King Charles and Queen Camilla’s Complete Relationship Timeline
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 as the show progresses. In the fourth season, released in 2020, 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 that chapter of The Crown doesn’t cast the best light on Charles and Camilla, she reportedly planned to watch the season. A source told Vanity Fair royal reporter Katie Nicholl that Camilla watched pervious seasons of the Netflix show and would 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.”
Now, in season 5, The Crown continues to focus on Charles and Camilla’s developing romance as the prince’s marriage to Princess Diana unravels. But that also includes the pitfalls, like Diana’s explosive interview saying “there were three of us in this marriage” and the infamous “Camillagate” leaked phone call. In their performances, the cast showed empathy to the real-life royals they portray.
“We both felt that we wanted to do right by our characters,” Dominic West, who plays Charles this season, told Entertainment Weekly. “We felt the odds were slightly stacked against their relationship and we wanted to try and bring it across in as sympathetic a light as we could.”
As Charles (West) and Camilla’s (Olivia Williams) forbidden love story and triangle with Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) 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.”
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?”
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.
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.
Charles and Camilla’s friendship continued after her marriage, and they were photographed together at a polo match this year.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The couple finalized their divorce in August.
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.
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.
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.
Other outings came in May and November, as the couple began attending theater and social functions together.
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.
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.
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.
Charles and Camilla announced their engagement in February 2005.
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.
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.”
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.”
Charles and Camilla attended William’s wedding to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
The couple attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding at Windsor Castle, where Charles walked the bride down the aisle.
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.
As of 2020, the pair has been married for 15 years, after first locking eyes in the early ’70s.
They commemorated the milestone by sharing a photo with their dogs, recreating their engagement photos from 2005.
Following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September, Charles ascended the throne as King Charles III. This also made Camilla the Queen Consort. Charles’ official coronation will take place on May 6, 2023.
During his declaration to the Accession Council, King Charles made a sweet shout-out to Queen Camilla while acknowledging his new responsibilities as sovereign: “In all this, I am profoundly encouraged by the constant support of my beloved wife.”
Savannah Walsh is an Editorial Fellow at ELLE.com.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.