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When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement in 1981, neither of them showed any sign of concern over the 12-year age difference that separated them.
“I think that Diana will keep me young, apart from anything else,” the prince said during an interview after the announcement. At the time, Charles (born on November 14, 1948) was 32 years old while Diana (born July 1, 1961) was 19.
“I think I shall be exhausted," the Prince of Wales joked. "I haven’t somehow thought about it. I mean, it’s only 12 years, and lots of people have got married with that sort of age difference. I just feel you are as old as you think you are.”
Lady Diana, for her part, told reporters, “I have never thought about it.”
But as we see in the latest season of The Crown, the age difference might have had a more direct impact on the newlyweds than audiences were led to believe. In the show's interpretation of their relationship, Prince Charles started to resent Princess Diana for her youthful relevance, celebrity, and popularity, which in part led him back into the arms of his on-again-off-again lover Camilla Parker Bowles, who was then married to Andrew Parker Bowles.
In fact, as The Crown depicts, Camilla encouraged the relationship between Prince Charles and Diana, which Marie Claire UK reports was because Diana was young and therefore posed “less of a threat” to Camilla’s affair with Charles. Although the two cut off their romance when the prince and princess married, they started it back up again in 1986, after Princes William and Harry were born.
At the time of his engagement to Diana, Prince Charles seemed to believe the age gap was of little consequence because he had started royal duties at such a young age. "She will be 20 soon," he said, according to The New York Times. “I was about that age when I started. It's obviously difficult to start with, but you just have to plunge in.''
After meeting when Diana was only 16, at the Spencers’ ancestral home during a grouse hunt, Charles and Diana carried out their courtship mostly over the phone. They reportedly only met 13 times in person prior to the engagement.
A particularly memorable scene in Season 4 cements the beginnings of Charles and Diana’s romantic troubles: When reporters ask if they are in love, the prince’s answer is wishy-washy at best. This moment happened in real life, further evidence of a rift between the pair. When an interviewer posed the question to the young couple, Diana responded with, “Of course,” while Charles added, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” While he might have meant it to be interpreted as a joke, the statement clearly did not sit well with the younger, more romantic Diana. Season 5 of the hit series ultimately portrays their eventual divorce and moving on from their marriage.
“That threw me completely,” Diana said in an interview that was later played in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. “I thought, what a strange answer. It traumatized me.” The couple wed in 1981 but officially divorced in 1996, only a year before Diana’s tragic car accident and death. Prince Charles attended the funeral, which an estimated 2.5 billion people watched from around the world.
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