On July 29, 1981—41 years ago yesterday—Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer in what was heralded at the time as a fairytale wedding and the wedding of the century.
Now, of course, we know that was not the case, that Charles and Diana were a mismatch, and that Charles was likely in love with someone else on his wedding day—Camilla Parker-Bowles (now his second wife, known as the Duchess of Cornwall) who was in attendance at St. Paul’s Cathedral that day, along with 3,500 other people.
The Mirror reports that, the night before the wedding, Charles, 32, told Diana, who had just turned 20 earlier in the month, that he didn’t love her and did not want to go into the marriage on a false premise, the outlet reports. Understandably, this left the soon-to-be Princess of Wales devastated.
Speaking on an ITV documentary called The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess, Diana’s astrologer Penny Thornton says that Diana confessed this to her.
“One of the most shocking things that Diana told me was that the night before the wedding, Charles told her that he didn’t love her,” Thornton says. “I think Charles didn’t want to go into the wedding on a false premise. He wanted to square it with her, and it was devastating for Diana.”
Charles and Diana had only met a handful of times before announcing their engagement in February 1981, when Charles infamously, upon being asked if he was in love, replied “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” (Diana, for her part, answered “Of course.”) Thornton says Diana almost didn’t “go through with the wedding at that point. She thought about not attending the wedding. But, despite the concerns on both sides, the wedding went ahead the next day.”
Biographer Penny Junor—who has written many books about the royal family, including The Duchess: The Untold Story, about Camilla—claims that Charles also wanted to pull out of the wedding, but thought it was too late.
“Charles was not convinced he was doing the right thing in marrying Diana, but there was no way out and, bolstered by the hope that things would be different once they were married, he put a brave face on it,” Junor writes.
By 1984, the couple had two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, and strains were evident in the relationship by the end of the 1980s. They separated in 1992 and ultimately divorced in 1996. After Diana’s death in a car accident in 1997, Charles married Camilla in 2005.
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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