The Shady Side Of Prince Charles

Just like he seemed to know everything else, literary genius William Shakespeare knew that royal life wasn't all it was cracked up to be. In Henry IV, Shakespeare sagely mused, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Or in Prince Charles' case, a more accurate quote for 2021 might be "Uneasy lies the head that will wear the crown someday but in the meantime has been living with a crushing, 'inexorable' sense of expectation and responsibility for 72 years." 

The Prince of Wales' burden of impending kingship is further complicated by the fact that he isn't quite as beloved as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Perhaps that's putting it mildly. In 2017, The New Yorker wrote that Charles is "a deeply unpopular man," adding, "Writers in both the conservative and the liberal press regularly refer to him as 'a prat,' 'a twit,' and 'an idiot,' with no apparent fear of giving offense to their readership." Ouch.

Is Charles deserving of such criticism or has he been punished unfairly by a biased public and media? Without knowing the prince personally, making such a judgement about his character seems wholly unfair (as is making fun of his ears. Seriously people — give the guy a break with the ear shaming). The future king most likely has plenty of admirable qualities, but like the rest of us humans, is far from perfect. Keep reading as we break down the shady side of Prince Charles.

Did Prince Charles let a sexist tradition get in the way?

While they weren't exactly Romeo and Juliet, Prince Charles and now-wife Camilla Parker Bowles could be called once star-crossed lovers. When the two met in the early 1970s, Camilla allegedly told Charles (per People), "My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather [King Edward VII]. I feel we have something in common." Following in their ancestors' footsteps, they began a relationship.

Unfortunately, a happily-ever-after wasn't in the cards just yet. It was widely reported that Camilla was still hung up on her ex, Andrew Parker Bowles. And while Charles was reportedly "smitten" with Camilla, he was young and perhaps not yet in a rush to get married. But if you snooze, you lose, and while the prince was deployed for several months with the Royal Navy, Camilla got back together with Andrew and married him.

In Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, author Robert Lacey wrote that before his deployment, Charles "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" (via Marie Claire). One possible reason for his hesitation? Camilla's "commoner" blood and reputation for partying. Oh yeah, and she apparently wasn't "virginal" enough for the future king, per USA Today. Numerous royal biographers maintain that Charles broke things off with Camilla because he knew that his family would never approve.

Prince Charles dated Princess Diana's older sister first

Sometimes "keeping it all in the family" really is an accurate saying when it comes to the romantic lives of royals. A Time article from 1981 declared that Prince Charles was "[Diana's] 16th cousin once removed." While this slightly icky tidbit is impossible to verify, we do know for certain that before he married Diana Spencer, the Prince of Wales dated her older sister. Yep.

Lady Sarah Spencer (pictured above) was the eldest of the four Spencer children and six years older than her sister Diana. She and Charles dated for a short time, but things ended after Sarah was quoted in a 1978 Time profile of Charles, saying, "There is no chance of my marrying him [Charles]. I'm not in love with him." In their televised engagement interview, Diana said the two first met when Charles came to the Spencer house as a "friend" of her sisters in 1977. 

Most people would be less than thrilled with their little sister marrying one of their exes (as if family holidays aren't awkward enough). No one knows for sure how Sarah actually felt about the couple or if it affected her relationship with Diana. Nevertheless, she did brag to The Guardian, "I introduced them. I'm Cupid," so perhaps she was oddly chill about the fact that her ex-boyfriend was about to become her brother-in-law.

Did Prince Charles admit that he didn't love Princess Diana?

The 32-year-old prince began dating 19-year-old Diana Spencer in 1980 and after only six short months, the pair was engaged. Unlike Camilla Parker Bowles, Diana was considered to be "suitable" wife material for the future king. The Spencers were a respected, aristocratic family, and Diana had no past dating history. And yet, the two were essentially still acquaintances when the prince popped the question in 1981. In the documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words, the Princess of Wales admitted, "We met 13 times and we got married."

During a time of record unemployment and civil unrest, Great Britain was, as the Diana: In Her Own Words doc put it, "ready for a fairy tale." The public couldn't get enough of the newly engaged couple and eagerly followed their every move. So when Prince Charles and Diana filmed an engagement interview, thousands of Brits tuned in to hear what the future king and queen had to say.

