The Definitive Timeline of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s Relationship

Early 1970s: Prince Charles dated Camilla Parker Bowles. The pair would remain connected for the rest of their lives, impacting his relationship with Diana.

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Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles at a polo match in 1975.

The pair began dating after reportedly meeting at a polo match at Windsor Castle in 1970. Despite Camilla and Charles’ blossoming romance, things fizzled out after the Prince of Wales was deployed in the Royal Navy in 1972. 

While Prince Charles was serving in the Royal Navy, Camilla became engaged to an Army cavalry officer, Andrew Parker Bowles. They married in 1973, but the couple remained good friends with the prince. Prince Charles was even named the godfather of Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles’ first son.

Late 1970s: Charles and Diana were introduced through the prince’s relationship with Diana’s sister, Sarah Spencer, in 1977.

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Sarah Spencer with Prince Charles in 1977.

Following his breakup with Camilla, Prince Charles dated a series of women. Among them was Sarah Spencer, the eldest daughter of an aristocratic family with strong ties to the British family and government. 

However, the two were not meant to be. According to Town and Country, Spencer told Time in 1978 that she did not see a future with the royal.

“There is no chance of my marrying him. I’m not in love with him,” she reportedly said. “And I wouldn’t marry anyone I didn’t love whether he were the dustman or the King of England.”

However, all was not lost — Sarah’s younger sister, Lady Diana Spencer, was introduced to the prince at a shooting party in 1978.

“I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was,” Charles recalled in a 1981 interview with the Telegraph. “I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.”

July 1980: Three years later, Diana Spencer and Prince Charles met again, igniting a romantic relationship.

Diana Spencer
Diana Spencer in 1980.

Photographers and journalists started following Diana as rumors swirled that she was soon to be engaged to the future king. 

According to Town and Country, many of Charles’ and Diana’s first conversations took place over the phone. Less than a year after the couple began dating and after only 13 in-person meetings, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement. 

February 24, 1981: Prince Charles, then 32, and Diana, then 19, announced their engagement.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana after announcing their engagement in 1981.

From the outside looking in, Diana and Charles looked very much like a young couple in love. However, the princess-to-be still had doubts about her future husband. 

“We had this ghastly interview the day we announced our engagement,” she said in the documentary, “Diana: In Her Own Words.” “And this ridiculous [reporter] said, ‘Are you in love?’ I thought, ‘What a thick question.’ So I said, ‘Yes, of course, we are,’ and Charles turned around and said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And that threw me completely. I thought, ‘What a strange answer.’ It traumatized me.”

May 1981: Diana Spencer spent time with Prince Charles and the royal family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland months before the couple tied the knot.

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Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in Balmoral, Scotland, in 1981.

Spencer’s visit to Balmoral Castle reportedly marked only her third official date with Prince Charles. It was during this holiday that Diana made a favorable impression on the royal family, as chronicled in “The Crown.”

July 29, 1981: Prince Charles and Diana were married in a spectacular televised ceremony.

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Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day.

It was then called the “wedding of the century.” Roughly 750 million people in 74 different countries tuned in to watch the couple tie the knot, in addition to the 600,000 spectators who lined the streets of London.

According to the BBC, it marked “a highpoint” in the popularity of the British royal family in the 1980s, largely due to Diana’s growing celebrity status.

But Diana would later say of that day: “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. And I knew it.”

“I don’t think I was happy,” she said in recordings used by journalist Andrew Morton to write the 1992 biography, “Diana: Her True Story.” “I never tried to call it off, in the sense of really doing that, but I think [it was] the worst day of my life.”

July 1981: The couple’s honeymoon foreshadowed future issues.

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Prince Charles kisses the hand of Princess Diana at a photo-call during their honeymoon.

Newlyweds Princess Diana and Prince Charles went on a 14-day cruise aboard the royal yacht, Britannia, to celebrate their honeymoon. However, it was anything but smooth sailing for the royal couple.

According to Stephen Barry’s book, “The Diana Chronicles,” Prince Charles called Camilla Parker Bowles daily.

Princess Diana also spoke about Camilla’s invisible presence on the honeymoon and a gift the prince received from his former lover.

“On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists,” Diana said. “Two C’s entwined like the Chanel ‘C’. Got it. One knew exactly. So I said, ‘Camilla gave you those didn’t she?’ He said, ‘Yes, so what’s wrong? They’re a present from a friend.’ And boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy. And it was such a good idea the two ‘C’s but it wasn’t that clever.”

