Princess Diana and Prince Charles‘ love story seemed like a fairy tale in the beginning. But as candid interviews and tell-alls would later reveal, their marriage was less than idyllic. In fact, it was a tumultuous time littered with secrets and affairs.
Ahead, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about Charles and Diana’s relationship, from endearing courtship to eventual split.
NOVEMBER 1977: CHARLES FIRST MEETS DIANA.
When Prince Charles first met Diana Spencer, he was casually dating her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, née Spencer. Diana and Charles were introduced in November 1977 at her family home at Althorp, where the prince was taking part in a grouse hunt. At the time, she was 16 and he was 29, per The Telegraph.
During their official engagement interview in 1981, Diana revealed, “We sort of met in a plowed field,” before calling the prince “pretty amazing.”
Charles joked, “I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was.”
JULY 1980: SPARKS FLY BETWEEN DIANA AND CHARLES.
After their first meeting, Diana crossed paths with the future king on several occasions, even attending his 30th birthday at Buckingham Palace in November 1978, per History Extra. However, it wasn’t until they reunited at the New Grove house of Philip de Pass, a friend of Diana’s, in the summer of 1980 that their romance began.
Diana would later reveal on tape, “He’d just broken up with his girlfriend, and his friend Mountbatten [Prince Philip’s Uncle Dickie] had just been killed. I said it would be nice to see him.” Diana’s candid revelations were recorded in 1992 by her voice coach, Peter Settelen, and were aired as part of the PBS documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, per ABC News.
Related article: When Did Prince Charles And Princess Diana Meet?
“The next minute he leapt on me, practically,” Diana continued in the tape recordings. “It was strange. I thought, ‘This isn’t very cool’ … but I had nothing to go by, because I’d never had a boyfriend.”
According to the Express, royal biographer Andrew Morton detailed the story of Charles and Diana’s reconnection in his book Diana: Her True Story—in Her Own Words. “Diana was seated next to Charles on a bale of hay and, after the usual pleasantries, the conversation moved on to Earl Mountbatten’s death and his funeral at Westminster Abbey,” Morton wrote. “In a conversation which she later recalled to friends Diana told him: ‘You looked so sad when you walked up the aisle at Lord Mountbatten’s funeral. It was the most tragic thing I’ve ever seen. My heart bled for you when I watched.”
FEBRUARY 1981: CHARLES AND DIANA ANNOUNCE THEIR ENGAGEMENT.
After a short courtship, Charles and Diana announced their engagement in February 1981. During her conversations with Settelen, Diana said, “We met 13 times and we got married,” revealing that her engagement to the Prince of Wales happened extremely swiftly.
According to The Guardian, Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah, said of the engagement, “I introduced them. I’m Cupid.” However, Sarah definitely wasn’t heartbroken about her ex getting engaged to her little sister and, according to Sunday People, revealed that she wouldn’t consider marrying Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.”
As reported by OprahMag.com, Charles felt pressure from his father, Prince Philip, to propose. According to royal expert Robert Jobson, writing in his book King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain, Charles allegedly told a friend, “To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic. Hence I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
JULY 29, 1981: CHARLES AND DIANA TIE THE KNOT.
Just five months after getting engaged, Diana and Charles got married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Lady Diana wore a custom bridal gown designed by British designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, featuring a 25-foot-long train.
Of the iconic wedding, Diana later revealed to Morton (via OprahMag.com), “I remember being so in love with my husband that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I just absolutely thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. He was going to look after me. Well, was I wrong on that assumption.”
However, there were some tense moments behind the scenes on Diana’s wedding day. In a 1991 interview with Morton, Diana revealed (via Good Housekeeping) that she knew Camilla Parker Bowles had been invited to the nuptials. Sadly, Diana had become aware of Charles’s close connection to Camilla, and this put her on edge during the ceremony. “I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her,” Diana explained. “So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale gray, veiled pillbox hat saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair. To this day you know—vivid memory.”
