Few relationships are more captivating than royal ones, especially that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. But as we all know, their marriage wasn't built to last. From the early days of their relationship to their royal wedding, the birth of their two sons to the years of affairs, here is a complete timeline of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's relationship.
- Prince Charles was introduced to Lady Diana Spencer in 1977 via her sister, whom he was dating at the time.
- In 1980, the prince and Diana began dating and after just a few months of romance, Prince Charles proposed.
- Princess Diana wed Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, in the most lavish royal wedding of the century.
- Their marriage, however, wasn't built to last and the couple divorced in 1996 after years of infidelity.
1977: Meet Lady Diana Spencer
When Prince Charles first met Lady Diana, he was dating her sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. The future couple met at Althorp, Diana's family home, while grouse hunting. At the time, Diana was just 16 years old, while Prince Charles was 28. During their engagement interview four years later, the prince would recall his first impression of Diana, saying, "I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything."
1980: Dating Diana
While Prince Charles and Lady Diana met in 1977, they wouldn't begin dating until 1980 after reconnecting at a mutual friend's home. "He’d just broken up with his girlfriend and his friend Mountbatten had just been killed. I said it would be nice to see him," Diana said in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. She added, "We were talking about Mountbatten and his girlfriend and I said, ‘You must be so lonely.’ I said, ‘It’s pathetic watching you walking up the aisle with Mountbatten’s coffin in front, ghastly, you need someone beside you.’ Whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me."
February 3, 1981: Prince Charles Proposes
After just a few months of dating, Prince Charles surprised a young Diana by proposing in Windsor Castle on February 3, 1981. "[Charles] said, 'Will you marry me?' and I laughed," Diana recalled to Andrew Morton for his biography Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words. "I remember thinking, 'This is a joke,' and I said, 'Yeah, OK,' and laughed. He was deadly serious." But while Diana was elated by the engagement, Prince Charles didn't show the same level of enthusiasm. She continued, "I said, 'I love you so much, I love you so much.' And he said, 'Whatever love means.' Said it then. So I thought that was great, I thought he meant that. In my immaturity, which was enormous, I thought that he was very much in love with me, which he was. He sort of had the besotted look about him looking back at it, but it wasn't the genuine sort."
February 24, 1981: Royal Engagement
The royal pair announced their engagement on February 24, 1981. During the photocall, to which the future princess wore an off-the-rack blue suit from Harrods, Lady Diana showed off her stunning sapphire engagement ring. She picked the legendary accessory from Garrard, the crown jeweler's catalog—a choice that was actually quite scandalous among the royal family.
March 1981: First Night as a Fiancée
For her first appearance as a royal fiancée, Lady Diana joined Prince Charles at London's Goldsmith's Hall. She wore a strapless black dress by Emanuel, a fashion choice that led to serious scrutiny by the press. The entire night was later described by Diana as a "horrendous occasion" as she wasn't well-versed in royal protocol. One of the event's attendees, Princess Grace of Monaco, reportedly pulled the future princess aside and said, "Don't worry. It will get a lot worse."
July 29, 1981: Royal Wedding of the Century
In what was the biggest royal wedding of the century, Lady Diana wed Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, marking the moment she officially became Diana, Princess of Wales. 750 million people across the globe tuned in to watch the spectacle on television while another 600,000 stood in the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. The ceremony was held at St. Paul's Cathedral and the bride wore an opulent ball gown by Emanuel for the big day.
August 1981: Two-Week Honeymoon
Following their wedding, the newlyweds set off on a two-week honeymoon. They spent two nights in Hampshire before embarking on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean and ended the vacation with a stay at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
November 5, 1981: A Future King
Not long into their marriage Princess Diana and Prince Charles announced they were pregnant with their first child together.
June 21, 1982: Prince William Is Born
On June 21, 1982, Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, who immediately became an heir to the British throne behind his father, Prince Charles.
April 18, 1983: Family Time In Australia
For their first overseas tour as a couple, Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited Australia and New Zealand with 10-month-old William. Diana broke royal protocol by bringing Prince William abroad as two heirs should never travel together to protect the line of succession.
The tour down under also brought out the princess's star power, with large crowds flocking to see Diana and not Prince Charles. He reportedly told aides at the time, "They’ve come out to see my wife, they haven’t come out to see me."
February 13, 1984: Her Second Pregnancy
On February 13, 1984, the royal parents announced they were expecting a second child.
September 15, 1984: Prince Harry Is Born
Princess Diana and Prince Charles welcomed their second son, Prince Henry Charles Albert David, on September 15, 1984. However, Prince Charles was supposedly disappointed that the baby wasn't a girl. As Diana recounted, "Charles always wanted a girl. Harry was a boy. [Charles's] first comment was, 'Oh God, it's a boy.' His second: 'And he's even got red hair.'Charles and I were very, very close to each other the six weeks before Harry was born, the closest we've ever, ever been and ever will be. Then, suddenly, as Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage. The whole thing went down the drain."
September 24, 1985: First Day of School
For Prince William's first day of school in 1985, the royal parents teamed up to escort him to Mrs. Mynor's Nursery School.
1986: The Start of the Affair
1986 proved to be a tumultuous year for the couple as it marked the time Prince Charles began his affair with friend and lover Camilla Parker Bowles. At this point, Princess Diana and Charles began to live separate lives in private. And Diana began to have affairs of her own.
September 16, 1987: First Day of School Part Two
But when it came time for Prince Harry's first day of school at Mrs. Mynor's Nursery School in 1987, Princess Diana and Prince Charles (and Prince William!) were there to accompany him.
1989: Diana Confronts Camilla
In 1989, Diana finally confronted Parker Bowles about her longtime affair with Prince Charles. "I know what's going on between you and Charles, and I just want you to know that," she told Parker Bowles.
August 23, 1992: Squidgygate
In the summer of 1992, a British tabloid published the transcript of a phone conversation between Princess Diana and friend James Gilbey. During the private call, Gilbey calls the royal by the pet name "Squidgy," prompting the press to dub the incident "Squidgygate." The conversation also revealed Diana talking about her unhappy marriage.
December 10, 1992: The Prince and Princess Separate
The couple announced their separation on December 10, 1992. "This decision has been reached amicably and they will both continue to participate fully in the upbringing of their children," said Prime Minister John Major in his address to the nation.
June 1994: Charles Admits Infidelity
Two years after separating, Prince Charles admitted to his infidelity for the first time.
June 1994: The Revenge Dress
In a now-infamous moment, Prince Charles' candid interview prompted Princess Diana to step out in a sexy dress later that night. Known as the "revenge dress," Diana attended an event at London's Serpentine Gallery wearing a tight, off-the-shoulder number—which clearly didn't meet royal protocol.
November 1995: A Bombshell Interview
By the end of 1995, Princess Diana was ready to speak about her broken marriage. “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," she said during the in-depth interview with BBC. She also admitted to her own infidelity, spoke candidly about bulimia and depression, and expressed Prince Charles might not be fit to be King.
The interview prompted the Queen to give the couple permission to divorce one month later.
August 29, 1996: Officially Divorced
Their divorce was finalized on August 29, 1996, leaving Diana to pay her own bills and lose the title of Her Royal Highness.
August 31, 1997: An Unfathomable Tragedy
Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997. Shortly before her passing, the former couple began to reconcile their relationship, with Charles stopping in at her Kensington Palace residence occasionally.
In 2005, Prince Charles went on to wed Camilla Parker Bowles, now known as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.