An estimated 750 million people around the globe watched Prince Charles and Princess Diana tying the knot. But the night before his big day, Charles apparently did something that showed how he truly felt about marrying Diana. And now royal biographer Penny Junor has revealed exactly what happened on that fateful occasion back in 1981.
At that point, Charles had been in the spotlight for decades, ever since his birth on November 14, 1948. He is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and was only three years old when his mother’s reign began. Now, Charles stands first in the order of succession to the British throne.
And as with many young men, Charles had several girlfriends before he chose to wed. These love interests included the eighth Duke of Wellington’s daughter, Lady Jane Wellesley, and the British Ambassador to Spain’s daughter, Georgiana Russell. Intriguingly, he would also date Princess Diana’s elder sister, Lady Sarah Spencer.
Then, in 1971 Charles met Camilla Shand through an introduction by their shared friend Lucia Santa Cruz. Camilla had previously had a relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles, who in turn had once begun a romance with Charles’ younger sister Princess Anne. And Charles and Camilla soon became a couple.
However, Charles’ great-uncle Lord Mountbatten reportedly did not believe that Camilla was aristocratic enough to be the Prince of Wales’ wife. Eventually, then, Charles and Camilla’s courtship ended, and Camilla reconciled with Parker Bowles. They became engaged in 1973 and married that same year.
After that, Lord Mountbatten attempted to get Charles to consider marrying Mountbatten’s granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull. And Charles did; the prince even proposed to Amanda after his great-uncle was killed by the IRA. But as her grandfather, grandmother and younger brother Nicholas had all died in the bombing, she declined to become a member of the royal family.
Then, after having met Lady Diana Spencer in 1977, Charles started to view her as a suitable bride. The pair’s eventual relationship received a lot of media attention too. And, finally, it appeared as if Charles had met his match. In February 1981 he asked Diana to marry him, and they duly wed on the following July 29 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Approximately 600,000 people lined the streets of London in the hope of viewing the newlyweds firsthand. What’s more, some still consider the wedding one of the most memorable in the history of the British royal family. However, behind closed doors, Charles and Diana’s marriage was apparently far from a happy one.
For instance, Diana revealed in the Andrew Morton book Diana: Her True Story that Charles had been having an affair with Camilla, which he later confirmed. It emerged that she had also been flirting with other men. Then, in 1992 the couple announced that they had decided to separate; they would divorce four years later.
And, tragically, on August 31, 1997, Diana died in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36. Ultimately, Charles would marry once again – this time to Camilla. In the years since, though, one claim has emerged about the Prince of Wales: specifically, before he exchanged vows with Diana, it is said, he was already having second thoughts.
Author and journalist Penny Junor, who has penned a number of books on the royal family over the past few decades, made this assertion in 2017’s The Duchess: The Untold Story – a biography about Camilla. And after spending a year trailing the duchess and speaking to her friends for the book, Junor chose to reveal what allegedly went down before Charles’ first wedding.
According to the royal biographer, Charles broke down the night before he was due to tie the knot with Diana. The book alleges that he had been witnessing crowds gather along The Mall from a window at Buckingham Palace. Then, Junor has stated, the prince and a nearby lady-in-waiting to the Queen both began to weep as he realized the weight of the decision that he had made.
And Diana, for her part, has also revealed how she felt the day before she married Charles. “The night before the wedding, I was very, very calm – deathly calm,” she told Andrew Morton. “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. I knew it and couldn’t do anything about it.”
Junor has additionally claimed that Charles pleaded with Camilla not to go through with her marriage to Parker Bowles. He apparently wrote her a letter stating that it was a shame “such a blissful, peaceful and mutually happy relationship” as the one they had shared should be cut short after only six months. Even though Charles had implored Camilla to call off the wedding, though, she nevertheless went ahead with it.
And while Charles and Camilla’s affair has been widely reported, Junor has alleged that Andrew Parker Bowles was also unfaithful to Camilla with several of her friends. Charles supposedly acted as a confidante to Camilla during that time by sending his former girlfriend letters and chatting to her on the phone. Camilla eventually separated from Parker Bowles in 1995.
Furthermore, both Diana and Charles commented on the Camilla affair after their relationship had broken down. “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” the princess told interviewer Martin Bashir in 1995. However, Charles was seemingly more nonchalant about his philandering. According to a 1994 report in the Daily Mail, he once said, “Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?”
Then, after their respective divorces and Diana’s death, Charles and Camilla officially began a relationship. They married in 2005 and are still together as of 2018. However, the British public – many of whom had taken Diana to their hearts – were not altogether enamoured with Charles’ new wife at first.
And Camilla has since discussed how difficult she found the intense media storm that surrounded her after news of the affair had broken. “It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it,” she told the Mail on Sunday in 2017. “I couldn’t have survived it without my family.”
Meanwhile, Junor’s book, which was released to mark the Duchess of Cornwall’s 70th birthday, reveals the three stages of Charles and Camilla’s romance over several decades. Apparently these were firstly, before either of them got married, secondly, after Camilla had welcomed her second child and ahead of Charles and Diana’s engagement, and then thirdly after Charles and Diana’s marriage problems had begun. But while the biography offers a more in-depth look at the couple’s unconventional love story, one commenter responding to a Daily Mail-published excerpt of Junor’s book had little sympathy for Camilla.
“Please do not try and pass her off as hard done by. She knew exactly what she was doing [while] Charles was married to Diana,” the individual in question shared. And although Junor believes that Camilla was “not a natural adulteress” and merely fell in love with Prince Charles, another internet user expressed their heartache for Diana. “All Diana wanted was her fairy tale wedding to her Prince Charming – probably every young girl’s dream,” they wrote. “For this, she paid the ultimate price.”