From those who consider themselves fans of the British royal family to those who really couldn’t care less, it’s safe to say that we all know a lot about Prince Charles‘ romantic life. His bachelorhood was made a public topic well throughout his 20s — after all, who his bride and eventual queen of England was going to be was a hot topic — and by the time he was 32, he was engaged to the then-19-year-old Diana Spencer (yes, the age gap is uncomfortable). Diana came onto the royal scene as a shy young woman who was known for her wide-eyed looks and charming personality, and the pair got married in a lavish ceremony in 1981. But as we all know, their marriage was nothing close to a fairytale, and the two formally separated in 1992.
Amid the couple’s separation were rampant rumors of infidelity on both sides, but the bulk of the public knew that it was Charles’ long-standing romance with Camilla Parker-Bowles that took a significant toll on his marriage to Diana. The two had met all the way back in 1970, and in 2005, they broke the royal mold and got married. So how has Charles’ life changed since introducing Camilla as his bride?
Prince Charles finally divorced Princess Diana in 1996
To understand why Prince Charles’ life with Camilla Parker-Bowles has been so contested over time, we have to revisit his separation and divorce from Diana Spencer. The royal couple got married in 1981, but after a tumultuous decade together, they formally separated in 1992 and later finalized their divorce in 1996. While there was cheating on both Charles’ and Diana’s parts, it was known that Diana was increasingly sensitive when it came to Camilla. But as noted by The New York Times, the duo eventually came to an agreement, and they signed their divorce papers in July 1996.
Rather than getting monthly payments from Charles as a result of their divorce, Diana received a lump sum up front of about $22.5 million. Additionally, she received about $600,000 a year in order to maintain her office. Where the divorce really stung, though, was when it came to royal titles. When Queen Elizabeth was reportedly fine with Diana keeping the "Royal Highness" title, Charles was adamant that she give it up. His life, from that point on, dramatically changed given that he was finally free to pursue the woman he’d been involved with for years, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Charles and Camilla planned to go public with their relationship, but tragedy changed their plan
When Princess Diana and Prince Charles got divorced in 1996, people expected Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles to go public with their relationship. As noted by Town & Country, the two had known each other since 1970, and bonded over their appreciation of polo and the great outdoors. They were said to also have similar humor. As such, the two started dating, but Charles soon after joined the Royal Navy and was gone for eight months. When he came back, Camilla was engaged to Andrew Parker-Bowles.
While it’s been rumored that Charles and Camilla’s affair was ongoing throughout Charles’ engagement and marriage to Diana, he confirmed that it officially began in 1986 in his authorized biography. By 1992, it was revealed that Diana had immense "jealousy over Charles’s involvement with Camilla," and of course, the married couple then separated and divorced.
As noted by The Guardian, Charles had a plan to "introduce" Camilla to the public following his divorce, but his plan was quickly altered due to Diana’s tragic and untimely death in 1997. He would go on to wait two years before making a public outing with Camilla, as the international outcry following Princess Diana’s heartbreaking death was immense.
Charles’ relationship with Camilla altered his bond with Prince William
To say that Prince Charles’ life with Camilla Parker-Bowles was altered after Diana Spencer’s death is an understatement — everything was different, especially for Diana’s sons, Prince Harry and Prince William. And while Charles was continuing on with his relationship with Camilla after Diana’s passing, the presence of another woman in his life may not have been easy for William to come to terms with. In fact, when he met Camilla for the first time, it was by mistake.
As noted by The Guardian, William stopped by St. James’ Palace unannounced in June 1998, and Camilla just happened to be there with Charles. The first encounter only lasted for about half an hour, and if you’re creating a timeline in your head, yes, William met Camilla less than a year after his mom died. Commenting on the meeting, royal author Nicholas Davies wrote, "I don’t doubt that William was hurting inside when he finally met the woman who had made his mother so miserable … You can only imagine what was going through his mind," via The Royal Observer. As for Charles’ life, his relationship with William was "strained" and the Daily Beast reported that even today, the bulk of their relationship consists of "official business" only.
Prince Harry ‘didn’t take kindly’ to Camilla, impacting Prince Charles’ life
Having a stepparent come onto the scene is hardly an easy experience to endure, but for Prince Harry, he reportedly did not take the integration of Camilla Parker-Bowles into his life and Prince Charles’ life well. To say that Charles’ relationship with Harry was never the same after bringing Camilla into the fold is pretty accurate, and royal author Nicholas Davies explained what happened to the father-son-stepmom dynamic.
"Harry was already a rebel … He didn’t take kindly to Camilla. This was the woman who had stepped into his late mother’s shoes and Harry was not about to welcome her as a future stepmother," Davies said, as noted by The Royal Observer. He explained that Harry was both "over-polite" and "generally cool" when it came to interacting with Camilla. Furthermore, the more information he received over the years relating to the couple’s affair during Prince Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana, "the more distant he became" from his father.
