People believed for years that Camilla Shand was the unwanted interloper in Prince Charles’ and the late Princess Diana’s relationship. In 2022, more than 50 years after they originally met, Charles ascended the throne as King and Camilla officially became Queen Consort after Queen Elizabeth II passed away.
Before they got to this point, however, their relationship was marred by scandal. Charles and Camilla reportedly had an affair while he was married to Princess Diana. Their private phone conversations were made public and left little to the imagination, sending shockwaves throughout the royal family. After their respective divorces, Charles said that Camilla was “the one non-negotiable fact,” advocating for her to be part of his life, publicly and otherwise. Biographer Jonathan Dimbleby notes that Charles finds “the warmth, the understanding and the steadiness for which he had always longed and had never been able to find with any other person” in Camilla.
Years later, the sentiment remained the same. “It’s always marvelous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage,” Charles said in a 2015 interview. “Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.” Now, they’re approaching perhaps the biggest moment in their relationship: Charles’ coronation as King on May 6.
Their romance has now lasted since the 1970s, but their history is winding and complicated. Ahead of the May 6 Coronation, here’s a full breakdown of how their relationship unfolded.
1970: Charles & Camilla’s Meet Cute
In The Crown’s third season, Charles and Camilla lock eyes while playing polo at Windsor Park and immediately feel a spark. Unhappy with how her boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles treats her, Camilla begins a relationship with Charles, who later describes her as “the one.”
This is most likely accurate, though reports vary about how exactly they met. According to Time, 22-year-old Charles met a 24-year-old Camilla at a polo match in Windsor Great Park in 1970, and the couple started dating sometime after. But a 1992 People article claimed that they actually met at a 1972 party, where Camilla reportedly told Charles, "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.”
Regardless, the two’s romance unfolded mostly through private meetings and phone calls — a necessary move, as Camilla wasn't aristocratic and thus not considered a great match for Charles. “He loved the fact that she smiled with her eyes as well as her mouth and laughed at the same silly things as he did,” royal biographer Penny Junor wrote in The Duchess: The Untold Story. “In short, he was very taken with her, and after that first meeting he began ringing her up.”
The Crown’s historical advisor Robert Lacey wrote in The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 2 that 1972 was a big year for the couple. They often went to nightclubs and visited Camilla’s family on weekends as well as Lord Mountbatten’s Hampshire estate. But according to biographer Sarah Bradford, Lord Mountbatten grew concerned once he realized how serious Charles was about Camilla. So as shown in The Crown Season 3, he arranged for Charles to be assigned to the West Indies for eight months in an attempt to break them apart.
1973: Charles Joins The Royal Navy
Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, and his relationship with Camilla seemed to die off when he had to report back to duty in 1973. “Although the smitten prince courted her for six months, he failed to propose before returning to sea in February 1973,” People reported in 1992. “He dithered and hedged his bets until Camilla gave up on him,” Junor added.
As a result, Camilla married her former boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles on July 4, 1973. Camilla and Charles remained friends, but Junor wrote that the news devastated Charles. “It seemed to him particularly cruel, he wrote in one letter, that after ‘such a blissful, peaceful and mutually happy relationship’, fate had decreed that it should last a mere six months."
1977: Charles & Diana Meet
Charles formally met Diana Spencer for the first time in November 1977, but it wasn’t romantic. Diana was just 16, and Charles was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah, at the time. Charles and Diana began dating in July 1980 when Diana turned 18. They only met 13 times before Charles proposed, per Business Insider.
Camilla was never far from Charles’ life though. As The Telegraph reported in 2005, “Curiously, and with an ominousness that was to become clear only years later, Andrew and Camilla Parker Bowles were present at most of Charles and Diana's courtship venues — Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor, at the homes of friends.”
1981: A Royal Engagement
Charles proposed to Diana on Feb. 6, 1981, and The Guardian suggested he did it in Camilla’s garden. When asked if he and Diana were in love during an interview announcing their engagement, Diana said yes while Charles cryptically added, “Whatever in love means.”
