Prince Charles and Princess Diana had a complicated relationship, to say the least. They first met in 1977 while Charles was dating Diana's older sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale (I know), and even after the births of their two children, Prince William and Prince Harry, the British press was relentless about publicizing Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (who he's now married to), and the breakdown of Charles and Diana's marriage.
Even Charles' father, Prince Philip, had some choice words on the matter. In a letter he wrote to Diana that was later released by her former butler Paul Burrell, Philip said, "I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind leaving you for Camilla," adding: "Charles was silly to risk everything with Camilla for a man in his position. We never dreamed he might feel like leaving you for her. Such a prospect never even entered our heads."
When the couple were finally ready to call it quits, they still had to go through months of royal duties—despite everybody knowing they were going through a divorce. In an interview with BBC, Diana claimed she'd never believed that she would be queen, saying, "I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, but I don't see myself being queen of this country. I don't think many people will want me to be queen." She continued, "Actually, when I say many people, I mean the establishment that I married into because they have decided that I'm a non-starter." Ouch.
Ahead, we take a look back at the evolution of Charles and Diana's relationship through the years. As you can see, it wasn't all sunshine and roses, but there were some sweet moments.
Here, Charles is pictured with Lady Sarah Spencer, who introduced him to her sister Lady Diana Spencer the same year. Though Charles and Sarah dated briefly, she reportedly said she wouldn’t marry Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.” And so began the relationship of Charles and Diana. Lady Sarah apparently called herself "Cupid," knowing she brought them together.
Talk about foreshadowing. Diana and Camilla Parker-Bowles both attend the Ludlow Races, where Prince Charles is competing. Charles and Camilla met in 1970 and dated briefly, but broke up when Charles left for the Royal Navy in 1971. When he returned, Camilla was engaged to her officer in 1973.
The press starts to follow Diana, 19, even more closely when rumors circulate that she and Prince Charles could soon be engaged. They had reportedly been on just 12 dates before their engagement.
According to King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain, Prince Philip wrote Charles a letter with an ultimatum: Either propose to Diana or release her. "To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic," Charles reportedly said to a friend. "Hence I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea."
Charles, 32 and Diana, 19, announce their engagement to the world and pose outside of Buckingham Palace. The ring may look familiar—William gave it to Kate Middleton when they got engaged.
Diana attends her first public engagement with Prince Charles at a Gala Charity Concert at Goldsmith's Hall in London. This was the first time the press really began to take notice of her impeccable sense of style.
Here, Prince Charles and Diana vacation at Balmoral Castle in Scotland during their engagement. And yes, those are Hunter rainboots.
Diana attends her first Royal Ascot (think: the British version of the Kentucky Derby). Meghan Markle attended her first Royal Ascot with Prince Harry 37 years later.
Diana and Charles walk out of their wedding rehearsal holding hands.
Charles and Diana are married on Wednesday, July 29 at St. Paul's Cathedral and she officially becomes Diana, Princess of Wales.
"I remember being so in love with my husband that I couldn’t take my eyes off him," she recalled of her wedding day in her biography Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words. "I just absolutely thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. He was going to look after me. Well, was I wrong on that assumption."
The very happy-looking couple are pictured on their honeymoon at Balmoral Castle. Diana is wearing a now-iconic suit by Bill Pashley.
At an official event, the Princess is caught resting her eyes. The next day, Buckingham Palace announces that Diana is pregnant with her and Prince Charles first child.
A year after their wedding, Princess Diana gives birth to her and Charles' first son, Prince William, at St. Mary's hospital. It has been reported that Diana "threw herself down the stairs" when she was four months pregnant in a desperate attempt for Charles to listen to her.
Home life at Kensington Palace looks great on Charles, Diana, and William (who looks crazy similar to his son, Prince George).
The Palace announces that Charles and Diana are expecting their second child, but a week later Diana suffers a miscarriage while on vacation in Balmoral.
A few months later,, the Palace announces that Prince William will soon have a sibling. Princess Diana is pregnant, and the baby is due in mid-September.
Diana gleefully kisses Charles after she presents him with a prize at a polo match in Cirencester. Decades later, Meghan did the same for Harry at the Sentebale Polo Match.
Princess Diana reportedly reached out to astrologer Penny Thornton and asked for help. At first, Thornton said, she refused. "Initially, I declined preparing Diana’s chart due to the pressure of a book deadline, but as soon as she said, “I just want to know if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel," I agreed to see her immediately," Thornton said to Vogue.
The family of four look very happy in a portrait taken at their home in Kensington Palace, but this is the same year that Charles reportedly rekindled his relationship with Camilla.
During all of this, Diana suffered from bulimia, which reportedly began soon after she and Charles got engaged.
Princess Diana finally decides to confront Camilla about the affair with her husband at her sister's birthday party (not at the event pictured here, though it's the same year). “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 recalled on tape for her biographer, Andrew Morton.
“She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. 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’. And I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m in the way...and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.'”
Charles and Diana visit Cameroon and the body language says...a lot. However, they continue to perform their royal duties together.
A year later, Charles and Diana still look pretty unhappy on the first day of their royal tour in Canada.
Despite the kiss shown here—during their official visit to India in February—things were not good.
The same year, tapes also leak of Diana's conversations with close friend James Gilbey, in which she calls her life with Charles "real torture."
In May, journalist Andrew Morton publishes Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words, which featured interviews with the princess herself. The biography details her husband's extramarital affair and what life was really like for Princess Diana in the Palace.
Charles admits to the world in a TV documentary that he had an affair with Camilla. He says he was faithful "until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." The same evening, Diana steps out in the LBD, pictured here, appropriately referred to as the "revenge dress."
Martin Bashir's bombshell interview with Princess Diana, entirely planned and executed in secret, is aired to the world. She talks about everything from her bulimia to her relationship with Prince Charles, but most notably she discusses her husband's affair with Camilla: "Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."