“THERE were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Princess Diana famously said of her relationship with Prince Charles.
That frosty 1995 comment to Martin Bashir about Charles’ infatuation with Camilla Parker Bowles came as her marriage collapsed – but she and Camilla had once been fairly friendly.
Camilla Parker Bowles with Diana Spencer at Ludlow Racecourse in 1980 – the year Diana and Charles started datingCredit: PA:Press Association
A timeline of Diana and Camilla’s relationship
The tortured love triangle between Diana, Charles and Camilla was at the heart of the latest series of The Crown, which covers the events of Queen Elizabeth II’s life between 1977 and 1990.
And one of the most intense showdowns of the series depicted a lunch date between Diana and Camilla in the days before Diana’s wedding to Charles.
The portrayal left such an impression on some people that Camilla has even been subjected to horrible online abuse from trolls who watched the series since.
Charles’ love for Camilla while still married to Diana is a central theme to the latest series of The Crown
It also showcased Margaret Thatcher’s weekly audiences with the Queen at Buckingham Palace
Here’s the true story of what really happened when the two met – and the spectacular fallout which followed.
Royal love triangle
Charles and Diana started their romance in 1980 – a decade after Charles and Camilla Shand met at a polo match at Windsor Great Park.
Charles and Camilla started dating but, when Charles left to serve in the Royal Navy, he returned to find her engaged to another man: Andrew Parker Bowles, who had himself dated Charles’ sister, Princess Anne.
Charles with Camilla at a polo match in 1975 – they dated years before Charles met DianaCredit: Rex Features
Prince Charles, played by Josh O’Connor, with Camilla Shand, played by actress Emerald Fennell, in The Crown
Charles was 31 at the time he began dating 18-year-old Diana Spencer in 1980 – more than two years after they briefly met, when he was dating her sister.
He’d reportedly found solace in Camilla beforehand, when Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
But Charles proposed to Diana in 1981 and, in the weeks before the wedding, Camilla invited Diana to lunch.
Two days before news of the engagement was announced publicly, Camilla sent Diana a letter at Clarence House.
Diana with Camilla in 1980 – they were said to have been friendly before their fateful lunch meeting the following yearCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty
“Such exciting news about the engagement,” it read. “Do let’s have lunch soon when the Prince of Wales goes to Australia and New Zealand.
“He’s going to be away for three weeks. I’d love to see the ring, lots of love, Camilla.”
Lunch date with destiny
Diana recounted the “tricky” experience of the lunch to Andrew Morton for the 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words.
In it, Diana reportedly recalls becoming suspicious about Camilla seemingly trying to establish a way of seeing Charles without Diana around.
“[Camilla] said: ‘You are not going to hunt, are you?'” Diana recalled to Morton.
Camilla admiring Diana’s engagement ring at their lunch meeting in The CrownCredit: Netflix
“I said, ‘On what?’ She said, ‘Horse. You are not going to hunt when you go and live at Highgrove are you?’
“I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘I just wanted to know.’
“And I thought as far as she was concerned, that was her communication route.
“Still too immature to understand all the messages coming my way.”
Diana’s suspicions about Camilla were raised at the real life lunch meetingCredit: Netflix
Diana also went on to say that before her wedding, she found out Charles had a bracelet made with the initials “G” and “F” for Gladys and Fred – pet names Camilla and Charles had for each other.
She also found photos of Camilla in Charles’ diary on their honeymoon, as well as cufflinks with the initials “C” and “C” intertwined.
Aisle be watching…
Despite their tense meal, Camilla was a guest at Diana and Charles’ wedding, deemed the “wedding of the century”.
Some 750million people in 74 countries tuned into the lavish ceremony from all around the world – but Diana was looking for one person in particular as she walked down the aisle.
Charles and Diana kissing on their wedding day in 1981Credit: AFP
Emma Corrin wearing a recreation of Diana’s wedding dress in The Crown
“I knew [Camilla] was there, of course. I looked for her,” Diana says in her tapes to biographer Andrew Morton in the early 90s.
“So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, pale gray, veiled pillbox hat, saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair.
“To this day you know — vivid memory.”
‘I know what’s going on’
Five years on from their spectacular wedding, Charles and Diana’s marriage was lost – with Camilla firmly back in the picture.
In 1994, Charles admitted to Jonathan Dimbleby in a TV documentary that while he had been faithful to Diana initially, he had only been so until his marriage had “irretrievably broken down”.
Diana found out about the affair and, in 1989, confronted Camilla about it at a party.
Diana says she confronted Camilla about what had been happening with Charles
“I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that,'” Diana recounted to Morton.
“And she said, ‘Oh, it’s not a cloak and dagger situation.’
“I said, ‘I think it is.’ I wasn’t as strong as I’d have liked, but at least I got the conversation going.”
Diana says Camilla then pointed out to Diana that she was in a fortunate position.
Charles and Camilla pictured in 1979 – a decade before Diana confronted Camilla
“Camilla then replied, ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted.
“‘You’ve got all the men in the world to fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?’
“I didn’t believe her, so I said, ‘I want my husband’.”
Charles and Camilla would go on to marry in 2005Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Diana told Morton that she even apologised to Camilla for being the reason she and Charles weren’t together.
“I’m sorry I’m in the way, and it must be hell for both of you,” Diana says she told Camilla.
“But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.’”
Diana and Charles went on to separate completely in 1991 and, five years later, they divorced.
Charles and Camilla married in 2005, and in April this year, they celebrated their 15th anniversary.
“It’s always marvellous to have somebody you feel understands and wants to encourage,” Charles said, the Telegraph reports.
“Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.”