Another royal insider told the Daily Beast that Charles has always "hated" Harry’s "emoting" in public in recent years, further straining their relationship.
Charles’ affair and marriage to Camilla put stress on his relationship with Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth is known for keeping a level head, but when it came to Camilla Parker-Bowles, she was less than thrilled with the romance Camilla had with Prince Charles. As noted by Express, Elizabeth "banned Camilla’s name" from being said at the palace due to the deterioration that happened in Charles’ marriage, and as you can imagine, the heir to the throne was devastated. In fact, his relationship with Camilla took a toll on his dynamic with his mother, and according to British investigative journalist Tom Bower, the queen "refused to have anything to do with Charles’ mistress."
A biography written by Bower, of which the Daily Mail got snippets, detailed that Charles’ life changed drastically given that he refused to give up on his future with Camilla. The queen "would not condone his adultery, nor forgive Camilla for not leaving Charles alone to allow his marriage to recover." Elizabeth even reportedly called Camilla a "wicked woman" and said that she wanted "nothing to do with her." Charles "boiled with frustration" as a result.
Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding was not without controversy
Prince Charles’ life may have gotten happier the day he married Camilla Parker-Bowles, but their wedding day was not without drama. British investigative journalist Tom Bower discovered that, while the engagement between the two was "welcomed" by Queen Elizabeth, the events leading up to the wedding were less than ideal, as detailed by the Daily Mail. Firstly, the queen denied Charles’ request to have a 650-guest reception at Windsor Castle following the ceremony. Instead, she told the soon-to-be-married man that a "modest celebration" would happen instead.
Leading up to the wedding, Elizabeth was also said to have "excluded" Camilla from royal dinners and events, and apparently, the monarch told the couple that there was "very little special Welsh gold" remaining in order to make Camilla’s wedding band (a royal wedding tradition). "There won’t be enough for a third wedding," the queen reportedly said.
Charles’ final straw, however, was when Elizabeth made it clear that she wouldn’t be attending the ceremony. He was apparently "inconsolable," and would call close friends to vent about his life. "He would go on forever, far into the night," one insider shared. Charles may have been thrilled to marry Camilla, but it came at a cost.
Charles’ approval ratings took a nosedive after he married Camilla
Prince Charles may be the next king of England, but that doesn’t mean that he’s super popular. In fact, his approval ratings went downhill so quickly after marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles, and some would argue that they haven’t fully recovered. As noted by the Daily Mail, only 16% of British citizens approved the idea of Camilla one day becoming queen, according to a survey from YouGov conducted shortly after her wedding to Charles. In fact, many surveyed preferred the idea of Prince William circumventing his father and becoming king instead. And if you thought that was bad, things got worse after the marriage was made official.
As noted by CNN, Camilla and Charles traveled to the United States in 2005 (the same year they got married), and faced quite a lot of "abusive placards," as there were a number of Diana Spencer fans in the States. At that point, up to 73% of people surveyed rejected the idea of Camilla being queen, and a third of Britons surveyed by The Times admitted that they didn’t care about the future king of England and his new bride. Clearly, people had strong opinions about Charles and Camilla.
While Charles will one day be king, will his wife ever be queen?
Prince Charles is 72 years old as of publication, and as such, he has been heir apparent to the British throne for longer than anyone else in history. When he married Diana Spencer, it was assumed that Charles and the "People’s Princess" would one day become king and queen, though that, of course, didn’t happen. When it became apparent that Camilla would marry the heir, a lot of questions were raised about Camilla’s title. After Charles and Camilla got married, it was announced, "It is intended that Mrs. Parker Bowles should use the title HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne," via People.
Of course, Charles and Camilla’s life together will change considerably when he ascends the throne, and since their wedding, Camilla’s intended title upon that fateful event has come into question. Her son, Tom Parker-Bowles, told The Times that he doesn’t know if his mother will go by the title of queen or not, casting confusion on the subject. So how would that go exactly for Charles? Although the public is more on her side now than before, there is still enough public resentment towards the couple that naming Camilla queen might not bode well.
Charles’ life was no doubt made easier when the palace changed tactics
When Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles entered society as a couple in the late 1990s, the palace was, understandably, on high alert. The press and media attention that cost Diana Spencer her life was still very fresh in the British psyche, and the relationship between Charles and Camilla was not, as aforementioned, widely supported. As a result, the palace operated as an "aggressive spin machine," according to CNN, trying desperately to curate an image of Charles and Camilla that was digestible to the public. But Charles’ life with Camilla began to change drastically when, instead of forcing her into a box that she didn’t fit in, the palace allowed Camilla just to be herself.