June 21, 1982: Prince William was born.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana with their newborn son, Prince William, in June 1982.

Princess Diana was the first royal to give birth in a hospital — it was custom for members of the royal family to give birth at the palace.

Diana and Charles reportedly disagreed on what their first son should be named. According to Diana herself in Andrew Morton’s book, “Diana: Her True Story,” Charles originally wanted William to be named Arthur.

March 1983: Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Prince William arrived in Australia for the couple’s first official royal tour.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana arrive for their first royal tour holding baby Prince William.

The tour was a huge success in strengthening the presence of the royal family in Australia.

However, while Prince Charles was initially intended to be the star of the tour, it was Princess Diana’s charm, warmth, and image as a doting mother that truly won over the people of Australia.

1983: “Diana fever” swept the world as the princess’ popularity grew.

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Princess Diana greeting admirers.

Princess Diana was always eager to meet with people of all ages and backgrounds while traveling and refused to wear gloves when meeting people, which was typically customary for royals.

Nearly 100,000 people cheered for Prince Charles and Princess Diana as they drove through the streets of Tokyo in 1986, exemplifying that Diana’s popularity reached far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.

September 15, 1984: Prince Harry was born.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana leaving the hospital after the birth of Prince Harry in September 1984.

According to Good Housekeeping and Diana’s biography “Diana: Her True Story — in Her Own Words,” the princess kept the truth that she was carrying a boy from Charles, who reportedly was hoping for a girl.

July 1986: From the outside looking in, Prince Charles and Princess Diana appeared to have a happy marriage.

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Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince Harry, and Prince William at Highgrove in July 1986.

The pair were photographed smiling with their two children, Prince William and Prince Harry, at Highgrove Castle in July 1986. The royal family presented a united front and Diana was lauded as a hands-on, affectionate mother.

However, inside, Diana was in turmoil. Struggling with an eating disorder and marital troubles, the princess’ mental health was in crisis. 

In a 1995 interview with Martin Bashir of the BBC, Diana described bulimia as a “symptom of what was going on in [her] marriage,” and described it as “a secret disease.”

“You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable,” she said. “You fill your stomach up four or five times a day — some do it more — and it gives you a feeling of comfort.”

“I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: They decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable,” she said.

1987: After Princess Diana’s bodyguard was transferred to another role due to rumors the two were having a romantic relationship, trouble between the royal couple became more public.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana in Italy.

Barry Mannakee was assigned to guard the princess in 1985.

According to private recordings, Diana apparently referred to her married bodyguard as the “greatest love” of her life and that she would have been “quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him.”

Months after being transferred, Mannakee was killed in a motorcycle accident.

1986: Prince Charles reportedly started a romantic relationship with his ex-girlfriend and friend, Camilla Parker Bowles.

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Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 1979.

According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography of Prince Charles, he and Camilla Parker Bowles reportedly began having an affair in 1986, after years of a platonic friendship. 

Parker Bowles’ husband, Andrew, reportedly knew about the affair and did little to stop it. Princess Diana also reportedly knew about the affair.

1989: Princess Diana confronted Camilla about the affair at a birthday party.

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Princess Diana in 1989.

According to archived recordings from National Geographic and the documentary, “Diana: In Her Own Words,” Princess Diana approached Camilla at a party after becoming suspicious of her involvement with her husband. 

According to the recordings, Diana went downstairs where she found her husband speaking with Camilla and another friend. After her husband and the friend left the room, Diana told Camilla, “I’d just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on.”

Diana then recalled Camilla defending herself by saying that Diana had “all the men in the world.” However, when asked “what more could she want,” Diana replied by saying, “I want my husband.”

November 1992: Details about Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla were leaked to the Daily Mail in a scandal dubbed “Camillagate.”

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Lady Diana Spencer and Camilla Parker Bowles in 1980.

As Insider previously reported, an “intimate transcript of a 1989 phone call” between Prince Charles and Camilla was released to the public in November 1992. The call was scandalous and sexual in nature, with Prince Charles reportedly joking he would like to be transformed into a pair of Parker Bowles’ “knickers” or her tampon.

“I’ll just live inside your trousers or something,” he said. “It would be much easier.”