During the interview, both Charles and Diana were complimentary of each other, but things took a cringeworthy turn when the interviewer asked if the couple was "in love." The future princess promptly responded "of course" but her beau answered, "Whatever 'in love' means." Yikes. Diana later admitted that his answer had "traumatized" her. Decades after the seemingly heartless remark, biographer Sally Bedell Smith defended the prince and told People, "[He] often ruminated philosophically about the meaning of life and big subjects, and his answer should be taken in that light.

Prince Charles allegedly didn't want to wed Princess Diana

The Duke of Cornwall apparently never stopped loving Camilla Parker Bowles, but there were other issues between Prince Charles and Princess Diana that cropped up before the couple said "I do." As previously mentioned, the two hardly knew one another and one royal biographer claims to know why the prince rushed into an engagement. In Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, Sally Bedell Smith wrote that Charles felt pressured by his family and a sense of duty to propose despite the couple's age and personality differences.

Another royal biographer who spent years speaking with members of the prince's inner circle (and with Charles himself), has alleged that Charles quickly realized that the engagement was a mistake. In Charles at Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes & Dreams, Robert Jobson wrote, "Charles was deeply unsure of Diana's suitability as his wife at the time and after a few meetings believed they were totally incompatible."

Despite "desperately" wanting to call off the wedding, Charles didn't want to ruin Diana's reputation and felt responsible for the media frenzy that had engulfed the young nanny (according to Jobson). And of course the prince was also concerned for his own reputation and what his family would say. The royal biographer wrote that Charles later told a friend, "To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic. Hence I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea."

The curious timing of this gift to Camilla Parker Bowles

In the months leading up to the royal wedding, Diana Spencer was well aware of her fiancé's still-burning passion for Camilla Parker Bowles. The Princess of Wales confided in biographer Andrew Morton that she had discovered a custom made piece of jewelry in the office of Prince Charles' personal secretary. As noted by Esquire, "She found a gold bracelet ... with a lapis pendant engraved with the letters F and G, which were said to stand for Fred and Gladys, Charles and Camilla's pet names for each other."

Justifiably "devastated" and enraged, Diana confronted an unrepentant Charles. According to the outlet, the princess also told Morton that her then-fiancé "insisted on hand delivering the sentimental present to Camilla just two days before his July 1981 wedding." While there are two sides to every story, we can't fathom how anyone could defend that super shady move.

Incredibly, Charles apparently callously hurt his new bride with monogrammed jewelry again on their honeymoon. In a taped recording for Morton's book, Diana claimed that after she found two pictures of Camilla in Charles' diary, she noticed the cufflinks he was wearing: "Two C's entwined like the Chanel 'C'... So I said 'Camilla gave you those didn't she?' He said 'Yes, so what's wrong? They're a present from a friend." Uh huh.

Was the Prince of Wales ever faithful to Princess Diana?

No one in the public knows if Prince Charles ever stopped seeing Camilla Parker Bowles romantically, but the prince himself insisted in a 1994 interview with Jonathan Dimbleby that he was completely faithful to Princess Diana until the marriage had become "irretrievably broken down." But Diana's statement to BBC journalist Martin Bashir in 1995 suggested that perhaps Charles' relationship with Camilla was an issue from the start. When Bashir asked the Princess of Wales if Camilla was a "factor in the breakdown of your marriage" Diana famously responded, "Well there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Various media outlets, including People, have reported that Charles and Camilla officially rekindled their love affair in 1986. In Diana: In Her Own Words, the Princess of Wales discussed how she finally confronted Camilla about the affair. Diana pulled Camilla aside one day in 1989 and said, "I know what's going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that." 

Diana went on to say that Camilla didn't deny her accusation but instead told the princess, "You've got everything you ever wanted ... what more do you want?" Diana's reply was heartbreaking: "I want my husband." She then added, "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.'"

