Did the Royal Family Make the Military Send Prince Charles Away From Camilla?

The Crown will cover the young couple's breakup.

(Image credit: Keystone)

In season 3 of The Crown, one of the most compelling storylines will be the initially doomed romance between Prince Charles and Camilla Shand (who became Camilla Parker Bowles). The two lovers had a passionate early relationship, but ultimately broke up for Camilla to marry Andrew Parker Bowles. Much was speculated about their breakup, from "they just split up naturally" all the way up to "the Royal Family actively orchestrated a breakup between the two of them." Let's investigate one of the most intriguing aspects of this story, which is that the timing of Prince Charles' tour overseas to The Caribbean.

There has long been speculation that the Royal Family and specifically Lord Mountbatten, Charles' great-uncle and mentor, orchestrated a tour that would take him far away from Camilla's "influence." What's the truth?

Camilla was, in fact, deemed "unsuitable."

It's not a secret that the Royal Family wasn't necessarily a fan of Camilla, even in the initial stage of their dating. She was too "earthy" (?!) and too "experienced" for their liking. Mountbatten in particular told Charles that a woman with a past wouldn't be suitable for a prince's wife, yet also encouraged him to play the field (sigh).

So the animosity there isn't false; Camilla was seen as a kind of learning experience for Charles, but he fell head over heels for her. It's also true that Mountbatten had significant military influence and may have been able to get a particular assignment for Charles—should he have wanted to.

But there's no evidence to suggest the Royal Family "conspired."

However, all that speculation aside, Charles had recently completed his training and as a member of the British Navy, he was expected to begin his military career through active service. “He had joined the Navy, he was assigned to a ship and that ship was going to the Caribbean,” biographer Penny Junor said. “I have never heard [such a plot] suggested at all.”

(Image credit: PA Images)

Biographer Christopher Wilson also spoke to Camilla's motivations: “By the time Camilla actually met Prince Charles, she was already four years into a five-year campaign to get Andrew Parker Bowles up the aisle,” Wilson said. “When she met Prince Charles, she was only a year or so away, or less than two from realizing this ambition.”

So, as far as we know, the Royal Family didn't separate the couple—it was a number of factors, including Camilla's feelings for Andrew.

The Crown, however, presents the opposite narrative.

Obviously, The Crown is meant to be considered a dramatized version of events, not a biography of the royal family. But season three's version of events are not that Camilla and Charles drifted apart and then she married the man she had long had strong feelings for, Andrew Parker Bowles.

Nope: In the series, Camilla and Charles have a deep connection, until the royal family, specifically the Queen Mother and Charles' mentor Lord Louis Mountbatton, intervene to forcibly separate the two. Not only do they sternly meet with Camilla's parents to drive a wedge between the young couple, but Mountbatton uses his connections with the military to get Charles sent to the Bahamas, otherwise known as a very, very long way from Camilla Shand. Charles wants to continue dating Camilla, but she marries Andrew instead, a turn of events that leaves Charles devastated.

This...isn't true, as far as we know. But it's a smart narrative device that foreshadows the drama of season four, in which the forced separation of Charles and Camilla by the hands of the royal family has disastrous consequences (see: two divorces, a royal scandal). So even if it's a total fabrication, it's in line with the series' theme of the monarchy putting its needs above the emotional needs of its younger clan, with devastating results.

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Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.