December 1992: Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, and they carried out their royal duties apart from each other.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana in February 1992.

In December, a short time after Camilla and Charles’ intimate phone transcript was released, Prime Minister John Major confirmed that the Prince and Princess of Wales had formally separated from one another.

Both royals continued to go on royal engagements, though they now did it alone. 

June 1994: Prince Charles publicly admitted to having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and Princess Diana wore her famous “revenge dress.”

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Princess Diana wearing the “revenge dress” to a Vanity Fair party in 1994.

In June 1994, Prince Charles admitted to having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles during an interview with documentary filmmaker Jonathan Dimbleby.

Though the documentary was initially intended to improve public opinion of the prince, he ended up admitting to his infidelity, saying he was “faithful and honorable” to Diana during their marriage “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” 

Dimbleby’s biography of the prince, “The Prince of Wales: A Biography,” later confirmed that Camilla Parker Bowles was the woman involved with Prince Charles during his marriage to Diana.

The same night the documentary was released, Princess Diana attended a Vanity Fair party wearing what would be called the “revenge dress” — a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder LBD by designer Christina Stambolian.

January 1995: Camilla Parker Bowles filed for a divorce from her husband, Andrew Parker Bowles.

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Camilla Parker Bowles and Andrew Parker Bowles in 1992.

Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles announced they were getting divorced in 1995, amidst the media firestorm of Parker Bowles’ and Prince Charles’ affair.

November 1995: An interview aired on the BBC in which Diana famously said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

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Princess Diana during her bombshell interview with journalist Bashir Martin in 1995.

She shared these thoughts during her now-controversial BBC1 “Panorama” interview with Martin Bashir in 1995.

The interview went into other details of the marriage, her relationship with the royal family and press, as well as her struggle with bulimia. She also admitted to an affair with her riding instructor.

Following the interview, Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, alleged Bashir showed Diana fake documents to persuade her to take part in the interview.

 The BBC apologized in May 2021 after an inquiry found “deceitful” tactics had been used to secure the interview, and Bashir resigned from his role as the BBC’s religion editor.

August 1996: Charles and Diana officially filed for divorce after 15 years of marriage.

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Prince Charles and Diana in 1992.

Princess Diana received a generous divorce settlement, the right to continue using her title of “Princess of Wales,” and retained her apartments at Kensington Palace. However, the “people’s princess” had to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

In her interview with Bashir, Princess Diana admitted she never saw herself ruling the United Kingdom, but wanted to remain “a queen in people’s hearts.”

August 31, 1997: Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris.

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A tribute to Princess Diana outside Kensington Palace in 1998.

In the early hours of August 31, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were involved in a car crash that killed them both and driver Henri Paul in Paris, France. According to the Telegraph, Fayed and Paul were both killed on impact, while the Princess of Wales, then just 36, died due to injuries sustained in the crash at a French hospital a few hours later.

Following her death, Prince Charles traveled to Paris to bring her body back to England. He also reportedly halted plans to formally announce Camilla as his partner.

There was an immense public outpouring of grief for Diana, “the people’s princess,” following her death.

At her funeral, her brother, Earl Spencer, said in his eulogy, “For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever hope to offer her today.”

April 9, 2005: Prince Charles and Camilla officially married after years of courtship.

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Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after their wedding in 2005.

After moving into Clarence House together in August 2003, the couple announced their engagement roughly two years later.

More than 30 years after the couple met at a polo match, Prince Charles and Camilla married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. 

In 2007, Camilla chose not to attend a royal memorial service recognizing the 10-year anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, saying she believed her “attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion which is to focus on the life and service of Diana.”

July 1, 2021: Prince Charles did not attend the unveiling of a new statue of Princess Diana on what would have been her 60th birthday.

Prince Harry and Prince William pull back a covering to reveal the statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Prince William and Prince Harry unveil a statue of their mother at Kensington Palace.

Prince Charles had a trip planned to Scotland during the unveiling, Insider reported, citing The Sun.

A source told The Times of London, “He does find it terribly difficult. These moments have the potential to resurface old wounds, and it brings back memories for him; happy, sad, regretful.”

However, their sons, William and Harry, did attend the unveiling of the statue, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Gardens. Harry traveled to the UK from his home in Santa Barbara, California, to attend the event.

“Today, on what would have been our mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength, and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” they said in a joint statement. “Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”

By Erin McDowell

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