Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s tumultuous marriage was at times so dramatic much of its most intimate details are now considered an integral part of recent royal history.
But what most Windsor watchers don’t know is the details of a scandalous love web which preluded their doomed union—including the one match which continued long after the royal couple took their fateful vows.
Now, The Crown season three has promised to expose the love lives of Prince Charles, his younger sister Princess Anne, Princess Diana, her sister Lady Sarah Spencer, and Camilla and Andrew Parker-Bowles, during their well-heeled youth.
This convoluted love web first became entangled in the early 1970s, just as Britain’s collective tongue wagged in anticipation of who their future king would choose as his wife.
Royal love web
The core quadrangle’s non-royal players were Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall, and perhaps more unexpectedly, her ex-husband Andrew Parker-Bowles — but not just in the way many might assume.
Instead of only pairing up with his eventual first wife, notorious lothario Andrew also had a dalliance with the Queen’s only daughter, which was rumoured to have taken place while he was also dating Camilla.
At the time of Princess Anne and Andrew’s relationship, she was 20 and he was 31, but more importantly than age, was the fact that he was a Catholic.
With the Queen also the head of the Church of England, Army officer Andrew’s religion essentially assured a royal wedding was not to be unless he was willing to convert.
“This conversation is going round and round in circles — and I preferred it when we were going round and round in circles,” Princess Anne is quoted as saying in an upcoming The Crown episode.
“I can see perfectly clearly who you are and what this is — and I can assure you I’m not going to get hurt. Now what’s it going to be, a resumption or a cessation?”
Figuring out their flames
However, while Andrew and Anne were attempting to work through their myriad of privileged problems, Camilla was busy making her former flame jealous — according to The Crown, at least.
This, the program claims, is when Charles and Camilla’s relationship really ramped up, and they begin their love story while she was in the midst of her on-again, off-again romance with Andrew.
The royal fling is said to have first kicked off at a polo match in the 1970s when the future duchess informed her prince of their families’ shared heritage of sorts.
“My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common,” she is known to have told Charles at the time.
Meanwhile, things remained steamy between Camilla and Andrew who is quoted as saying in the new series “this escalation of hostilities is neither necessary or justifiable” in reference to the web.
Emerald Fennell—who plays Camilla in season three—then references playboy Andrew’s cheating, telling him he “had [his] chance for a ceasefire and you broke it”.
“So before we even discuss the terms of a truce, you just have to know how it feels,” she said.
Shortly after this altercation, Andrew again reconnects with Anne at a society ball and is immediately enamoured by her grown-up appearance.
“I’m staring at you and how much you’ve flowered. I mean, developed. Grown up,” he tells the royal.
“Somehow you’ve never seen me. Now you’re making up for it by gawping,” Anne, played by Erin Doherty, replies.
“Don’t apologise. I don’t mind admitting I’ve done my fair share of gawping at you over the years.”
But despite Anne’s keen interest, Andrew eventually found his way back to Camilla and the pair married in 1973 following a proposal rumoured to be orchestrated by the couple’s parents.
Somewhat awkwardly, the princess attended the nuptials—alongside her glamorous aunt Margaret—and despite the union’s high-profile nature, it wasn’t to last, and the Parker-Bowles’ divorced in 1995 after much mutual infidelity.
Anne went on to marry Captain Mark Phillips later that same year—months before the newlyweds were targeted in a now-famous kidnapping attempt.
Prince on the scene
Around this time, Prince Charles was the only one involved in the love web to remain unwed, but he was by no means avoiding the game altogether.
In fact, it wasn’t just any society girl Charles later became involved with, but Princess Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah Spencer, and the pair were an item for much of 1977.
Thickening this plot was the fact that the elder Spencer sister reportedly introduced the future Prince and Princess of Wales to one another three years later.
Diana and Charles’ doomed marriage began after just several months of dating and—as we know now—it wasn’t long before Camilla was back on the scene, a presence which led to Diana later claiming ‘there were three people in this marriage’.
While that statement was undeniably true, what much of the public never knew is that the game of multiples began long before she and Charles exchanged vows on that fateful day in 1981.
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