Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles’ Complete Relationship Timeline

Culture

For decades, Camilla Parker-Bowles (née Shand) was painted as the intrusive third party in the romance between Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. With the arrival of The Crown season 3, that narrative was re-examined. Showrunner Peter Morgan told Entertainment Weekly, “People always assume Charles cheated on Diana with Camilla. It’s absolutely the wrong way round. He was deeply in love with Camilla and forced to marry Diana.”

The couple’s against-all-odds relationship continues to play a role in The Crown‘s newly-released fourth season. After Camilla is married off to longtime beau Andrew Parker-Bowles, Charles is encouraged to find a wife who will follow the rules. Enter Diana, who fits the bill of an ideal Princess of Wales at first glance. But, as royal enthusiasts know all too well, Charles’s undying love for Camilla causes his arranged marriage to crumble.

While the The Crown‘s latest installment doesn’t cast the best light on Charles and Camilla, she reportedly has plans to watch the new season. A source tells Vanity Fair royal reporter Katie Nicholl that Camilla watched pervious seasons of the Netflix show and will likely see season 4. “I imagine she’ll be tuning in with a glass of red wine to watch it, she has seen the previous series,” a friend of the Duchess told Nicholl. “She has a wonderful sense of humor and this won’t fuss her in the slightest.”

As Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Camilla’s (Emerald Fennell) forbidden love story and triangle with Diana (Emma Corrin) unfolds on the Netflix series, relive the royals’ real-life romance below.

1970 or ’71

There are several conflicting reports about how Charles and Camilla met, historian and The Crown advisor Robert Lacey writes in The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 2. Charles swears they met through their friend (and his ex), Lucia Santa Cruz, and Cruz corroborated this in later interviews. Historian Sally Bedell Smith, author of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, also confirms this, telling ELLE.com, “Charles fell instantly in love, and Camilla, who had been dating Andrew Parker Bowles on and off for six years, was ready for some fun with the Prince of Wales.”

However, other reports state Charles and Camilla met in the early ’70s at a polo match in Windsor Great Park, while People reported in 1992 that the couple met at a party in 1972 where Camilla’s opening line to Charles was allegedly, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.” (Camilla references this fact in The Crown‘s third and fourth seasons.)

In The Crown‘s season 3, the couple’s meeting isn’t shown. What is depicted is how their bond formed via private meetings and calls. Royal biographer Penny Junor chronicles Charles’ infatuation in The Duchess: The Untold Story: “He loved the fact that she smiled with her eyes as well as her mouth, and laughed at the same silly things as he did. In short, he was very taken with her, and after that first meeting he began ringing her up.” It’s important to note that although Camilla was from an upper-class background, she wasn’t aristocratic, making her a less than suitable partner for Charles in the eyes of the monarchy. Additionally, Camilla had a reputation for dating a lot of men, and Patricia Mountbatten, daughter of Lord Mountbatten (“Uncle Dickie”), told Smith, “you didn’t want a past that hung about.”

Prince Charles at Polo

A young Prince Charles and Camilla Shand at a Windsor Great Park polo match in 1975.

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1972

Camilla and Charles spent a lot of time together this year, according to Lacey, going to Annabel’s nightclub in London’s Berkeley Square together and visiting Camilla’s family in Sussex on the weekends. The two also stayed at Lord Mountbatten’s Hampshire estate, Broadlands, when the prince trained for the Royal Navy at Portsmouth. Uncle Dickie was very fond of Camilla and thought she would be a suitable mistress for Charles.

However, Lacey cites biographer Sarah Bradford, who reports that when Mountbatten realized how serious Charles was with Camilla, he arranged for Charles to be assigned to the West Indies for an eight-month period, as shown in the ninth episode of The Crown season 3. (The Queen Mother was likely not involved in the scheming.) People reported in that 1992 piece, “Although the smitten prince courted her for six months, he failed to propose before returning to sea in February 1973.” Lacey cites Caroline Graham’s Camilla and Charles, which quotes Camilla as telling a friend in 1972, “I love Charles very much but I simply can’t forget about Andrew…I think of him all the time. Is it possible to love two men at the same time?”

