The real reason Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced

The marriage of Prince Charles and the late Diana of Wales was no fairy tale. Among allegations of abuse, mutual infidelity, and pressure from the royals, this is why these two found it impossible to live happily ever after.

They weren't necessarily in love

Charles and Diana's lack of chemistry seemed especially evident when discussing their engagement in a 1981 interview. They look physically uncomfortable together, but it doesn't end there.

When asked why she elected to marry Charles, Diana says "I had a long time to think about it, because I knew the pressure was on both of us. And, um…it wasn't a difficult decision in the end. It's what I wanted." She quickly corrects herself, saying, "It's what I want." 

When asked if they're in love, Diana immediately replies, "Of course!" 

Charles' reply, however, would go down in infamy: "Whatever love means," he says. Ouch!

She suffered from postpartum depression

Diana revealed in a Panorama interview in 1995 that she suffered from postpartum depression during her marriage to Prince Charles.

"I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses…you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time," she said. "You'd wake up in the morning feeling you didn't want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself." She added, "It gave everybody a wonderful new label—'Diana's unstable and Diana's mentally unbalanced.' And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years."

Diana revealed that her depression led her to self-mutilate, cutting her arms and legs. "You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it's the wrong help you're asking for," she said. "People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you're in the media all the time you've got enough attention…But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales."

Charles may have triggered her bulimia

Diana confessed to Panorama that she suffered from bulimia throughout her marriage to Prince Charles.

She said the pressures of her job were factors in her illness. "If I'd been on what I call an awayday, or I'd been up part of the country all day, I'd come home feeling pretty empty, because my engagements at that time would be to do with people dying, people very sick, people's marriage problems, and I'd come home and it would be very difficult to know how to comfort myself having been comforting lots of other people," she said. "So it would be a regular pattern to jump into the fridge."

Work wasn't the only trigger. "It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage," she said. "I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem…"

Diana's biographer, Andrew Morton, told People, "I think she slimmed before the wedding as a result of nerves, and then the whole thing was triggered during her honeymoon, when her husband put his arms round her and said, 'You are a bit chubby, darling.'"

Charles cheated on her

In Diana's 1995 Panorama interview, she was asked if Charles' former flame (and now wife) Camilla Parker-Bowles was a factor in their divorce. Diana replied, "Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

In a 1994 interview of his own, Charles was asked if he was faithful to Diana. "Yes," he replied (via The New York Times). Then after a slight pause he added, "Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." Charles admitted that he and Parker-Bowles' affair began in 1986.

One of the most damaging royal scandals emerged when an illegally obtained phone recording between Charles and Parker-Bowles contained really explicit (and gross) content that we're too polite to print here…but that you can read here.

Diana cheated on him

Charles may have had an affair with Parker-Bowles during the marriage, but Diana reportedly had her own side-pieces, too.

In her 1995 Panorama interview, she admitted to being unfaithful to Charles with their sons' riding instructor, James Hewitt, around 1989. "Yes, I adored him," she said of Hewitt. "Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down [by the affair]." Hewitt was even rumored to be Prince Harry's father, but that theory becomes a bit bogus when you realize Hewitt didn't even meet Diana until 1986—two years after the ginger prince was born.

Hewitt wasn't the only rumored lover Diana had during her marriage. She was also alleged to have hooked up with her bodyguard, Barry Mannakee. According to The Independent, Diana reportedly said she was "deeply in love" with Mannakee, who was removed from his post for being "overfamiliar" with the People's Princess. Mannakee was killed in a car accident in 1987.

Diana was also rumored to have had dalliances with car salesman James Gilbey and art dealer Oliver Hoare during her marriage to Prince Charles.

They had nothing in common

In Sally Bedell Smith's book Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life (via People and the Daily Mail), sources claim Charles and those close to him were concerned about the 12-year age gap he shared with Princess Diana. When they wed, he was 32 to her 20. 

Prince Philip, Charles' father, reportedly wrote him a letter urging him to marry Diana to protect her reputation. Charles' cousin, Pamela Hicks, reportedly read the letter and told Smith (via News 12), "It was measured and sensitive, [but Charles] wasn't in love, he wasn't ready. He saw it as a ghastly threat. Psychologically he assumed his father bullied him, so he read it as a bullying letter."

Insiders told Smith that Charles and Diana didn't have any shared interests or hobbies, or even the same sense of humor. 

The media pressure was too much

Diana was subject to media scrutiny throughout the relationship. She told Panorama in 1995, "The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn't; and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn't; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop. And I was very aware of that," she said.

"We were a newly-married couple, so obviously we had those pressures too, and we had the media, who were completely fascinated by everything we did." She continued, "And it was difficult to share that load, because I was the one who was always pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything…when actually what we wanted to be, what we wanted supported was our work, and as a team…"

Charles wanted a daughter

For all the previous royals' obsessions with having male heirs, Prince Charles was said to be devastated that his and Diana's second child was a boy.

In audio tapes obtained by biographer Morton that were included in the re-release of Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words (via Marie Claire), Diana said, "Charles and I were very, very close to each other the six weeks before Harry was born, the closest we've ever, ever been and ever will be. Then, suddenly, as Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage. The whole thing went down the drain…He wanted two children and he wanted a girl." Diana added that when he saw Harry, Charles said, "'Oh God, it's a boy, and he's even got red hair.'" If Prince Harry ever develops daddy issues, refer to this story.

