Yum, does that taste like old English tea?
If you’re an avid English aristocracy gossip hound, congrats: there’s a new book rehashing the past with new kinda sad details. The biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith is out on April 4, and there’s a breakdown of how the mismatched Prince Charles ended up marrying Diana, a woman who was more than a decade younger than him and with whom he had nothing in common. It was all a misunderstanding, kinda.
Charles met his current wife Camilla as a young man, and though he was very attracted to her he wasn’t ready to settle down at 24. Also, Camilla “had a history.” At least that’s what The Daily Mail euphemistically calls it in their breakdown of the book. Patricia Mountbatten, a family friend, is quoted as saying there were “obvious problems” with the match, largely because at the time, princes were expected to marry women we could easily pretend were virgins. Mountbatten explained that “you didn’t want a past that hung about.”
When Charles was about 30 he met a teenaged Diana and, though the two dated they weren’t wild for each other as Charles and Camilla were (and hopefully are, god bless), she seemed like a good match. Diana didn’t have that unfortunate “history,” plus, thirty is about the age that men who are responsible for producing an heir generally start considering marriage, at least according to most of the Regency romances I’ve read. But things went wrong:
In January 1981 Diana arrived for a three day visit to Sandringham, the royal family estate in Norfolk, England, and Bedell Smith says it was a ‘tense month all round’.
At this point Philip decided to weigh in with his letter in which Bedell Smith writes that he ‘told his son that Diana’s reputation was on the line because of all the speculation in the press’.
Philip said ‘Charles should either propose to her or release her. In either event, he should make a decision shortly’.
Bedell Smith writes: ‘Perhaps Charles could have understood the nuances of his father’s message more clearly if he and Philip had talked it through.
‘But written communications were the regrettable norm for father and son. Charles chose to interpret the letter as coercive and accusatory’.
That’s the damn nuisance with virginal reputations. You break ‘em, you bought ‘em. Bedell Smith speculates that Charles received the missive from his pops as a direct order to marry Diana and he acted on it as such. She writes that Charles “thought he could grow to love Diana, just as the arranged marriage of his grandmother and King George VI later grew into love.”
Yet, Charles remained in love with Camilla, and Bedell Smith says that he cried on the eve of his wedding night. She also says that by 1984, they’d stopped sleeping together, carrying on with their separate affairs as well as their Separate Affairs. By 1986, Camilla and Charles were back on. They married in 2005, 9 years after his divorce from Diana and 7 years after her death. His father didn’t attend the ceremony.