Princess Diana said that Prince Charles' remarks 'triggered' her bulimia

The Princess of Wales famously struggled with bulimia during her tumultuous marriage. During her 1995 BBC interview, Princess Diana told Martin Bashir, "You inflict it upon yourself because ... you don't think you're worthy or valuable. It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help."

When Andrew Morton's Diana: Her True Story was first published, readers learned that Diana's bulimia actually began before she walked down the aisle. The princess was already feeling overwhelmed and increasingly stressed when an insensitive comment from Charles pushed her towards self-destruction. Diana revealed, "The bulimia started the week after we got engaged. My husband put his hand on my waistline and said something like, 'Oh, a bit chubby here, aren't we?' And that triggered off something in me."

Charles has never publicly commented on Diana's accusation, and after Morton's book and the BBC interview, many in the public sphere viewed Charles as cold and lacking empathy. But biographer Sally Bedell Smith wrote in Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, "Charles was sympathetic ... He did try to find psychiatrists for her at the beginning."

Was Prince Charles jealous of Princess Diana's popularity?

When Prince Charles and Princess Diana married, the latter was undoubtedly the more popular royal. The prince was seen as "goonish" and out-of-touch while Diana appeared glamorous, warm, and down-to-earth. When the couple traveled to Australia and New Zealand for their "first official tour" in 1983, Diana outshined her husband and won thousands of new adoring fans.

In Diana: In Her Own Words, the Princess of Wales related how the comments from fans in the crowd affected the prince. Diana claimed that people said, "We want to see her, we don't want to see him," adding, "And, obviously, he wasn't used to that ... He took it out on me. He was jealous." Charles was obviously aware of the crowd's preference for his wife and attempted a self-deprecating joke at a banquet in New Zealand. The prince stated, "I've come to the conclusion that really, it would have been far easier to have had two wives to have covered both sides of the street. And I could have walked down the middle, directing the operation."

Later in the documentary, Diana stated that Charles' jealousy never abated after their first royal tour: "There was immense jealousy 'cause every single day I was on the front of the newspapers." While this could all very well be true, in fairness, it is impossible to know that Charles was truly thinking or feeling at the time.

Prince Charles' reputation took a hit after Camillagate

A few months after the prince's separation from Princess Diana was announced in 1993, a secretly taped phone conversation was released. The six-minute call from the year 1989 featured Prince Charles speaking intimately with Camilla Parker Bowles, who was also still married at the time. The illicit lovers used the pet name "darling" repeatedly and spoke about how much they missed one another. The tape gave the Princess of Wales even more public sympathy, as the Los Angeles Times noted, "Some editorialists said the tape indicated that Charles had been cheating on Diana throughout their 11-year marriage."

While evidence of a long-standing affair was plenty damaging, "Camillagate" injured the prince's reputation for another sordid reason. Camilla and Charles made vulgar, sexual jokes with one another that left the public shocked (you can read the not-safe-for-work-or-around-your-kids conversation over on the Mirror). Diana's former bodyguard Ken Wharfe wrote in his book Guarding Diana: Protecting The Princess Around The World, "The backlash was savage. Establishment figures normally loyal to the future King and country were appalled, and some questioned the Prince's suitability to rule."

The Prince of Wales stopped answering Prince Harry's calls

In the most talked about interview of 2021, Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle dropped bombshell after bombshell about the royal family to Oprah Winfrey. While the couple spoke warmly of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles didn't fare as well. Harry spilled the first drops of metaphorical tea when he hinted that his father was jealous of Meghan. As HuffPost noted in a recap of the chat, Harry told Winfrey that Meghan's success and popularity in her first official tour "brought back memories." When Winfrey asked if he was referring to "jealousy" Harry responded, "I just wish that we would all learn from the past."

Things then went from bad to worse between father and son. Harry revealed that "while negotiating their step back from senior royal roles," Prince Charles stopped taking his phone calls for a time. He told Winfrey, "There's a lot to work through there. I feel really let down because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like." Even so, Harry did say that he will "always love" his father. A source told Vanity Fair that Charles opted not to watch the interview but is apparently "at a loss" about the airing of grievances.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorder Association's Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or chat with one of their helpline volunteers on NEDA's website.