1973

On July 4, Camilla married British Army captain Andrew Parker Bowles, a former boyfriend who was previously linked to Princess Anne. Camilla and Andrew would go on to have two children together, son Tom in 1974 and daughter Laura in 1978. Charles is even Tom’s godfather.

The Parker Bowles

Camilla and Andrew at their July 1973 wedding.

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Junor writes in her book that Camilla’s marriage only intensified Charles’ longing for her. “It was only when she was irretrievably gone that the Prince realized what he had lost,” she wrote in The Duchess: The Untold Story.

1975

Charles and Camilla’s friendship continued after her marriage, and they were photographed together at a polo match this year.

1977

Then-Diana Spencer entered the picture. In another twisted relationship web, Charles first met a 16-year-old Diana while he was courting her sister, Lady Sarah. Sarah not only approved of the relationship between her former beau and Diana, but is quoted saying, “I introduced them. I’m Cupid.”

Romantic Couple

Prince Charles and Diana on their honeymoon in Scotland in 1981.

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Diana would later describe her meet-cute with Charles in a 1981 post-engagement interview: “It was 1977, Charles came to stay. He was a friend of my sister Sarah’s. [He came] for a [hunting] shoot. We sort of met in a plowed field.”

In The Crown‘s fourth season, this meeting is fictionalized, involving Diana wearing a costume for a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shortly after Charles meets Diana, he’s shown calling Sarah and asking for her sister’s contact information. After a hunting weekend at Balmoral, Charles calls Camilla to tell her that Diana was “a triumph.” He goes on to say that Prince Philip “made the family position painfully clear. They want me to marry her.” Camilla responds, “The right one was always going to come along.”

Charles And Camilla In 1979 - Special Fee Applies

Camilla and Charles spotted together in 1979.

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In real life, Camilla was a part of Charles’s life during this time, appearing by his side at a polo match in 1979. “Curiously, and with an ominousness that was to become clear only years later, Andrew and Camilla Parker Bowles were present at most of Charles and Diana’s courtship venues—Sandringham, Balmoral, Windsor, at the homes of friends,” The Telegraph reported in 2005.

1980

Diana became an acquaintance of Camilla’s (in public, anyway). They were photographed together attending the Ludlow Races, where Charles was competing. The 1992 People article reported that Camilla even served as the Prince’s escort on an official visit to Zimbabwe. Her husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, was stationed there at the time.

Diana & Camilla At Ludlow Races

Diana and Camilla attending the 1980 Ludlow Races.

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1981

Diana and Charles announced their engagement on February 24 (there are reports he popped the question in Andrew and Camilla’s garden, but he actually proposed in the Windsor Castle nursery) and they were married on July 29 in a ceremony watched by 750 million people.

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana leaving their 1981 wedding via carriage.

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However, prior to the televised fairytale, Charles made a memorable comment during an interview in which he was asked if he and Diana were in love. After Diana replied, “Of course,” Charles added, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

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The Guardian describes Diana as “intensely jealous” of Charles and Camilla’s friendship at this time. According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, with whom Diana spoke in 1991, she scanned the room for Camilla at her wedding. “I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her,” Diana told Morton. “So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale gray, veiled pillbox hat.” Morton also wrote that while opening wedding gifts, Diana allegedly found an engraved necklace intended for Camilla. Charles’ response was that “a certain amount of time would always be put aside for Camilla.” Biographer Catherine Mayer confirmed this account in Charles: The Heart of a King: “curled venomously amongst a pile of wedding presents and cards, Diana had discovered a bracelet bearing the initials ‘GF,’ intended for Camilla.” According to The Mirror, Diana located the offending jewelry in the office of Charles’s private secretary, Michael Colborne.

A nearly identical occurrence plays out on The Crown. Days before Charles and Diana’s wedding, she finds sketches of a bracelet engraved with the letters “F” and “G.” Those initials stand for Charles and Camilla’s pet names for one another—Fred and Gladys.

Charles and Diana go on to have two children: Prince William in 1982 and Prince Harry in 1984.

1986

According to People, Camilla and Charles officially began their affair during this time. This is the year after Diana gifted him with a public performance of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” at the Royal Opera House. (In The Crown, that evening ends with a major fight and Charles heading to Gloucestershire for a meeting with Camilla.)

This performance actually happened, although it’s not totally confirmed that Charles’s reaction was as severe as it is in The Crown.

