Did Princess Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles Really Have Lunch After Her Engagement?

Leena Kim
·3 min read
Photo credit: Express Newspapers - Getty Images
Photo credit: Express Newspapers - Getty Images

From Town & Country

There are several extremely consequential moments in the British monarchy's history that will be portrayed in this season of Netflix's The Crown, which covers the period of Queen Elizabeth's reign between 1977 and 1990. Taking center stage, of course, is the premiership of the legendary Margaret Thatcher and her complicated relationship with the Queen. Plus, there is the Falklands War, the death of Lord Mountbatten, and the extraordinary Buckingham Palace break-in of 1982.

But let's be honest. The most anticipated moment of this season is undoubtedly the introduction of Princess Diana. And any storyline involving Diana, Charles, their courtship, marriage, and all of its undoing must also include Camilla. After all, as the princess famously remarked in a 1995 interview: “There were always three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Viewers of the The Crown were already introduced to Camilla Shand last season as part of another love triangle (or was it more of a square?) involving Charles, her future husband Andrew Parker Bowles, and his erstwhile lover, Princess Anne. By the time Diana entered the picture—the royal courtship began in 1980 and the Prince of Wales proposed a year later—Camilla was married to Parker Bowles. But, by some accounts, she and Charles had rekindled their romance around the same time, when Charles found solace in his former lover after Lord Mountbatten's assassination in 1979.

Photo credit: PA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: PA Images - Getty Images

In any case, Prince Charles and Camilla ran in the same circles (he was a godfather to her son, Tom Parker Bowles), perhaps making it particularly difficult for Diana to avoid run-ins with her future husband's ex-turned-mistress (in the photo above and at the top of this page, the two women were photographed together in 1980 at the Ludlow Races, where Prince Charles was competing).

In The Crown this season, the two women even meet up for lunch after the big engagement. But did this really happen in real life? According to Andrew Morton's biography, Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words, written with his subject's cooperation in 1992, it did.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Camilla sent Diana a letter, dated two days before the official engagement announcement, to Clarence House: "Such exciting news about the engagement. Do let's have lunch soon when the Prince of Wales goes to Australia and New Zealand. He's going to be away for three weeks. I'd love to see the ring, lots of love, Camilla."

"That was 'Wow!' So I organized lunch," Diana recounted, continuing, "She said: You are not going to hunt, are you?' I said: 'On what?' She said: 'Horse. You are not going to hunt when you go and live at Highgrove are you?' I said: 'No.' She said: 'I just wanted to know,' and I thought as far as she was concerned that was her communication route. Still too immature to understand all the messages coming my way."

It was during this lunch, says Morton, that Diana started to become suspicious. And it was only after this exchange about hunting that she realized Camilla was looking for a way to continue her affair with Charles by confirming that Diana wouldn't be present at these hunting excursions.

We all know how this love triangle ended.

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