowing the importance of Camilla to Charles, could not help but look for her a she walked down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral to greet her husband-to-be.
In 2012 book ‘The Duchess of Cornwall: Camilla’s Story and Secrets’, author Jessica Jayne suggests “Camilla never saw Diana as a threat and felt that the late Princess could be someone she could manipulate”.
Although initially remaining faithful, both Charles and Diana went on to have affairs.
In 1994, the Prince of Wales admitted to adultery and claimed his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles started in earnest in 1986.
Speaking candidly about Camilla, Diana famously quipped in a 1995 BBC Newsnight interview that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was quite crowded”.
In 1996, Charles and Diana filed for divorce, just one year before the Princess of Wales’ tragic death.
Prince Charles eventually married Camilla in 2005.
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