Were Charles' Letters to the Duke of Windsor About Camilla Given to the Queen?

It's another creative leap from The Crown.

Elizabeth And Charles
(Image credit: Hulton Archive)

Spoilers for season 3 of The Crown. In The Crown season 3, Edward VIII—the King of England for a few months before he renounced his title to marry Wallis Simpson—enjoys a close relationship with his grand-nephew Prince Charles. The two, according to the show, enjoy a correspondence that include writing letters back and forth regularly. But Edward shares these letters with Queen Elizabeth when they meet just before he dies, and they cause the Queen to worry about her son and his relationship with Camilla Shand, later Camilla Parker Bowles.

According to The Crown, Charles' letters cause the Queen to passively accept royal influence in the couple's relationship—Lord Mountbatten and the Queen Mother go on to "orchestrate" Camilla's marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles and an overseas posting for Charles. So did this happen? Did the Queen read Charles' private letters to Edward, and did it impact her feelings and actions about Charles' relationship?

Charles and the Duke of Windsor were close.

Charles and Edward apparently did have a close relationship, and Charles felt that Edward's situation was "tragic," according to Howard Hodgson’s Charles: The Man Who Will be King. This may have been, in part, because Charles saw his family disapprove of Camilla, and perhaps feared he might suffer the same fate.

According to an excerpt from Charles' diary, Charles did ask Edward personal questions. "I asked him frankly if he would like to return to England for the last years of his life...and he hesitated to ask Wallis if he should give me ‘the works.’ It sounded as though he would have liked to return, but he felt as though no one would recognize him."

And the Queen visited Edward before his death.

Elizabeth and Edward reconciled as much as could be expected, given the circumstances, at the very end of his life. She visited him a mere 10 days before he passed away but was apparently "annoyed" by Wallis Simpson. It's less clear what was said behind closed doors between Elizabeth and her uncle, but sources suggest that it was positive, not stressful.

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Queen Elizabeth visiting Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII at the end of his life.

(Image credit: Hulton Archive)

But it doesn't look like she read Charles' letters.

According to royal historian Hugo Vicker, that's just a dramatic addition, because those letters don't actually exist. It's less clear whether Charles never wrote to Edward, or just that he never shared details about his private life, but either way, there were no private correspondence for Elizabeth to go over and worry about. And it seems that the "conspiracy" to break up Camilla and Charles is overblown, too. 

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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.