King Charles III and Camilla Parker Bowles' Royal Love Story: From the '70s to Today
Before Prince Charles married Princess Diana (then Diana Spencer) in 1981, he was apparently already smitten with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles (then Camilla Shand).
After an extensive courtship, Charles and Camilla finally married each other in April 2005—and their now well-documented 17-year-long romance will be further detailed in The Crown's newly released fifth season.
In the meantime, we take a look back at the full love story between the now King and Queen of England—from their first meetings and entanglements throughout Charles's then dissolving marriage with the late Princess Diana, to their happy family life now.
Circa 1970: They meet.
Reports about the couple's first meeting vary slightly, but it is believed that Prince Charles met Camilla Shand at a polo match in Windsor Great Park in 1970, per the BBC.
Though, People cites that the pair met at a party later in 1972. "When she met the Prince at a party in 1972, Camilla Shand, then a 25-year-old post-deb living in London, told him sassily, 'My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common,'" the outlet reported. No matter which version of the event is true, there was most definitely a spark.
Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, and despite beginning to date Camilla, the relationship apparently cooled when the prince returned to duty. People reported, "Although the smitten prince courted her for six months, he failed to propose before returning to sea in February 1973."
1973: Camilla marries Andrew Parker Bowles.
After Charles leaves for naval duties, Camilla rekindles a relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles, whom she first met at a party back in 1965—and the two ultimately marry on July 4, 1973.
According to author Penny Junor in The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown, Camilla and Andrew's previous split came after Andrew reportedly began an affair with Princess Anne—and per Junor, Camilla may have never even dated Prince Charles had Andrew not taken up with Anne.
Camilla and Andrew subsequently had two children together, daughter Laura Parker Bowles and son Tom Parker Bowles. Fun fact: Charles is Tom's godfather (per E! News).
1977: Charles and Diana first meet.
When Lady Diana first met Charles, he was dating her sister, Lady Sarah (née Spencer, now McCorquodale). Diana was just 16 years old at the time. The Guardian described McCorquodale as "a former girlfriend of Prince Charles," and quoted her as saying, "I introduced them. I'm Cupid."
In a TV interview following her engagement to Charles in 1981, Diana said of that first meeting, "It was 1977, Charles came to stay. He was a friend of my sister Sarah's. [He came] for a [hunting] shoot. We sort of met in a plowed field."
Diana and Charles's engagement was announced on February 24, 1981, and they were married just a few months later on July 29. Diana had just turned 20, while Prince Charles was 32.
In 1991, Diana revealed to biographer Andrew Morton that at her wedding, she'd looked for Camilla in the congregation. She revealed (per Good Housekeeping), "I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her." She continued, "So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale gray, veiled pillbox hat." Charles and Diana, of course, had two children: William in 1982 and Harry in 1984.
1986: Charles reportedly restarts an affair with Camilla.
Having allegedly had an on-off connection in the years preceding, Charles and Camilla allegedly rekindled their physical relationship in 1986, despite both being married and raising families, per People.
In a 1995 interview for BBC One's Panorama, Diana famously said, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," and reportedly told Morton that she'd even confronted Camilla about the affair to little avail.
1993: Recordings of private conversations between Camilla and Charles get leaked.
In early 1993, an intimate conversation between Camilla and Charles was leaked, confirming the couple's illicit relationship. Recorded in 1989, the release of the tapes caused a huge scandal for the royal family.
The Mirror published a transcript of the often-raucous conversation, and the revelations contained within ultimately led to the dissolution of Charles's marriage to Diana, and Camilla's marriage to Andrew. Camilla filed for divorce in January 1995, while Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in August 1996.
1994: Charles calls Camilla "a great friend of mine."
In a TV documentary that aired in 1994, Charles admitted to his affair with Camilla (per The New York Times), and called her "a great friend of mine." He continued, "She has been a friend for a very long time—and will continue to be a friend for a very long time."
1997: Princess Diana's death rocks the world.
Diana tragically passed away on August 31, 1997, following a traffic collision in Paris. Diana was 36 years old, and the crash also claimed the lives of her partner, businessman Dodi Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul.
1998: Charles introduces Camilla to his sons.
It was reported by The Guardian in 1998 that "royal aides confirmed Prince William had met his father's companion Camilla Parker Bowles for the first time." Per the publication, "A transparent campaign to 'introduce' Mrs Parker Bowles to public life began after Charles's divorce. But it was abandoned following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, last year." Prince Harry is alleged to have met Camilla at a later date.
However, not everyone in the royal family approved of Charles's public relationship with Camilla. The Los Angeles Times revealed that, when it came to Charles's 50th birthday party, "Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip disapprove of their son's once-adulterous relationship with Parker Bowles and stayed away."
1999: Charles and Camilla appear in public together as a couple for the first time.
Camilla and Charles are photographed together for the very first time as a couple at the Ritz in London for the birthday party of Camilla's sister, Annabel Elliot.
2000: The queen finally agrees to meet Camilla.
According to the BBC, Queen Elizabeth refused to meet Camilla for a long time, despite Charles being serious about her. However, that all changed when the queen accepted an invitation to the King Constantine of Greece's 60th birthday party at Charles's residence, Highgrove. Queen Elizabeth's agreeing to finally meet her son's partner was apparently a huge step forward for the royal family and for public relations.
2001: Charles and Camilla kiss in public.
At an event for the National Osteoporosis Society at Somerset House in London, Charles and Camilla were photographed embracing and kissing, proving that their relationship was getting more serious.
2005: Charles marries Camilla.
Charles announced his engagement to Camilla in February 2005, having lived with her at Clarence House from 2003.
On April 9, 2005, Charles and Camilla tied the knot in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. The ceremony was followed by an official blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
2020: Charles and Camilla celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary.
Charles and Camilla spent quarantine at Birkhall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prince of Wales has since recovered, but both were forced to self-isolate after Charles contracted coronavirus.
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall celebrated 17 years of marriage in April 2022, proving any naysayers wrong. For their 15th anniversary in 2020, the couple shared a photo on Instagram for the occasion, posing at their Scottish estate of Birkhall with their two dogs. "Ahead of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall's 15th wedding anniversary tomorrow, we are sharing this photo of Their Royal Highnesses with The Duchess's dogs Bluebell and Beth," the caption explained. `
2022: Camilla is named Queen Consort of the United Kingdom.
During the Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II shared in a statement that it is her "sincere wish" that Camilla be named Queen Consort when Charles takes the throne. According to a Clarence House spokesperson, Charles and Camilla were "touched and honored" by her words.
Following Her Majesty's death, Camilla—with the late Queen's blessing—was officially named the Queen Consort of the United Kingdom alongside a now King Charles III in September. The pair's coronation is set to take place in May 2023 at Westminster Abbey, where both Camilla and Charles will be crowned in the historic ceremony.
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