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1988

As seen on The Crown season 4, Charles is involved in an avalanche accident on a ski trip in Switzerland this year. His friend, Major Hugh Lindsay, is killed. Around this time, rumors abound regarding tension in Charles and Diana’s marriage, including speculation about Lady Di’s infidelity. As reported by TIME, Diana was linked to several suitors from 1986 until the end of her marriage. At the time, rumors about a romance with James Hewitt made the rounds, as depicted in the fourth season. (Diana later admits to the Hewitt affair in a 1995 interview with BBC One’s Panorama, explored further below.)

1992

In June, Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story was released. It included several stories about Diana’s jealousy of the relationship between Charles and Camilla. In one interview Morton used for the book, Diana admits to confronting Camilla at a 1989 party. “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?’ So I said, ‘I want my husband.'”

That 1992 People article also speculates about Charles’ position in the line of succession if he divorced Diana. As the secular head of the Church of England, People writes, he would likely not be able to remarry, since the church prohibits it.

In November, tapes of intimate phone conversations between Charles and Camilla were released in a scandal referred to as Camillagate. “I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out…” Charles is heard saying in the explicit recordings. The 1989 tapes confirmed the nature of the his relationship with Camilla. A month later, Prime Minister John Major announced Charles and Diana’s separation.

Charles And Diana Unhappy

Diana and Charles on their last official trip together, during a presidential banquet in Seoul, South Korea.

Tim GrahamGetty Images

1994

Prince Charles permitted a TV documentary to be made about him, and it aired in June. When asked in the documentary if he had been “faithful and honorable” during his marriage to Diana, he responded, “Yes, yes…until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried,” per The New York Times. When asked about Camilla he replied, “She has been a friend for a very long time—and will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”

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1995

Camilla officially filed for divorce from Andrew Parker-Bowles in January, after the two reportedly lived apart for two years.

Diana gave an unprecedented interview to BBC One’s Panorama in November. She admitted to her own infidelity with her former riding instructor James Hewitt. She also famously spoke about Charles and Camilla’s affair, saying, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” This moment is directly foreshadowed in The Crown‘s third season, when Princess Anne warns Charles that if he marries Camilla there could be “three people in the marriage,” including Andrew.

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Public perception of the royal family was impacted during this time and led to a shakeup at Buckingham Palace. The New York Times reported that within a month of Diana’s interview, her press secretary resigned. She also skipped Christmas 1995 at Sandringham. Shortly after, the queen sent Charles and Diana a letter letting them know that a speedy divorce was desirable.

1996

The couple finalized their divorce in August.

1997

Diana tragically died on August 31 at age 36 after a car accident in Paris. The collision also ended the lives of her significant other, businessman Dodi Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul.

A message where is written "Mummy" stands on the c

Princess Diana’s coffin leaving Westminster Abbey after the September 6, 1997 funeral.

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1998

Royal aides confirmed a report from The Guardian that Prince William had met Camilla in 1998 and that Harry would meet her at a later date. “A transparent campaign to ‘introduce’ Mrs. Parker Bowles to public life began after Charles’s divorce. But it was abandoned following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, last year,” the publication claimed.

1999

And so the campaign began. In January, Charles and Camilla made their public debut as a couple. The Prince of Wales threw a 50th birthday party for Camilla’s sister at the Ritz Hotel in London. Although the couple arrived separately, they were photographed leaving the event together.

Camilla And Charles Ritz

Camilla and Charles leaving the Ritz Hotel after the 50th birthday party for her sister.

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Other outings came in May and November, as the couple began attending theater and social functions together.

Rachmaninoff's Hidden Perspectives

The new couple leaving the Royal Festival Hall after a performance of Hidden Perspectives in 1999.

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Theatre/Charles and Camilla

Charles and Camilla exiting the West End’s Albery Theatre after a performance of Quartet in 1999.

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2000

Per the BBC, Queen Elizabeth refused to meet with Camilla for years, but that all changed with another birthday party. The monarch attended a 60th birthday celebration for the King of Greece at Charles’s residence, Highgrove. Since the queen knew that Camilla would also be there, the meeting was taken as a public seal of approval for the relationship.

