Season three of The Crown will delve into the relationship drama between Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles (maiden name Shand), and Andrew Parker Bowles. The conclusion of these relationships are already well-known—a turbulent affair between Charles and Camilla; a divorce for Camilla and Andrew as well as for Charles and Princess Diana; and an eventual marriage for Camilla and Charles.
But what The Crown audiences may know less about is Camilla's relationship with her first husband, and how Camilla's early, 18-month connection with Charles wasn't enough to stop her from marrying Andrew instead of Charles. So what really happened?
Camilla was in love with Andrew.
According to royal biographer Penny Junor (opens in new tab): "[Camilla] was passionately in love with [Andrew] but he was a cad, he was bonking other people, some of her friends...So when she was introduced to Charles and he thought she was pretty special...he thought she was a bit of alright and she thought 'Andrew is at the moment off with Princess Anne, you know her brother, teach Andrew a lesson.' So she had a fling with Charles."
It's pretty clear at this point that Charles was in love with Camilla; Camilla's feelings at the time are less clear. Later, when Charles was stationed abroad in the Caribbean and Andrew had broken up with Anne, Camilla went on to marry Andrew. Charles wrote of his sadness to his uncle, Lord Montbatten, that "such a blissful, peaceful and mutually happy relationship" had ended. The Queen Mother and Princess Anne both attended Camilla and Andrew's wedding.
Andrew and Camilla went on to have two children, Tom and Laura; Camilla and Charles remained friends during this period.
Neither Camilla nor Andrew were faithful.
Andrew had never been faithful in the relationship, apparently, and that trend continued after the pair got married (opens in new tab). In fact, while the two were married, he began a long-term relationship with his second wife, Rosemary Pitman, who he married after he and Camilla officially split up.
Camilla and Charles' relationships while both parties were still married to other people is, by now, common knowledge. But apparently, even though Andrew reportedly had no issues with the relationship, the fact that Charles' letters to Camilla were made public and Charles admitted to the affair on national television caused Andrew public embarrassment. Subsequently, he finally requested an official divorce, which went through in 1995. That said, the two are still amicable, even post-split. Camilla even came to Pitman's funeral after she passed away from cancer.
When Camilla and Charles finally did marry in 2005, the Queen offered the following as a wedding toast: "They have come through and I’m very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves.”
The Crown blames the royal family for Charles and Camilla's breakup.
Spoilers for season three. Obviously, The Crown isn't a retelling of historical events, but a narrative inspired by them. In the run-up to season four, which promises to be explosive with its retelling of how Charles and Diana's marriage crumbles, it's no great surprise that The Crown places the blame for Charles and Camilla's breakup, as well as the ugly Charles-Diana divorce that was borne from these events, squarely at the feet of the royal family.
In season three, two members of the family—Lord Louis Mountbatten, Charles' mentor, and the Queen Mother, his grandmother—actively conspire to separate the couple. They meet with Camilla's parents to discuss how to split up the budding couple, and eventually Mountbatten uses his military connections to get Charles sent to a posting in the Bahamas. Charles suspects that Mountbatten has made this happen, but he has to obey orders; Camilla then breaks up with the young price, and goes on to marry Andrew.
Obviously, real events probably weren't so cut-and-dry, and there's no evidence there was any top-secret conspiring by the royal family. Mountbatten in particular certainly didn't think Camilla was the right match for Charles, but it's entirely possible that Camilla also didn't feel she was the right fit for Charles, and that being married to Andrew Parker Bowles would suit her better. Being married to a king-to-be, with the expectation of one day becoming queen, isn't something to take lightly, especially when you're as young as Camilla and Charles were at the time (Camilla was 25 when she married Andrew). We don't know exactly how the breakup went down—but it's clear that Camilla's feelings for Andrew played a bigger role, and the royal family played less of a role, than The Crown suggests.
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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.
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