She may have been abusive

In Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life (via the Daily Mail), sources claim Diana physically assaulted Charles while he knelt to say his daily prayers, beating him over the head. She also allegedly banished his friends from their inner circle, made fun of his required royal garb, and even made him get rid of his beloved dog, Harvey.

The queen demanded it

Long live the queen: In December 1995, Queen Elizabeth demanded, in separate letters to Charles and Diana, that the pair divorce, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"After considering the present situation, the queen wrote to both the prince and princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh [the queen's husband, Prince Philip], that an early divorce is desirable," a palace statement said. "[Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip] will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period."

Diana was more down to Earth than Charles

Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, suggested that Diana was much more connected to normal people than the rest of the royal family, as evidenced by her headline-making handshake with an AIDS patient in 1987. (At the time, the general public was still wary about physical contact with AIDS patients.)

"She was not really a gloves person," Spencer told People. "She was very real and very about human contact, and what really mattered that day was to get across a very clear message that, 'I'm going to touch this gentleman—and you can all exist in a community with people who are suffering, and we must help.'… She could make any person, whether they were the grandest or the most humble, totally at ease. It's an incredible gift."

A hospital manager who'd worked with the late princess concurred, telling the magazine, "She'd ring up and say, 'I'll be along this evening, no cameras, it's a private visit.' She'd just come in jeans, jacket, baseball cap or from a dinner or a gala in all her finery and have a cup of tea to see the patients."

She used the media to her advantage

For all of Diana's complaints about the media, she used it to develop sympathy in the final days of her marriage to Charles and in its aftermath. It was revealed that Diana herself, through close confidante James Colthurst, was the main source of Andrew Morton's infamous biography, Diana: Her True Story

The book was essentially the public's first taste of Diana's personal troubles, including her bulimia and past suicide attempts, and it made her a sympathetic character to the world. Combined with her legendary Panorama interview, her public image "rocked the royal family."

Charles Spencer told People that Diana's methods were deliberate, but not malicious, and were mostly an effort to preempt any bad press to protect herself, her reputation, and her access to her sons. "When you look at why she did these things, you have to look at the circumstances. Whether she was right or wrong in these decisions, she felt really in a tight spot."

She was better at handling the press than Charles

On an official visit to India with Diana in 1992, Charles talked to the press about marriage, saying (via People), "I've got to get it right the first time, or you'll be the first to criticize me." He wasn't wrong.

Public rumblings of trouble began when Charles refused to visit the Taj Mahal with Diana, a snub that the princess' former bodyguard said "genuinely upset her." Ken Wharfe wrote in his book Guarding Diana: Protecting the Princess Around the World (via the Mirror) that Diana deliberately released the now-infamous photo of herself looking forlorn and alone in front of the palace. "The Princess had privately decided to drive home the point," Warfe claimed, adding that she later purposely and publicly snubbed Charles when he went in for a kiss in full view of cameras at a polo presentation in Jaipur during the same trip.

Warfe said that when he asked Diana why she "intentionally humiliated" her husband, she mentioned the grotesque phone sex recordings that had leaked between Charles and Parker-Bowles. "Ken, I am not about to pander to him," he recounted her saying. "Why the bloody hell should I? If he wants to make a fool out of me with that woman, he deserves it."

Charles may have been jealous of the attention she received

In Diana: In Her Own Words (via Us Weekly), she claimed Charles was envious that her star power eclipsed his. It was a dynamic they both struggled to get used to.

"On the outside, people were saying I was giving my husband a hard time. I was acting like a spoiled child. But I knew that I just needed rest and patience and time to adapt to all of the roles that were required of me overnight. By then, there was immense jealousy, because every single day I was on the front of the newspapers."

Their courtship was 'odd'

In The Diana Tapes, a series of recordings between 1992 and 1993, Diana revealed that she and Charles met only 13 times before getting married.

In one recording (via The Sun), she described her first meeting with Charles. "I remember meeting him and feeling desperately sorry for him… I thought, you know, 'Poor old thing,' but I wasn't impressed with anything around him," she said. "It was the fact that an older man who was in a prominent position liked me and wanted to have me around."

She reportedly didn't see him again for three years, and when she did, it was at a funeral. "He leapt upon [me], he started kissing me and everything, and I thought, 'Ahh, you know, this is not what people do,'" she recalled. "He was all over me for the rest of the evening, followed me around, everything. A puppy. And, yeah, I was flattered, but it was very puzzling… He wasn't consistent with his courting abilities. He'd ring me up every day for a week and then he wouldn't speak to me for three weeks, very odd. And I'd accepted that and I thought, 'Fine, he knows where I am if he wants me.' And then the thrill when he used to ring up was so immense and intense, [it would] drive the other three girls in my flat crazy. But no, it was all—it was odd."

Other royals encouraged him to cheat

In The Diana Tapes (via The Sun), Diana claimed that Prince Philip gave Charles carte blanche to cheat on her with Parker-Bowles.

"My father-in-law said to my husband, 'Uh, if your marriage doesn't work out, you can always go back to her after five years,'" Diana recalled, "which is exactly, I mean for real I know that it happened after five, I knew something was happening before that."

She added that Charles' affections for and with Parker-Bowles negatively impacted their own sex life. "Well, there was [sex]. There was. There was. But it was odd, very odd," she said. "But it was there then it fizzled out about seven years ago… Instinct told me [he was cheating]… [We'd be intimate] sort of once every three weeks… And then I followed a pattern, he used to see his lady once every three weeks before we got married."

She noted, "I remember saying to my husband, you know, 'Why, why is this lady around?' and he said, 'Well I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.'"