Queen Elizabeth II

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2001

Nearly 30 years after first meeting, Charles and Camilla share their first public kiss at an event for The National Osteoporosis Society at Somerset House in London. It was a noteworthy moment for two reasons: First, the open PDA. Second, Charles showed up to support Camilla in her role as the organization’s patron. Before then, Camilla had only been seen accompanying Charles at his engagements.

First Public Kiss Between Camilla Parker-Bowles and Prince Charles

The couple sharing a kiss at the National Osteoporosis Society event.

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2003

Next, the couple moved into Clarence House, Charles’s longtime residence. The royal family publicly declared that no British tax dollars would be used in any of Camilla’s renovations or decorations.

The Prince Of Wales & Camilla Parker Bowles At The Mey Highland Games

Sharing a laugh during the Highland Games in Scotland in 2003.

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2005

Charles and Camilla announced their engagement in February 2005.

Prince Charles And Camilla Parker-Bowles Announce Intention To Marry

Attending a party at Windsor Castle to celebrate the announcement of their engagement.

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On April 9, when Charles was 56 and Camilla 57, the couple married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. Prince William served as best man, while Camilla’s ex Andrew and his second wife Rosemary attended. Not in attendance? The Queen and Prince Phillip, who forewent the ceremony for the reception and official blessing at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

TRH Prince Charles & The Duchess Of Cornwall - Official Wedding Photo

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on their wedding day.

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2007

People reported that although Camilla had been invited by Prince William and Prince Harry to a memorial service for Diana, she would not go. The event marked the ten-year anniversary of the Princess of Wales’ death. In a statement, the Duchess of Cornwall said: “I accepted and wanted to support them, however, on reflection I believe my attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion which is to focus on the life and service of Diana. I’m grateful to my husband, William, and Harry for supporting my decision.”

Royal Ascot - Day 2

Arriving at the Ascot racecourse in Berkshire.

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2010

When Camilla married Charles in 2005, it was decided that in order for Diana to remain the sole Princess of Wales, Camilla would receive the title Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.

However, in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, when asked, “Does the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen of England if and when you become the monarch?” the Prince answered, “That’s well…we’ll see won’t we? That could be.”

Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Cornwall

Visiting St. Michael’s Mount in Marazion.

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2011

Charles and Camilla attended William’s wedding to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.

Royal Wedding - Wedding Guests And Party Make Their Way To Westminster Abbey

Arriving at Kate and William’s wedding at Westminster Abbey.

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2012

Queen Elizabeth offered Camilla more official approval, naming her Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Later that year, Camilla sat alongside the queen during a celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.

Diamond Jubilee - Carriage Procession And Balcony Appearance

Camilla and Queen Elizabeth during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

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2015

This year marked Charles and Camilla’s tenth wedding anniversary. Clarence House released a photo of the couple at the Balmoral estate in Scotland, the locale for their honeymoon, to mark the occasion.

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In an interview with CNN, Charles confirmed that he and Camilla were stronger than ever. “It’s always marvelous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage,” he said about his wife. “Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.”

The Prince Of Wales & Duchess Of Cornwall Visit New Zealand - Day 2

The couple touring the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in New Zealand in 2015.

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2016

On June 9, Camilla and Prince William were added to the Privy Council, a group of the Queen’s most senior advisors. This was widely believed to ensure that both will be present when Charles is crowned king after the queen’s death.

The Prince Of Wales And The Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Croatia

Charles and Camilla on a visit to Croatia.

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2017

In honor of her 70th birthday, Camilla spoke to The Mail on Sunday about her life. She discussed the early press attention surrounding her romance with Charles: “It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it,” she said. “I couldn’t have survived it without my family.”

2018

The couple attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding at Windsor Castle, where Charles walked the bride down the aisle.

Prince Harry Marries Ms. Meghan Markle - Windsor Castle

Charles and Camilla, alongside Meghan Markle’s mother Doria Ragland, on the steps of Windsor Castle after Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

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2019

In 2019, the couple sipped mojitos while visiting Havana, Cuba—the first time members of the royal family had visited the country in an official capacity.

The Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Cuba

Chris JacksonGetty Images

2020

As of 2020, the pair has been married for 15 years, after first locking eyes in the early ’70s.

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They commemorated the milestone by sharing a photo with their dogs, recreating their engagement photos from 2005.

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