A whole new generation has become obsessed with the story of Charles and Diana’s tumultuous relationship after Netflix’s fourth season of The Crown premiered in November, but the dramatisation has been heavily criticised for exaggeration and one the palace has deemed complete fiction.
Friends of Prince Charles reportedly claimed the series was “trolling on a Hollywood budget” after much of the season focused on Charles and Diana’s marriage, and his ongoing relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
In the first episode of The Royals Revealed, a handful of commentators and sources close to the Palace shed some light on the truth behind the fiction. Here are a few of our favourite bombshells.
Famous for her affair with Charles before, during and after his marriage to Diana, it’s a bit of a shock to hear that Camilla’s great-grandmother was also a royal mistress. Alice Keppel was a mistress to King Edward VII, Charles’ great-great-grandfather.
According to many accounts, Camilla first introduced herself to Charles by saying, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-grandfather… so how about it.”
After Diana’s death, when Charles and Camilla first debuted as a couple at Camilla’s sister’s 50th birthday, she wore a necklace that originally belonged to Keppel.
“She always wore that Alice Keppel necklace if she possibly could, just as a reminder that she had every right to be a royal mistress, and maybe a royal wife, as much as anybody else,” Christopher Wilson, Royal Biographer said during the episode.
Charles’ Own Words Backed Him Into A Corner
In 1975 the Prince said, “I personally feel that a good age for a man to get married is around 30”. As his 30th birthday loomed, pressures from both the palace and the press began to mount, which many believe forced Charles into finding a bride as soon as he possibly could.
But while the Prince had clearly fallen for Camilla, she wasn’t seen as the right fit for what the Palace wanted, with a heavy emphasis on “virginity” and the right “image” for his bride.
That’s when he met the then 19-year-old Diana Spencer, through his friendship with her older sister. Diana was seen as "the perfect English rose”. From that point on Diana and Camilla were constantly pitted against each other in the eyes of the press, the public, and more than likely Charles himself.
Diana and Charles’ Relationship Occurred Almost Entirely In Camilla’s Sphere
“There was a naïveté towards the relationship,” Camilla Tominey the Associate Editor of the Daily Telegraph said. “I don’t think Diana realised they were carrying on as lovers behind the scenes.”
Not only did Charles and Diana’s early courtship occur mostly around Camilla and her then-husband Andrew Parker Bowles’ estate, but after Charles proposed to Diana she reportedly found a note written by Camilla on her bed.
“Camilla knew more about her movements than she, Diana, knew herself.”
‘Whatever In Love Means’
One scene in The Crown that shocked viewers was the awkward press conference in which Charles and Diana answered questions about their engagement.
On top of awkward body language - the Prince strangely stroked Diana’s finger throughout questions - when a reporter suggested the pair were in love, Charles simply responded, “Whatever ‘in love’ means”.
“Was that the first sign that Diana looked across to the man who would be King, the man who would be her husband, and thought to herself, ‘Good grief, I may have made a dreadful mistake here,’” Tominey said.
Diana and Charles Both Hoped To Cancel Their Wedding
“Both of them realised it was a mistake and Diana, particularly because she was young, because she was volatile, was taking it worse than Charles was,” Wilson recalled.
When Diana expressed her “cold feet” in going ahead with the marriage her two older sisters, Sarah and Jane, apparently told her: “Too late, Duch [their nickname for Diana], your face is already on the tea towels.”
Camilla Never Fought A War She Knew She Couldn’t Win
Throughout the marriage Camilla very rarely waded into the fray, despite things getting very grubby during what was dubbed The War of the Waleses. With Diana portrayed as fragile, Camilla was juxtaposed as a “villain”. Following Charles and Diana’s divorce, public opinion seemed to turn more favourable toward Camilla, but after Diana’s tragic death they once again turned on the Duchess of Cornwall.
“Camilla, over the years, sacrificed so much for the love of Prince Charles,” Wilson said. “She could have gone out all guns blazing, she decided to take a step back and just accept her fate.”
Catch up on the entire saga, and find out even more of the true story behind Diana, Camilla and Charles on the first episode of The Royals Revealed.
The Royals Revealed: Royal Weddings Then And Now will air on Wednesday, December 9 at 7.30 on Network 10 and 10 play