Prince Charles is “Deeply Ashamed” of Infamous Camilla Phone Call

The 1990s headlines are almost too bizarre to be believed.

Prince Charles
(Image credit: Arthur Edwards / WPA Pool for Getty Images)

The transcript reads like something out of a used bookstore romance novel: “I fill up your tank.” “Your great achievement is to love me.” “I’d suffer anything for you. That’s love. It’s the strength of love.”

Add in some crude jokes that aren’t worth a rehash here—if you know, you know *cringe*—and that encompasses “Camillagate,” the transcript of an affectionate phone call between Prince Charles and the then Camilla Parker Bowles that was published on the front pages for days while both were very much still married to Princess Diana and Andrew Parker Bowles, their respective spouses. The incident is what ultimately broke up the Parker Bowles’ 20-year marriage—Andrew Parker Bowles was “publicly humiliated” by his wife’s infidelity, according to royal expert Wayne Francis, per The Daily Express—and “Camillagate” still bothers Charles, the outlet reports. Royal biographer Howard Hodgson, who is also an acquaintance of the Prince of Wales, says “even today the episode troubles the prince.”

“He knows that people not sympathetic to him or the monarchy will recall it at the time of his coronation and at all other meaningful moments in his life,” Hodgson says. “He remains deeply ashamed of the embarrassment that he caused his mother, deeply sorry for the pain it caused both his and Camilla’s children.”

The “Camillagate” transcripts came out in early 1993, but were recorded in 1989, when the Prince and Princess of Wales were very much not separated, according to the Mirror. (Their separation didn’t happen until 1992.) To be fair, Diana had her own embarrassing phone call—“Squidgygate,” as it is known—and both Charles and Diana sat down for televised interviews in the following years to explain their respective positions, Charles with Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994 and Diana, controversially, with Martin Bashir in 1995. (In both interviews, each party spoke of their extramarital affairs.) Shortly after the latter interview, the Queen interceded and asked the couple to officially divorce, which was finalized in August 1996. One year and three days later, Diana was dead in a Paris car accident.

“Charles and Camilla continued their romantic relationship, and the Duchess was slowly integrated into his public life, despite the public’s resistance,” the Express reports. “They married in 2005, and Camilla was given the title of Duchess of Cornwall.”

At the time, it was announced that Camilla would be known as Princess Consort upon Charles’ accession to the throne. Of course, that has now changed, as earlier this year the Queen said it was her wish for Camilla to be Charles’ Queen Consort, likely because “the Duchess has worked tirelessly as a senior member of the royal family, and has seemingly won over a reluctant British public,” the Express writes. “The Queen’s latest endorsement—in expressing her desire for Camilla to be known as Queen Consort—is the ultimate completion of the Duchess’ public image turnaround.”

As season five of Netflix’s The Crown looms—it’s due out later this year and set to cover the turbulent 1990s in the royal family—the public might again be reintroduced to everything from the decade, forcing Charles to possibly once again face that infamous phone call and the rest of the drama from those years. 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.