Inside Princess Anne's Relationship With Camilla Parker-Bowles

The British royal family is large. There are members who are long-lived, and younger ones who keep adding new layers to the mix. Meghan Markle and Princess Beatrice are both pregnant, and Princess Eugenie and Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Tindall, welcomed baby boys in February and March, respectively, as Hello! magazine noted. With many new faces, and older ones still in the public eye, it is easy to lose track of the complex links that have developed between them over the years. 

While the spotlight has definitely been on Prince Harry and Meghan for the past few years, recent events like Prince Philip's death on April 9, and the hit Netflix series "The Crown" have also brought renewed attention to the relationship between some of the older members of The Firm. The aforementioned Netflix show, of course, digs deep into the love triangle between Princess Diana, Charles, and his current wife, Camilla Parker Bowles; a relationship that continues to attract attention to this day, as shown by the recent apology issued by the BBC regarding the ever-famous sit-down between its then-journalist Martin Bashir and Lady Di. 

But "The Crown" has also drawn curiosity to the relationship between Princess Anne and the Duchess of Cornwall, who have known each other since way before they were sisters-in-law. Theirs is also an association that reportedly involved a love triangle — or a love quadrangle if you will. Keep reading to learn more.

Princess Anne dated Camilla Parker Bowler's ex-husband in the 1970s

In June 1970, Princess Anne, then 19, went on a date with a charming British Army officer, Andrew Parker Bowles. If that last name raises eyebrows, it is because he later married Camilla Shand, who took his last name and became forever known as Camilla Parker Bowles. According to Sally Bedell Smith, the author of "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life" (via Town & Country), Parker Bowles and Camilla met in the late 1960s, a few years before he and Anne went on their first date, and dated on and off, meaning there could have been a love triangle going on at this time. 

However, the relationship didn't appear to have been all that serious. In Season 3, Episode 9 of the "The Crown," Princess Anne, played by Erin Doherty, told her family that she and Andrew were only after "a bit of fun," as the Los Angeles Times detailed. The public has no way of knowing whether the interaction between young Anne and a mortified queen actually happened, but Bedell Smith confirmed the couple was never in it for the long haul, she told Elle. That's mainly because Andrew was Catholic, which made him an unlikely suitor for Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter, Bedell Smith explained. While they were brought together by their love of horses, the two never considered entering into a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, according to the outlet.

The royal siblings's relationship with Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles didn't overlap

It's hard to pin down when Princess Anne and Andrew Parker Bowles broke up. "It's unclear when their romance wound down, but Anne had no shortage of young men interested in her,"  biographer Sally Bedell Smith told Elle. But it happened before 1973, when Andrew and Camilla became engaged. According to Bedell Smith (via Town & Country), Andrew — in his 30s at the time — was under mounting pressure "to make a commitment." At that point, he and Camilla had been in an on-again, off-again relationship for several years, as Town & Country detailed. "His hand publicly forced, Andrew proposed to his girlfriend of nearly seven years," Bedell Smith wrote in "Prince Charles," per Elle.

But before marrying Andrew on July 4, 1973, Camilla dated Prince Charles. There is great divergence regarding how Camilla and Charles met, but Bedell Smith contends the pair were introduced by a mutual friend in mid-1972. "Charles and Camilla's first meeting was over drinks at Lucia Santa Cruz's flat in London, where she and Camilla were neighbors," she told Elle. 

Andrew was away on army duty when Camilla and Charles are said to have developed a relationship, according to the biographer. Then Charles left for army service and when he returned, Camilla was engaged to Andrew. So the royal siblings didn't actually date Mr. and Mrs. Parker Bowles concomitantly, as "The Crown" suggests, Bedell Smith told Vanity Fair. But others disagree ...

Royal biographer claims Camilla Parker Bowles dated Prince Charles to get revenge

Camilla Parker Bowles had been linked romantically to Andrew Parker Bowles before he started seeing Princess Anne, and he reportedly broke up with her to court the princess, and other women as well, as biographer Penny Junor told The London Times. But Camilla was head over heels for Andrew and had always been, she told The Times. 

When Camilla met Charles in the early 1970s and he became instantly interested in her, she saw an opportunity to get back at Andrew and Anne at the same time, according to Junor. "She was passionately in love with [Andrew] but he was a cad, he was bonking other people, some of her friends ... So when she was introduced to Charles and he thought she was pretty special... she thought 'Andrew is at the moment off with Princess Anne, you know her brother, teach Andrew a lesson.' So she had a fling with Charles," Junor said.

While Camilla might have wanted to send a message to both, she was more interested in getting Andrew's attention than in hurting Princess Anne. After all, Anne had shown she wasn't taking her fling with Andrew all that seriously, as Prince Charles's biographer Sally Bedell Smith told Elle. Anne announced her engagement to Mark Phillips around the same time Camilla and Andrew announced theirs in early 1973 and got married just a few months after the Parker Bowleses, as Harper's Bazaar outlined.

Both Princess Anne and Camilla Parker Bowles are friends with Andrew

While the love triangle, probably quadrangle, was most likely a sticky matter for the British royal family, it appears to have had a smooth ending — part of it anyway. The relationship between Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles to another love triangle that opened one of the darkest chapters in the family's recent history, symbolized by his ugly divorce from Princess Diana and her tragic subsequent death, as we all know. But the relationship between the other members involved in the early affair proved much more amiable. 

After their short-lived fling, Anne and Andrew developed a lifelong friend that is still going strong, Prince Charles's biographer Sally Badell Smith told Elle. In fact, Anne asked Andrew to be the godfather to her second child, Zara Phillips, now Tindall, per the publication. The two are often seen striking up conversations at events, many times accompanied by his goddaughter (as pictured here), suggesting most of the drama surrounding the love triangle stemmed only from Camilla and Charles's romance.

Camilla and Andrew, who have two children and five grandchildren together, also remained friends after divorcing in 1995, a year before Charles and Diana's divorce was finalized, according to Oprah Daily. In fact, Andrew and his second wife, Rosemary Pitman, were among the guess at Camila and Charles's civil wedding on April 9, 2005, as Elle detailed. And when Pitman died from cancer in 2010, Camilla attended her funeral, according to Marie Claire

There appears to be no bad blood

Many insiders and royal family experts have contended that Princess Anne and Camilla Parker Bowles still hold a grudge over the events of early 1970s involving Andrew Parker Bowles. "They act like things are OK in public, but it's known that the two women can't abide each other. It got worse when their romantic history was brought back up on 'The Crown,'" as New Idea reported in 2020, citing an unnamed insider. According to this insider, Anne is the one who has a beef with Camilla. "Anne also rarely gets any alone time with her brother either, because Camilla always intrudes. But Camilla wishes Anne would give her a chance and let go of the past," the website reported.

However, body language expert Judi James told the Express that they show no tension around each other and are often seen engaging in lively conversation in social situations. "Given their past histories, with Anne having dated Camilla's ex-husband, the relationship between Anne and Camilla might have been difficult. But in fact the two women seem very tolerant of one another to the point of often looking like old friends," James said. 

To make her case, James analyzed the 2019 Royal Family Christmas Day church service in which both royals coincidentally showed up wearing striking purple outfits. "Camilla pointed this out with a fun, elbowing gesture aimed at Anne and the two women laughed together," she noted.