Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles have had an unconventional relationship from the very beginning. Although royal biographers say it was love at first sight when they met in the early ‘70s, they went through some pretty big obstacles before they wound up together. Even as Charles married Princess Diana and Camilla married her own boyfriend, Charles and Camilla famously went on to maintain their close friendship throughout their respective marriages. It took nearly 30 years for the two to publicly and officially become a couple. Here is a timeline of their dramatic relationship.
- Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles met for the first time in 1970 at a polo match and started dating. They broke things off when Charles went off to sea.
- Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, and in 1981, Charles married Princess Diana. Charles and Camilla maintained a very close relationship throughout their time apart.
- In 1993, an intimate phone call between Charles and Camilla leaked, causing a huge scandal. In the years that followed, both divorced their partners.
- A year after Diana’s death in 1997, Charles and Camilla made their relationship public and eventually got married in 2005.
1970: First Meeting
According to the BBC, Charles and Camilla first met at a polo match at Windsor Great Park. Some reports claim that Camilla’s first line to Charles was, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.” However, historian and The Crown advisor Robert Lacey wrote in The Crown: The Official Companion Volume 2 that Charles says they met through their friend Lucia Santa Cruz, something Lucia later said was true.
Either way, Charles and Camilla started dating and spent a lot of time together. In the end, Charles was sent off to sea for the Royal Navy, and the two ended their relationship.
July 4, 1973: Camilla Weds Andrew Parker Bowles
In July of 1973, Camilla married her long-time beau Andrew Parker Bowles (who had previously dated Charles’s sister, Princess Anne). The two would go on to have two children, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles. Despite her new relationship, Charles and Camilla remained close, and Charles even became Tom’s godfather.
1981: Princess Diana Enters The Picture
On February 6, 1981, Charles proposed to Diana. A few weeks later, during an interview, Charles and Diana were asked if they were in love. Diana responded, “Of course,” while Charles said, “Whatever love means.”
On July 29, Charles and Diana got married. Camilla attended their wedding. According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, Camilla immediately caused a rift between Charles and Diana when Diana allegedly found an engraved necklace intended for Camilla while opening wedding gifts. Supposedly, Charles told Diana that “a certain amount of time would always be put aside for Camilla.”
1986: The Affair
According to People, Charles and Camilla began having an affair in 1986, despite both being married to other people. Later, in 1995, during an interview with BBC One’s Panorama, Diana spoke about Camilla’s relationship with Charles, saying, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
1989: The Confrontation
According to The Telegraph, an audiotape Diana made for Morton, her biographer, revealed that she had confronted Camilla about her affair at a party. She stated, “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.’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m in the way...and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.’”
1993: Phone Call Leak
The Mirror published a full transcript of a leaked intimate phone call between Charles and Camilla (known as Camillagate) that took place in 1989. In the transcript, the two spoke about their physical relationship and how much they wanted and cared about one another. The tapes caused a huge scandal for the royal family and seemingly confirmed the persistent affair rumors.
June 1994: Charles Speaks
When Charles appeared in a TV documentary about himself, he was asked about the rumors of his affair with Camilla. When asked if he had been “faithful and honorable” to Diana, he said, “Yes, yes...until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” When asked about Camilla, he said, “She has been a friend for a very long time—and will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”
January 11, 1995: Camilla’s Divorce
In the beginning of 1995, Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles announced their divorce after reportedly living apart for at least two years.
August 28, 1996: Charles’ Divorce
After a separation, Charles and Diana finalized their divorce in the summer of 1996.
August 31, 1997: Diana’s Death
At 36-years-old, Diana tragically passed away after a car accident in Paris. The crash also took the lives of her significant other, businessman Dodi Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul. According to The Guardian, a campaign to “introduce” Charles and Camilla as a couple to the public was put on hold in light of Diana’s death.
July 10, 1998: Going Public
In a report from The Guardian, royal aides confirmed that Camilla had met Prince William in 1998 and would meet Prince Harry at a later date. That same year, Charles celebrated his 50th birthday with a large party. According to the Los Angeles Times, Queen Elizabeth declined to attend because Camilla would be there and she disapproved of their relationship.
1999: First Public Appearance
Charles threw a 50th birthday party for Camilla’s sister at the Ritz Hotel in London, where Charles and Camilla were photographed together for the first time. Although they arrived to the party separately, they left together in full view of reporters and photographers. That year, the couple began attending events together.
2000: The Queen’s Approval
According to the BBC, the Queen met Camilla for the first time in 2000, when she attended a 60th birthday celebration for the King of Greece at Highgrove, Charles’s residence. It was seen as the Queen’s seal of approval.
2003: The Big Move
The now very public couples moved in together at Clarence House in 2003. As the BBC pointed out, the Royal Family was very clear that British taxpayer money wouldn’t be used to decorate Camilla’s rooms.
April 9, 2005: The Wedding
About 35 years after they first met, in February 2005, Charles and Camilla announced their engagement. There was a lot of speculation about the title Camilla would take and if she would ever become known as the Queen. It was said she would take the title Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, after the wedding so that she would not share the title of the Princess of Wales.
On April 9, Charles and Camilla married at a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. Prince William was the best man. The Queen and Prince Phillip did not attend the ceremony, but they did attend the reception and official blessing at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
2015: Charles Talks About Their Relationship
On April 9, 2015, Charles and Camilla celebrated their 10th anniversary. An image on the Clarence House Instagram showed the two at their garden at Birkhall, Scotland.
That same year, during an interview with CNN, Charles talked about his relationship with Camilla. He said, “It’s always marvelous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage. Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.”
2017: Camilla Discussed The Affair
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Camilla opened up about how she was treated by the media and the public when the news of her affair with Charles broke. She said, “I couldn’t really go anywhere...it was horrid. 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.”
2020: Anniversary Celebration
While isolating at Birkhall during the coronavirus pandemic, Charles and Camilla celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. The couple posted a photo of themselves on Twitter with their dogs, Bluebell and Beth, to acknowledge their anniversary.