Image Source: Getty / Anwar Hussein
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 11-year marriage was fraught with scandals, affairs, and, well, the fact that they weren’t really all that in love to begin with. But after the birth of Prince Harry in 1984, Diana experienced what she called “some of the happiest years of her life” as a wife and mother — sadly, it didn’t last too long. In 1986, Prince Charles rekindled his pre-Diana romance with Camilla Parker Bowles, a relationship that first started back in the early ’70s. According to interviews and conversations with friends, Diana never believed that Charles and Camilla had fully broken things off; she even alleged to have found photos of Camilla in Charles’s journal during their honeymoon and made the famous statement of there being “three of us” in the marriage, telling Martin Bashir in 1995, “It was a bit crowded.”
Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles at Ludlow Races, where Prince Charles competed in 1980. Image Source: Getty / Hulton Archive
In Andrew Morton’s controversial biography Diana: Her True Story, first published in 1992, Diana recalled “one of the bravest moments” of her marriage — a calculated confrontation with Camilla herself at a 40th birthday party for Camilla’s sister, of all places. The year was 1989, and Diana decided that, after putting the pieces together and realizing that Charles and Camilla were carrying on an affair, she would turn up at the event unannounced and talk to Camilla face to face, once and for all.
Nobody knew Diana was going to show up — she wasn’t even invited — and in a truly badass move, the princess interrupted a conversation between Camilla, Charles, and another male guest to speak to Camilla. She looked “really uncomfortable and put her head down,” and Diana continued: “OK, boys, I’m just going to have a quick word with Camilla and I’ll be up in a minute.” The two men “shot upstairs like chickens with no heads,” Diana said, adding, “I could feel, upstairs, all hell breaking loose — ‘What is she going to do?'”
What Diana did was exactly what she planned to do. Though she admitted to being “terrified” of Camilla, Diana recalled staying “deathly calm.” “The voice inside me had said, ‘just go for it,'” she said in a taped conversation. “I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that.'” The princess called Camilla’s reply “very interesting”: “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?'” “So I said, ‘I want my husband,'” Diana said. “I said to Camilla, ‘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.'”
The aftermath from Diana and Camilla’s standoff was swift. Diana said that after the party, Prince Charles “was over me like a bad rash, and I cried like I have never cried before,” and that in the days after the confrontation there was a “tremendous shift” in their relationship. In frustration, Diana began her own string of extramarital affairs until she and Charles eventually separated, then divorced at the behest of Queen Elizabeth II. The couple managed to stay civil while co-parenting their sons until Diana’s tragic death in August 1997. Prince Charles and Camilla were married in 2005.