What Was Prince Charles’ Upbringing Like?
While Charles was the heir apparent, he was not given any preferential treatment. He was the first heir to go to school instead of being privately tutored. His early education began at Cheam Preparatory School and Gourdonstone, where his father had studied as a child. While he said Gourdonstone was a strict place, he also praised the school for teaching him “a great deal about myself and my own abilities and disabilities. It taught me to accept challenges and take the initiative."
Charles earned a 2:2 Bachelor of Arts from Cambridge, and he was the first heir apparent to do so. His upbringing overturned old royal traditions for the better, as they brought him closer to the public and opened up the monarchy to social changes.
When he was younger, he had plenty of flings and girlfriends, probably because of his great-uncle’s advice. Lord Mountbatten allegedly told him, “In a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down, but for a wife, he should choose a suitable, attractive, and sweet-charactered girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for.” It sounds like he took his uncle’s advice a little too well!
Camilla Shand, The Woman Who Would Become Duchess Of Cornwall
Camilla Rosemary Shand is the eldest child of Major Bruce Shand and Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe. In a twist of fate, Camilla’s maternal great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was a mistress of King Edward VII. She is distantly related to Prince Charles through various 17th-century ancestors.
Camilla eventually went to a Swiss finishing school and debuted in London in 1965. While she wasn’t royalty, she was well-educated and had a very comfortable life. She was known as an avid equestrienne and a determined painter, though much of her work “ended up in the bin”.
A Complete Timeline Of Camilla And Charles’ Relationship
1970-1973: Early Dating
The Prince actually met Camilla at a polo match before either of them got married. While the two were very attracted to each other and started dating, Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, so they had to break up. Camilla later met Andrew Parker-Bowles, a British Army Officer, and they soon got engaged.
Andrew and Camilla’s on-and-off relationship before their marriage in 1973 was a sign that things weren’t going to work out. Andrew ended up dating Princess Anne, Prince Charles’ sister, soon after the ceremony. For Camilla Parker-Bowles and her husband, even though they had the “society wedding of the year”, their union was effectively over.
1977: Charles Meets The Future Princess Diana
Lady Diana Spencer was only 16 when she met Prince Charles, who was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah, at the time. Charles seems to have been smitten right away, as he later broke up with Sarah to date Diana in 1980! The sisters remained close despite the twist of events, and Lady Sarah even wryly commented that she played Cupid for the couple.
1981: Charles Proposes To Diana
Prince Charles formally proposed to Diana on February 6, 1981. On July 26th, Charles and Diana’s wedding was a fairytale affair held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. One slight hitch? Despite Diana’s insistence that Camilla should not be invited, she was a guest at their wedding. This was a sign that Prince Charles still remained fond of her long after splitting up.
1982-1986: The Two Princes Are Born, But The Marriage Is Rocky
Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William on June 21, 1982, and later to Prince Harry on September 15, 1984. While they had the picture-perfect family, there were frequent rows and regrets expressed by both Charles and Diana about their marriage. Their age difference of nearly 13 years didn’t help, and he ended up resuming his former relationship with Camilla.
Diana allegedly confronted Camilla about the affair early on, saying, "Camilla, I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on between you and Charles. I wasn't born yesterday." This did not stop Charles and Camilla from seeing each other, however.
1992: A Shocking Scandal
To the horror of the royal family, the press managed to get hold of tapes of intimate conversations between the Prince and Camilla. Dubbed ‘Camillagate’, the tapes confirmed that the Prince was having an affair. Not long after this event, Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced their separation.
1994: Admitting His Infidelity
Charles surprisingly goes on national television to admit to the affair, where he named Camilla Parker-Bowles as his mistress. He insisted, however, that he had done everything he could to save the marriage before he strayed. This did not help public opinion, which sympathised with the beautiful Princess of Wales and mocked Camilla as a man-eater.
1995: Camilla Is Single, But The Controversy Rages On
Camilla and Andrew Parker-Bowles get divorced. This is unsurprising given that they had actually been living apart for two years. Princess Diana is interviewed by the BBC, where she admits that she had an affair with James Hewitt, her former riding instructor. She also opened up about the state of her marriage, where she candidly stated, "There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."
1997: A Horrific Accident
Diana began dating Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Harrods owner and billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, in July 1997. One month later, the star-crossed couple died in a horrible car accident in Paris. As the whole world mourns for the departed Princess of Wales, Camilla keeps a respectfully low profile.
1998-2000: Gradually Becoming Public
Prince Charles introduced Camilla to his two sons a year after Diana’s death, and they made their first public appearance as a couple in 1995, at Camilla’s sister’s birthday party. In 2000, the Queen and Camilla attend the same event. This was a sign that she was starting to approve of her relationship with the Prince.
2003-2005: A Second Chance At Love
In 2003, Camilla moves into Clarence House, Prince Charles’ residence. They announce their engagement in February 2005. Despite divided public opinion about their relationship, the couple got married in a quiet ceremony on April 9, 2005.
Because of their marriage, Camilla is the Princess of Wales, but she chooses not to use this title out of respect for Diana’s memory. She is officially referred to as ‘Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’ in public, one of the many titles she received as Prince Charles’ wife.
2007-Present Day: Camilla Becomes A Respected Member Of The Royal Family
While Diana Spencer will always be the People’s Princess, Camilla gradually wins some public approval with her dedication to Charles and the Royal Family. Prince Charles was famously asked in a 2010 NBC interview, "Does the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen of England, if and when you become the monarch?" While technically she would be his queen, according to the couple’s official royal website, the title she would hold is Princess Consort.
In 2012, the Queen publicly expressed approval of Camilla by giving her a royal honour, as Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Later in 2015, Charles and Camilla celebrated ten years of marriage.
A Stable Family Life: The Future Looks Bright For These Long-Term Lovers!
Despite the challenges they faced and their shaky beginning, 73-year-old Camilla and 72-year-old Charles are still going strong and in a loving, happy relationship. Marrying into the Royal Family is never an easy feat, but with Charles’ children accepting their union and Camilla’s improved public perception, we think this one is going to last.
No matter what happened in between, it’s hard to fight a love that has lasted more than four decades, and it seems like maybe the Prince and the Duchess can finally have their much-deserved, hard-won happy ending after all. We wish them the best!