Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla got married in 2005 and have been together ever since. They first met in 1970.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 21, 2020. It has since been updated.
Love is a lot about timing, but some love stories span many years and are complicated. Being in love is an act of courage and may even be an act of rebellion, for some. However, not everyone is able to win that battle. For Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, it took many decades before they could formalize their relationship. And the reason for that might lie in Charles's inability to go against his family.
Charles and Camilla met in 1970 for the first time but didn't get married until 2005. As per People, their relationship began in 1972 with a note of irony. "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common," she said to him at a party.
Between then and 2005, all the events that took place show that not acting on one's heart's desire can cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. His, hers, and Diana's heartache could have been prevented if Charles had asked her to marry him when he knew that she was his "soul mate." Instead, he followed the beaten path by his family and picked a young girl to continue his family.
The moment of recognition that Camilla was "the one" came early in their relationship, and back then they were both single. According to royal biographer Robert Lacey in his book Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, Charles identified a weekend spent with Camilla in December 1972 as the moment of reckoning for him, according to Marie Claire. He knew that she was the one but didn't do much about it at the time.
He was supposed to sail for the Caribbean with the Royal Navy in January 1973 and would have been away until the fall of 1973. However, before leaving he took Camilla Shand to Portsmouth to show her the ship he would be traveling on. The weekend after that they went to the Broadlands. In a note to Lord Mountbatten, the father-of-two wrote that it was "the last time I shall see her for eight months."
It took decades but Charles revealed that the last weekend was "the moment when he first realized for sure that he wanted to marry Camilla—that she was his life's soulmate. But he did not have the courage to tell her properly or strongly enough."
Another royal biographer said that the prince didn't take concrete steps to assure that she would wait for him. "Charles declared his love, but not his hand. He whispered sweet nothings but said nothing of substance. He made no commitment and he asked for none," Gyles Brandreth, author of Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair, wrote in 2005. "Sometimes, the actions we do not take are indeed more significant than those we do."
By the time Charles returned from his deployment, Camilla was engaged to her first husband, Andrew Parker-Bowles. In July 1973, Camilla married Andrew, an Army cavalry officer, who had previously dated Prince Charles’s sister, Princess Anne. She and Andrew have two children, Tom and Laura Parker-Bowles, and Charles even became the godfather of their son.
It took another seven years for Charles to find the woman he would marry. Lady Diana and he started dating in 1980, as per Town & Country. They met when he dated her older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer, who takes credit for the match, saying, "I introduced them—I’m Cupid."
On February 6, 1981, he asked Diana to marry him and she said yes. They married in the summer of that year. Their huge age difference of about 13 years doesn't bother them but his undying feelings for Camilla continued to be a thorn on the side of the princess throughout their marriage.
In 1986, Charles resumed seeing Camilla, and that led to the breakdown of his marriage. In 1989, Diana confronted her rival. "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,'" revealed Diana in an interview.
Charles and Diana's marriage crumbled beyond repair with them divorcing in 1996. Camilla divorced Andrew a year prior to them. It takes almost another decade for the Prince of Wales and Camilla to be married. They have been married for 15 years now, and their love has lasted all the upheavals in their lives, despite the pain it caused in its path.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) Dennis Oulds ; (R) Christopher Furlong