By allowing Camilla to accompany Charles during public events, and letting her focus on meaningful charity work, she became a far sharper tool for the royal family to utilize. "She’s done an enormous amount for the whole issue around osteoporosis, which of course runs in her family," Charles said of his wife’s work, which surely made his public life far easier. He also made a point of highlighting her work advocating for those who had suffered at the hands of sexual violence.
Press attention significantly altered Charles and Camilla’s lives
Prince Charles has always been followed by the press — that’s just the reality of being in the royal family. But after he married Camilla Parker-Bowles, he experienced a renewed sense of media flurry, and unsurprisingly to some, the couple wrapped in scandal were a hot topic. Furthermore, the media attention completely altered Camilla’s life, and in a sit-down with the Daily Mail, she confessed that the attention was unlike anything she’d ever gone through.
"It was horrid," she said. "It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it. I couldn’t have survived it without my family." As for the press attention that has significantly changed Charles’ life with Camilla as of late, the renewed flurry surrounding Diana Spencer’s story due in large part to the hit Netflix show, "The Crown," has dramatically changed Charles’ relationship with the press and public. As reported by the New York Daily News, Charles and Camilla turned off their Twitter comments following Season 4 of "The Crown," and the heir was said to be "incredibly upset" at his portrayal and the depiction of his relationship and family (via The Times).
Charles’ sons eventually learned to love Camilla and support his new marriage
Prince William and Prince Harry allegedly made it very clear that Camilla Parker-Bowles was not their favorite person, marking a shift in their relationships with their father, Prince Charles. But over time, the ice between Charles’ new wife and his sons began to thaw, and in 2005, Harry admitted, as reported by the BBC, that Camilla was not the "wicked stepmother" that people made her out to be. Charles’ life and relationship with his sons had clearly gone through the ringer at that point, so the public admission on Harry’s part that Camilla was "a wonderful woman" was surely a welcomed change for the heir to the throne.
"She’s made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing," Harry shared at the time. "William and I love her to bits. To be honest with you, she’s always been very close to me and William … but no, she’s not the wicked stepmother. I’ll say that right now." It’s clear by this public comment that Prince Charles had finally experienced a positive shift in his life years after marrying Camilla.
Charles must be relieved Queen Elizabeth and Camilla’s relationship has softened over time
When Prince Charles wanted to introduce Camilla Parker-Bowles into his life in a more formal and public way, it’s safe to say that Queen Elizabeth was having none of it. But over time, the relationship between the couple and the reigning monarch has softened, marking a much-needed change to Charles’ life since his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall (we can imagine that he was fuming over the tense familial relationship that plagued his second marriage).
But as noted by Vanity Fair, the queen made a sweet gesture to the couple at their wedding reception, telling them in a speech, "They have come through, and I’m very proud and wish them well. My son is home and dry with the woman he loves." For a family known for not professing their feelings towards one another, this was very sweet.
Over time, it appears as though the queen and Camilla have bonded over shared interests, namely horses and all things horse related. As noted by People, the two attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show together in 2015, and even watched as Elizabeth’s own horse, George (yes, same name as her great-grandson), competed in the Pre-Senior horse contest.
Prince Charles shared what being married to Camilla means to him
Prince Charles’ life after marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles was never the same for a number of negative reasons — his relationships with his sons and mother changed dramatically, his public image suffered, and the wedding itself was fraught with drama — but if one thing in his life did change for the better, it was the fact that he got to marry Camilla at all.
When Charles was a young bachelor on the hunt for his bride, Camilla was never seen as a suitable option. As noted by Biography, Camilla’s lack of a title, as well as her previously well-documented romantic relationships, made her the royal family’s last choice when Charles was getting married the first time around. Despite their very strong feelings for one another, both got married to other people and emotionally suffered as a result.
But on that day in 2005 that was a long time coming, Charles and Camilla said, "I do," and Charles later gushed to CNN about his "brilliant" wife. "It’s always marvelous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage," he said. "Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps."
Charles and Camilla’s wedding anniversary was marked by this somber occasion
The life that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles have gone on to live together since their wedding has been, of course, a combination of happy moments, stressful circumstances, and ever-evolving royal expectations. However, a day that holds significant meaning to them both forever changed in 2021, and not for the better. As noted by People, Charles’ father, Prince Philip, died at the age of 99 on April 9, 2021.
While the news of his passing was incredibly sad for the royal family, it just so happened to fall on the same day as Charles and Camilla’s wedding anniversary. Instead of taking to social media that day to mark their 16th anniversary as a married couple, Charles and Camilla echoed the sentiment of the other royal family members and simply posted a black and white photo of Philip with the caption, "The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss." The couple were later seen visiting public memorials that were erected in the days after Philip’s death, and on one such occasion, both Charles and Camilla were seen crying (via People). Unfortunately, this may forever make April 9 a sad day for the couple.