Thursday, August 31, 2017, marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, undoubtedly one of the most beloved women in the history of the world.
The tragic and mysterious nature of Princess Diana's death has become a touchstone of emotional reactivity for people across the globe.
She is in so many ways representative of every conceivable ideal we all hold to be of the highest value in relation to characteristics women should possess.
This universal appeal of the woman once known affectionately as Lady Di applies across cultures, races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, political parties ... you name it.
Who out there could possibly not have loved Princess Di?
Well, except for Prince Charles, it seems. (Ouch, right?)
And alongside him, Camilla Parker-Bowles, now officially referred to by the title of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Even though the 72-year-old Camilla finally married the man she has loved unflinchingly since her youth in 2005, she is more widely known as "the other woman" who infamously "came between" the Prince of Wales, 71, heir apparent to the British throne, and his first wife, Lady Diana Spencer.
In the summer of 2017, the ever-present shadow that has loomed over Camilla's public persona for the past several decades was darkened further with the airing of a documentary on the late Princess's life based on Andrew Morton's biography, "Diana: Her True Story In Her Own Words."
Originally aired only in the UK and now available in the US on Netflix, "Diana: In Her Own Words" consists mainly of video footage shot by a BBC cameraman she selected herself.
Not to be confused with the tapes made by her then vocal coach, Peter Settelen, the as yet unnamed cameraman claims to have been "secretly summoned to Kensington Palace by Diana in March 1997" for what was the first of what would seven sessions in which he rolled the cameras as she "she offloaded years of anger with the Royal Family, including how she caught Charles red-handed ... talking with his mistress."
Among the many highly personal and shocking details Diana revealed about the ways in which she was "traumatized" by her relationship with Charles — including statements that she walked in on Charles sitting on toilet as he was engaged in a dirty talk heavy phone sex session with Camilla, that "Camilla was the raunchier of the two" and that she personally "vowed to stop Charles becoming king" — her description of the moment when she directly confronted Camilla about the affair is to once again inflame the ire of Camilla-loathers everywhere.
Here is an excerpt from one of the recordings made for "Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words" by Andrew Morton:
"The worst day of my life was realising that Charles had gone back to Camilla. One of the bravest moments of my ten years of marriage was when we went to this ghastly party (thrown by Lady Annabel Goldsmith in February 1989) for Camilla’s sister’s 40th birthday...
"And then after dinner, we were all upstairs and I was chatting away, and I suddenly noticed there was no Camilla and no Charles. So this disturbed me. So I make my way to go downstairs. I know what I’m going to confront myself with...
"I go downstairs, and there is a very happy little threesome going on — Camilla, Charles and another man chatting away. So I thought: ‘Right, this is your moment,’ and joined in the conversation as if we were all best friends. And the other man said: ‘I think we ought to go upstairs now.’
"So we stood up, and I said: ‘Camilla, I’d love to have a word with you, if it’s possible,’ and she looked really uncomfortable and put her head down ...
"I said: ‘Camilla, I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on.’
"She said: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’
"And I said: ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles, and I just want you to know that.’
"And she said: ‘Oh, it’s not a cloak-and-dagger situation.’
"I said: ‘I think it is'...
"She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world falling in love with you, and you’ve got two beautiful children. What more could you want?’
"So I said: ‘I want my husband.'"
Heartbreaking, to be sure.
So I can understand why many of you may not like what I have to say next, but after two decades have passed since Diana's death, it's something I believe should be said.
Yes, Diana was Charles' wife, but Camilla was not the "other woman." Diana was.
Camilla and Charles have a history with each other that dates back to their first meeting at a polo match in 1970, at which point they fell for each other HARD, immediately began dating, and stayed together until he joined the Royal Navy in 1971.
And though Camilla married first, to Andrew Parker Bowles, in 1973, her choice to marry someone other than the future King (well, maybe) wasn't for a lack of love or, to be certain, physical attraction between the two.
The only thing powerful enough to keep these two from having married each other in the first place?
Or, in plain American English, the fact that she wasn't a virgin, having already lost her virginity to another man, her future husband, Andrew, prior to meeting Charles.
The two continued to be spotted together in the years between her marriage and his February 6, 1981, engagement to Diana.
According to a new biography of Camilla's life written, "The Duchess: The Untold Story" by "Britain’s top royal author" Penny Junor, as based on her conversations with Camilla’s family and confidantes:
"Charles is said to have begged Camilla to call off her wedding to her first husband and to have wept the night before his marriage to Diana. The book says a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, who had known of the Prince's misgivings, had stood with him at a Buckingham Palace window watching the crowds in the Mall with tears streaming down their faces."
Charles married Diana not for love or even for affection, but because his parents and his country told him to do so.
But Camilla always had his heart.
None of this is to say that Diana is any way to blame. She was an innocent young woman, a child really, when she was introduced to Charles at the age of 16. She could never have known the true depth of his not only his disinterest in her but his misplaced resentment of her for being the one by his side instead of his beloved Camilla Shand.
But with due consideration to the complexity of the circumstances and the magnitude of the forces dictating every minor detail of the life of this (possible) future leader of all of Great Britain, the ongoing affair between Charles and Camilla may not be excusable, but it is, if we're being completely honest with ourselves, absolutely understandable.
So let's give Diana her tributes and remember her for all of the beautifully good work she did, both raising her wonderful sons and for people all across the world.
And in the spirit of her grace, even if she was never able to forgive Camilla herself, let's try to learn from her ability to relate so well people regardless of class, station or other life circumstances and show Camilla some grace of our own.