According to British Marie Claire, Diana and Charles visited several locations on their honeymoon, including taking a cruise around the Mediterranean on the Royal Yacht Britannia before spending some time at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
JUNE 21, 1982: PRINCE WILLIAM IS BORN.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles welcomed their first child, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, less than a year after their 1981 nuptials.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1984: PRINCE HARRY IS BORN.
Prince Harry was born Prince Henry Charles Albert David on September 15, 1984. Morton’s royal biography tragically revealed that the princess allegedly didn’t tell Charles that she was having a boy, as she knew her husband desperately wanted a girl. According to the book, Charles’s surprise reaction to the birth of another boy went something like, “Oh God, it’s a boy. And he’s even got red hair!” Diana reportedly described this as “the beginning of the end of their marriage.”
1986: CHARLES REKINDLES HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH CAMILLA.
Charles remained close with Camilla after briefly dating her in the early ’70s. When Charles returned to the Royal Navy, his relationship with Camilla had reportedly cooled. Per People,“Although the smitten prince courted her for six months, he failed to propose before returning to sea in February 1973.” In 1973, Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles, but her love for the prince never fully died.
Charles and Camilla allegedly reignited their physical relationship in 1986, around two years after Harry’s birth, according to People. The magazine also reported that Diana opened up to Morton about Camilla, saying, “I was terrified of her. I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that. … She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?'”
Diana’s reply: “‘I want my husband.’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m in the way … and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.'”
DECEMBER 1992: CHARLES AND DIANA FORMALLY ANNOUNCE THEIR SPLIT.
Charles and Diana announced their separation in December 1992. Of the split, The New York Times said, “Buckingham Palace wrote the unhappy ending today to a storybook marriage gone badly wrong.”
1993: CHARLES’S PRIVATE PHONE CONVERSATIONS WITH CAMILLA LEAK TO THE PRESS.
Scandal broke in early 1993 when private telephone conversations between the prince and his mistress were leaked to the press. The Mirror published a transcript of an incredibly personal conversation, which had been secretly recorded in 1989 while Charles and Camilla were both still married. The revelation seemingly confirmed the infidelity to the general public. Subsequently, Camilla filed for divorce from Andrew in January 1995, while Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in August 1996.
In 1993, Charles admitted his infidelity during a TV interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, via The New York Times. When asked if the prince had been faithful throughout his marriage to Diana, Charles replied, “Yes … Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” Diana also admitted to having affairs during her tumultuous marriage to Charles and was linked to James Hewitt for as long as five years.
1995: DIANA CONFIRMS THAT CHARLES’S AFFAIR OVERSHADOWED THEIR MARRIAGE.
The same year, when asked if she thought she’d ever become queen, Diana told the BBC’s Martin Bashir, “I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts … but I don’t see myself being queen of this country. I don’t think many people will want me to be queen. Actually, when I say many people I mean the establishment that I married into, because they have decided that I’m a non-starter.”
AUGUST 1996: THEIR DIVORCE IS FINALIZED.
Despite publicly separating in 1992, the Prince and Princess of Wales’s divorce wasn’t finalized until August 1996, according to History. As for the divorce settlement, The New York Times reported, “The Prince has formally declared that he will no longer foot his ex-wife’s bills, leaving her to pay all her expenses out of a lump-sum divorce settlement said to be at least $22.5 million.”
AUGUST 1997: PRINCESS DIANA DIES IN A CAR CRASH.
A year after her divorce from Charles was finalised, Diana tragically died in a car crash while in Paris. The Express reported that royal biographer Penny Junor wrote in her book The Firm that following news of Diana’s accident, Charles allegedly said, “They’re all going to blame me, aren’t they?”
Diana was with her billionaire boyfriend, Emad “Dodi” Fayed, at the time of the crash, likely traveling to his private Parisian estate. The People’s Princess died after being taken to the hospital, while the car’s driver, Henri Paul, and Fayed “died instantly,” per BBC News. The world mourned their princess, whose charity work continues to be remembered today.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.