According to ABC’s 2017 special The Last 100 Days of Diana, Camilla was present at Charles and Diana’s wedding, despite Diana not wanting her to attend. Diana and Charles went on to have two children, William and Harry.
1986: The Affair Resumes
Per ABC’s documentary, Charles and Camilla resumed their affair sometime around 1986. Diana knew about it. In a 1995 BBC One interview, she famously said, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
1992: The Affair Is Made Public
The public became aware of the affair in 1992 when tapes of conversations between Charles and Camilla were leaked. Andrew Morton’s shocking book Diana: Her True Story was released the same year, detailing Diana’s jealousy over Charles’ involvement with Camilla. In one interview, Diana said she tried to confront Camilla at a party in 1989. “I was terrified of her. I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that,’” Diana told Morton, per People. “She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you've got two beautiful children, what more do you want?’ So I said, ‘I want my husband.’”
The 1992 People article speculated that if Charles divorced Diana, he would likely not be allowed to remarry. In December of that year, Prime Minister John Major announced Charles and Diana’s official separation.
1993: Camillagate Tapes Leak
Camilla and Charles’ relationship became even more public spectacle in January 1993 when a transcript of a sexually explicit 1989 phone conversation between the two was published by tabloids, leading to the scandal known as Camillagate. “I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out,” Charles was heard saying in the recording.
1994: Charles Admits To Adultery
1995: Camilla Gets A Divorce
Per The New York Times, Camilla and her husband officially divorced in January 1995. That same year, Diana admitted to having her own affair with polo player James Hewitt in a BBC interview. In December, the Queen sent a letter to Diana and Charles saying that a speedy divorce was in the interest of all parties involved.
1996: Charles & Diana Divorce
Diana and Charles officially divorced in July 1996.
1997: Diana Dies
Diana tragically died on Aug. 31, 1997, following a traffic collision in Paris.
1998: William & Harry Meet Camilla
The Guardian reported that Charles introduced Camilla to his sons in 1998 and that they were working on a “transparent campaign” to introduce Camilla to the public. But Charles’ parents still didn’t approve of the relationship. As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip disapprove of their son’s once-adulterous relationship with Parker Bowles and stayed away” from Charles’ 50th birthday party.
1999: Charles & Camilla’s First Public Outing
Camilla and Charles went public for the first time in January 1999. The two were photographed together leaving a birthday party for Camilla's sister at the Ritz Hotel in London. They were spotted at more events after that, attending theater shows and social functions together.
2000: Queen Elizabeth II Approves
The Queen attended King Constantine of Greece’s birthday party where Camilla was also in attendance, which many took as a sign she finally approved of the relationship.
2001: A Public Kiss
Charles and Camilla kissed for the first time in public at an event for The National Osteoporosis Society at Somerset House in London.
2005: An Engagement & Wedding
Charles had been living with Camilla at Clarence House since 2003, and in February 2005 he announced their engagement. They got married on April 9 of that year in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. Though the Queen and Prince Philip didn’t attend, they were at the subsequent blessing at St. George’s Chapel.
2010: Hinting At New Titles?
Because Diana held the title of Princess of Wales, Camilla received the title Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. But in a 2010 interview, Charles suggested that Camilla could be called Queen if he becomes King. “Does the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen of England if and when you become the monarch?” NBC’s Brian Williams asked, to which the Prince answered, “That’s well…we’ll see won’t we? That could be.”
2022: King & Queen Consort
In honor of the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, the monarch gave her blessing for Camilla to be known as “queen consort” after Charles became king. “When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me,” she wrote in a February 2022 statement. “And it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”
When Queen Elizabeth died on Sept. 8, Camilla officially assumed the title of Queen Consort.
2023: A Coronation
Ahead of the May 6 coronation, a new portrait was taken of Charles and Camilla. A source to Buckingham Palace revealed how close the King and Queen Consort is, leading up to the coronation.“She is the yin to his yang,” the insider told PEOPLE in April. “She is the type to say, ‘It’ll all be fine; let’s crack on and get on with things.’” The religious ceremony marks the official and symbolic transfer of power to the new monarch. “The Coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future,” a statement from Buckingham Palace read, “while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.”
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