The marriage of Prince Charles and the late Diana of Wales might’ve looked like a fairy tale at first, but there was no happily ever after for these royals.
From mutual infidelity to pressure from the rest of the royal family, let’s look at why the couple couldn’t make their palace a happy home.
No love lost
When it comes to royal relationships, love isn’t always a necessary ingredient for a marital arrangement.
Diana was of royal lineage, thanks to her status as a Spencer, and Charles needed to marry to make more heirs to the throne.
So, their relationship may have been built on convenience and duty rather than real romance.
The pair had only met a dozen times before announcing their engagement, and what an awkward event that was.
Charles: “I’m amazed that she’s been brave enough to take me on.”
“And I suppose in love?”
Diana: “Of course”
If it wasn’t already clear that their affection for one another wasn’t quite developed, Charles made that very clear when he said: “Whatever in love means”
Diana would later admit that the reason she and Charles felt the need to get engaged was pressure from the outside.
Suffering in silence
Even if they weren’t burning with passion for one another on their wedding day, Prince Charles and Lady Diana did get married before going on to have two sons together, William and Harry.
But Princess Di suffered from the experience of becoming a mother at first, and had to keep her bout with postpartum depression quiet.
She later said, “I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses…You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.
It gave everybody a wonderful new label — ‘Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced.’ And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.”
Diana revealed that her depression led her to self-harm, cutting her arms and legs, in an effort to rid herself of the emotional pain.
She said, “People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention…But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.”
She also suffered from bulimia as a result of her discontent at home, and that may have been encouraged by her husband’s treatment of her as well.
Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, told People, “I think she slimmed before the wedding as a result of nerves, and then the whole thing was triggered during her honeymoon, when her husband put his arms round her and said, ‘You are a bit chubby, darling.'”
Even the strongest of relationships might buckle under the weight of scrutiny Charles and Diana experienced during their marriage.
As the future of Buckingham Palace, the two were constantly pursued by the media, and Diana lamented the loss of privacy.
She later attributed some of their unhappiness to the endless attention, saying, “my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn’t; and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn’t; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience.”
She went on to add that much of the scrutiny was placed her shoulders in particular, and that she had a hard time living beneath such an intense spotlight, saying, “it was difficult to share that load, because I was the one who was always pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything…when actually what we wanted to be, what we wanted supported was our work.”
She would later attempt to retreat from the spotlight by pleading with the press: “To understand and to give me time and space that has been lacking in recent years”
However, the media never relented, even to her dying day.
Prince Charles no longer has to hide his relationship with now-wife Camilla Parker-Bowles.
But when they first struck up a romance, he was still very much married to Diana, even if it was just a technicality for both of them.
He told The New York Times that he had been faithful to Diana “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
One of the most damaging royal scandals emerged when an illegally obtained phone recording between Charles and Parker-Bowles revealed their explicit phone conversations, at least one of which Diana overheard.
“Well there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.”
Diana later revealed that when she confronted Charles about his continued romance with Parker-Bowles,
he said simply, “Well I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.”
However, Charles wasn’t the only one who stepped out during the course of their union.
Diana also became intimate with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee during their marriage.
Mannakee was later relieved of his duties, and Diana then took up with her sons’ riding instructor James Hewitt, with whom she carried on a five-year romance.
He later described their affair by saying, “It’s a gradual period and then, you know, suddenly you can’t get enough of each other or see each other as much as you want.”
As a result of their dalliance, Hewitt was even rumored to be Prince Harry’s father, thanks to their shared red hair, but their romance didn’t begin until two years after the second prince was born, so the theory has since been refuted.
Charles and Diana eventually announced their separation but intended to try and make the marriage work and continue their duties as a royal couple.
But just as they’d experienced pressure from above to walk down the aisle, they were also subject to the same forces calling for them to officially split.
As a result of their obvious discord and separation announcement, Queen Elizabeth II openly demanded, in separate letters to Charles and Diana, that the two file for divorce.
A statement from the palace explained, “After considering the present situation, the queen wrote to both the prince and princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, that an early divorce is desirable.
[Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip] will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period.”
Shortly thereafter, their divorce was finalized — and the rest is history.