There's a reason why the Netflix series The Crown is so popular: because rich and famous people being miserable is simply great entertainment. As rich and famous families go, few are as controversial and scandalous as the Windsors, and few Windsors are as controversial as Prince Charles. He's been a member of the public eye since his birth in 1948, and his romantic life has always been a subject of scrutiny. Camilla Parker-Bowles is the great love of his life, but in the 1970's she was considered too much of a "commoner" for him to marry. Still a bachelor in his 30's and under pressure to produce an heir, Charles reluctantly married Diana Spencer in 1981. But Camilla never truly left Charles's life.
Charles and Diana's marriage was famously rocky, but his relationship with Camilla was just as tumultuous. Here are all the details about Charles and Camilla's stormy history.
Things Were Complicated Even Before Camilla And Charles Started Dating
If you're a member of the most upper of upper-crust British society, like the Windsors, there are only so many people who are acceptable to date. That means if you start dating someone new, there's a good chance your histories will overlap. Charles and Camilla were no exception. The real story is just as complicated as The Crown suggests.
When Charles and Camilla met in 1970, Camilla (née Shandy) had already been in a five-year relationship with Andrew Parker-Bowles, a military officer and amateur horse jockey. Also that year, Charles's sister Princess Anne began dating Andrew Parker-Bowles. But Anne's fling with Andrew was short-lived, and Camilla ended up marrying him.
Complications like this were really nothing new, though. When Charles and Camilla met, Camilla pointed out that her great-grandmother had once been Charles's great-grandfather's mistress.
Charles' Family Was Against Him Marrying Camilla
Charles and Camilla were both single when they started their eighteen-month relationship in 1970. They were clearly in love and many have wondered why Charles didn't simply marry Camilla in the first place. Most likely, it's because Charles' family was against it, and it was all because of perception. Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith suggests that the Windsors felt Camilla was both "too experienced" and "not aristocratic enough" for their son.
Charles's family viewed his relationship with Camilla as a learning experience, and nothing more. “Lovely for you two to have a fling, but this absolutely cannot end in marriage,” Charles's great uncle Lord Mountbatten apparently told him. On the show, Mountbatten and the Queen Mother both maneuver behind the scenes to thwart Charles and Camilla. In reality, it's unknown how direct a role they played.
Camilla Was Actually In Love With Both Charles And Her Husband, Andrew Parker-Bowles
Camilla always had a deep love for Charles. Their initial 18-month romance was by all accounts genuine and romantic, with plenty of love letters and long, late-night phone calls. After Charles's family intervened, Camilla reconnected with Andrew Parker-Bowls and she married him in 1973.
But even though Camilla never stopped loving Charles, she also appears to have genuinely loved Andrew. In 2011, royal biographer Tina Brown opined that Camilla considered Andrew the love of her life. "Her dalliance with Charles had been fun, flattering, and sexy," Brown wrote. "But her friends knew all along that her consuming passion was Andrew.”
Despite Camilla's marriage to Andrew, Charles remained close friends with both of them for years afterward. Charles would become godfather to their son, Tom, and Andrew would later serve as head of security at Charles and Diana's wedding.
Charles And Camilla Most Likely Had Their First Affair After The Assassination Of Lord Mountbatten
It's unclear exactly when Charles and Camilla started hooking up again after her 1973 wedding to Andrew Parker-Bowles. But it probably happened around August 1979, when Charles's great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.
Lord Mountbatten had been a father figure for Charles. He was the first person Charles confided in about his relationship with Camilla. After Mountbatten's death, Charles turned to Camilla once again for comfort. Charles reportedly felt she was the only person he could talk to, and at some point things got physical. However, Penny Junor puts the official start of their adultery at one year earlier, shortly after Camilla gave birth to her second child.
Whenever it happened, Andrew appears to have not only been aware of it but on some level approved. (Andrew had himself already been unfaithful to Camilla.) “In 1979, there was very little pretense about the intensity of the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla," one source put it.