Rocky romance. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla weathered a very public scandal before becoming an official royal couple.
Charles was under intense scrutiny as his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s heir apparent when he met Camilla (née Shand) in 1970. The pair dated before the prince served in the Royal Navy. When he returned home, she was engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles.
Camilla went on to marry Parker Bowles in 1973, and they welcomed two children: son Tom in 1974 and daughter Laura in 1978.
As Camilla moved on, Charles followed suit, tying the knot with Princess Diana in 1981. Their sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, arrived in 1982 and 1984, respectively.
Charles and Camilla eventually began seeing each other while still married to Diana and Parker Bowles, respectively. After their divorces, they took their relationship public, although it would be years before the romance earned the approval of the royal family.
“It was horrid. It was a deeply unpleasant time and I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through it,” Camilla told the Daily Mail in May 2017. “I couldn’t have survived it without my family.”
The pair tied the knot in 2005, and she assumed her role as a working member of the royal family.
Charles and Camilla rarely gush over each other publicly, but they are not without their moments of affection. “You can imagine it is a real, real challenge,” he told CNN in 2015 of her work as a royal. “But she’s, I think, been brilliant in the way she’s tackled these things.”
Despite the pressures that come with their places within the institution, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall know how to keep things light. “It’s always marvelous to have somebody who, you know, you feel understands and wants to encourage,” he explained. “Although she certainly pokes fun if I get too serious about things. And all that helps.”
Of course, since Charles is first in line to the British throne, there is always a certain amount of weight on him and Camilla. While they have had more than a decade to think about what will happen when Charles ascends, her son, Tom, claimed in April 2021 that the royals have yet to settle on a title for Camilla.
“I honestly don’t know if Mum will be called queen,” he told The Times. “That hasn’t been decided. There are a lot of interesting Sky documentaries about that I’m sure, but I honestly don’t know if that’s true.”
Scroll through the gallery below to revisit Charles and Camilla’s relationship through the years.
Charles met Camilla at a polo match in 1970. They dated before he left to serve in the Royal Navy, but when he returned home, she was engaged to Parker Bowles.
Camilla married Parker Bowles in July 1973. They welcomed son Tom in 1974 and daughter Laura in 1978. Charles was still friends with his ex and became her eldest child’s godfather.
Charles began dating Diana in 1980. They announced their engagement in February 1981 and tied the knot that July. They welcomed William in June 1982 and Harry in September 1984, but a divide grew within their marriage.
Charles and Camilla allegedly began having an affair in 1986, according to his authorized biography.
Prime Minister John Major announced in December 1992 that Charles and Diana had separated. A transcript of a 1989 phone conversation between Charles and Camilla was released in January 1993, with the contents of the call appearing suggestive and at times explicit. The incident was referred to as Camillagate.
Charles addressed rumors of infidelity in the 1994 documentary Charles: The Private Man, the Public Role, claiming that he was “faithful and honorable” while married to Diana “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” He also called Camilla “a great friend of mine,” adding, “She has been a friend for a very long time — and will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”
Diana famously spoke out about Camilla and Charles’ dynamic in her 1995 BBC Panorama interview, which has since been criticized for the circumstances under which it was procured. “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she said.
Camilla and Parker Bowles finalized their divorce in March 1995, while Charles and Diana did the same in August 1996. Diana died in a car accident in August 1997, which delayed the debut of his relationship with Camilla.
A spokesperson for Charles confirmed in July 1998 that Camilla met William for the first time. She was expected to be introduced to Harry shortly thereafter.
Charles and Camilla appeared in public together for the first time in January 1999 when he hosted a 50th birthday party for her sister. Although they arrived separately, they left the function together.
The duo moved into Clarence House in August 2003.
Charles and Camilla announced their engagement in February 2005. They married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall in April 2005. The queen and Prince Philip did not attend the nuptials, but they came to a reception at Windsor Castle. Upon the union, Camilla became the Duchess of Cornwall rather than the Princess of Wales, a title that will always belong to Diana.
Charles caused backlash in 2010 after he suggested in an interview that Camilla “could be” named queen when he becomes king. However, the palace indicated that the duchess will become Princess Consort when the time comes.
Camilla and William were appointed to the queen’s Privy Council in June 2016, placing them in a group of the monarch’s most senior advisors. Royal watchers assumed the queen wanted Charles’ wife and his heir to be present when he is named king.