Why Didn't the Royal Family Want Prince Charles to Marry Camilla?

She wasn't seen as "suitable" match for the king-to-be.

Royal Marriage Blessing At Windsor Castle
(Image credit: Dave Benett)

One of the more dramatic plot points of season 3 of The Crown? The relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Shand (later Camilla Parker Bowles) and the disapproval that the relationship met with from the British royal family—up to and including Queen Elizabeth. While some observers believe that the family had an active role in splitting the pair up, the reality is a bit murkier.

There have been a number of rumors that Charles was deliberately separated from Camilla via an overseas assignment—but other rumors suggest that the two separated because Camilla was still in love with her future husband, Andrew Parker Bowles. What does seem pretty clear, though, is that Charles' family never really cared for Camilla as a suitable match for the future king. Why?

The royal family saw Camilla as a "learning experience" for Charles.

Charles' uncle, Lord Mountbatten, apparently wrote in a letter to his nephew: "I think it is disturbing for women to have experiences if they have to remain on a pedestal after marriage." Camilla had dated several men by that point and was on and off with Andrew, so that diminished her suitability, as it were. (Charles, on the other hand, was encouraged to play the field, the irony of which isn't lost on anyone.)

Camilla was also seen as "earthy," which could mean "wholesome," or more likely could just be a synonym for "common," since she wasn't the daughter of a titled family (unlike Diana, the daughter of an earl). So Camilla was seen as something of an early test run relationship for Charles, but not someone he would marry. He, on the other hand, fell hard and fast for her and pined for her even after the two broke up.

Charles And Camilla In 1979 - Special Fee Applies

(Image credit: Tim Graham)

The royals definitely wanted Camilla gone later on.

Long after both Charles and Camilla went on to marry other people, the two resumed an affair—which, as we all know, led to two divorces and a royal scandal. The royal family (in particular, Queen Elizabeth) allegedly wanted Camilla "gone" after the two were still seeing each other after their respective divorces.

Charles, in response, said that Camilla's presence in his life was "non-negotiable." Things escalated: The Queen apparently called Camilla "that wicked woman" and may even have said that Camilla wasn't allowed to come to Buckingham Palace (this may also had something to do with her respect for Princess Diana, as mother of William and Harry). Spoiler alert: Charles was steadfast in his feelings, and over time, Camilla's approval with the public began to rise. The two were married in 2005, with the Queen's blessing.

Prince Charles & The Duchess Of Cornwall Attend Blessing At Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, a happy ending for those two! But a very turbulent journey.

The Crown presents the couple as star-crossed lovers torn apart by the royals.

Spoilers for season three. In The Crown, the romance is dramatized and the royal family's role in the breakup vastly expanded. Charles and Camilla Shand are shown to have a deep and intense romance, and not only do the royal family not approve of Camilla, two of its members—Lord Louis Mountbatten and the Queen Mother—actively plot to separate the two. In a Machiavellian moment, the Queen Mother and Lord Mountbatten meet privately with Camilla's parents so the foursome can work together to split up Camilla and Charles. And just in case that wasn't enough, Mountbatten uses his military connections to get Charles sent all the way to the Bahamas for an extended mission with the Navy. In The Crown, it's those factors, rather than Camilla's feelings for Andrew, that lead to the couple's devastating breakup.

As far as we know, most of this is untrue. Though Mountbatten may have steered Charles away from Camilla, and although the royal family didn't think Camilla was a suitable match for the king-to-be, there was likely no secret plotting to separate the two. What's more likely is that Camilla felt that Andrew was a better fit for her at the time. The Crownplotline, however, does set up a fourth season that's more intriguing than ever. The ugly breakdown of the marriage between Charles and Princess Diana will, per this narrative, will be the fault of the royal family for separating him from the woman who was always the love of his life: Camilla Shand.

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Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.