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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 (opens in new tab) and Prince Harry (opens in new tab), the British press was relentless about publicizing Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) 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." He added, "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 was 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 (opens in new tab), 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'll 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 (opens in new tab) she wouldn't marry Charles "if he were the dustman or the King of England." That cleared the way for the relationship of Charles and Diana. Lady Sarah apparently called herself (opens in new tab) "cupid," knowing she brought them together.
The future princess was only 16 years old when she first met Prince Charles. However, they didn't start dating until years later when they were reintroduced at a mutual friend's home in Sussex. "He'd just broken up with his girlfriend and his friend Mountbatten (opens in new tab) had just been killed. I said it would be nice to see him," Diana said on a tape used in the documentary, Diana in Her Own Words.
Talk about foreshadowing. Diana and Camilla Parker-Bowles both attend the Ludlow Races, where Prince Charles is competing. Charles and Camilla met in 1970 (opens in new tab) and dated briefly, but broke up when Charles left for the Royal Navy in 1971. When he returned, Camilla was engaged to her British Army officer boyfriend, Andrew Parker-Bowles, and they married 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 (opens in new tab) before their engagement.
According to King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain (opens in new tab), 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—Prince William gave it to Kate Middleton when they got engaged.
Despite now being one of the most famous engagement rings in history, Princess Diana's choice of a sapphire and diamond sparkler initially caused a controversy amongst the royal family. The Palace believed that the ring was too accessible (opens in new tab) because Diana picked it out from a Garrard catalogue, and therefore was not appropriate for a royal engagement ring.
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.
During Diana's first public appearance with Prince Charles ,the press nicknamed her "Daring Di," since she wore a black strapless taffeta gown that was quite different from what the public was used to seeing from the royal family. She called upon the designers of that same dress (opens in new tab) to make her wedding dress.
Here, Prince Charles and Diana vacation at Balmoral Castle in Scotland during their engagement. And, yes, those are Hunter rainboots (opens in new tab).
Diana attends her first Royal Ascot (think: the British version of the Kentucky Derby). Meghan Markle attended her first Royal Ascot (opens in new tab) with Prince Harry 37 years later.
Leading up to her wedding, Diana grew concerned about the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. According to biographer and author of Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words (opens in new tab), Andrew Morton, when the prince presented Camilla with a gift before the wedding, Diana confided in her sisters that she wanted to call off the wedding (opens in new tab). Her sisters urged her to go through with it, telling her it was too late to back out of a royal marriage.
Diana and Charles walk out of their wedding rehearsal holding hands.
Charles and Diana are married (opens in new tab) 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: (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)Her True Story in Her Own Words (opens in new tab). "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 newlyweds bid farewell to thousands of well-wishers as they board the Royal Yacht Britannia for their honeymoon cruise around the Mediterranean on July 31, 1981.
The magic wore off on their honeymoon when Princess Diana discovers cufflinks gifted to Prince Charles from Camilla. "On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists," Diana said in a recording with Andrew Morton (opens in new tab). "Two C's entwined like the Chanel 'C.' Got it. One knew exactly. So I said 'Camilla gave you those didn't she?' He said 'Yes, so what's wrong? They're a present from a friend.' And boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy. And it was such a good idea the two C's but it wasn't that clever."
The very happy-looking couple at the end of their honeymoon at Balmoral Castle. Diana wears a now-iconic suit by Bill Pashley.
In the months leading up to her wedding, Princess Diana began to struggle with bulimia (opens in new tab), and it got worse as tensions grew in her marriage. "I was desperate, desperate. I remember the first time I made myself sick. I was so thrilled because I thought this was the release of tension," Princess Diana told Andrew Morton over audio tape (opens in new tab).
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" (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).
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 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 (opens in new tab).
Charles joins Diana on the dance floor in Melbourne, Australia, while the couple are on a royal visit. The princess wears a green satin gown by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and an emerald choker as a headband.
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 told Vogue (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab).
Princess Diana finally decides to confront Camilla about the affair with her husband at her sister's birthday party (opens in new tab) (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.'"
In 1989, Prince Charles' phone was tapped by the press and his late night phone calls with Camilla were recorded. The result was the royal scandal known as "Camilla-gate" when the tapes were released (opens in new tab) in 1993.
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. In 1992, tapes leaked of Diana's conversations with close friend James Gilbey, in which she calls her life with Charles "real torture." (opens in new tab)
In May, journalist Andrew Morton publishes Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words (opens in new tab), 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.
British Prime Minister John Major formally announces the separation (opens in new tab) of Charles and Diana, saying it would happen "amicably." Queen Elizabeth had reportedly urged (opens in new tab) the couple to divorce. Diana gives up the title "Her Royal Highness," but keeps her royal apartment and the title "Princess of Wales."
Throughout her marriage, and especially after, Princess Diana took her role as a mother very seriously. When Prince William was born, she was the first royal mother to insist on bringing her baby (opens in new tab) on royal tour. Diana continued to break royal protocol as a mother and strived to give her sons have as normal of a childhood as possible, as evidenced here.
The Palace makes it clear that, despite her divorce and removal of her HRH title, Princess Diana is still a member of the royal family by suing the Daily Mirror (opens in new tab) for publishing photos of Diana working out that were taken through a window.
Despite her separation from Prince Charles, Princess Diana attends the traditional Christmas service at St. Mary Magdalen Church at the Queen's Sandringham Estate. The Princess of Wales is escorted by her eldest son, Prince William, and walks separately from Prince Charles.
Prince Charles admits to the world in a TV documentary that he had an affair (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), 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."
After her divorce from Prince Charles, Diana pushes the envelope with her charity work, despite the royal family's strict policy against engaging in political matters. Most notable, was her visit to Angola with the charity Halo to bring awareness to landmines in the country. However, many saw her involvement in global politics as a breach in royal protocol.
A little over a year after the divorce, Princess Diana suddenly dies in a car crash in Paris (opens in new tab). Pictured are her sons, William, 15, and Harry, 12, next to their father observing the memorials left by strangers to mourn Diana. Eight years after Diana's death, Charles marries Camilla (opens in new tab) at Windsor Guildhall.
Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.
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