After years of Diana’s death, Charles, Prince of Wales was left with the unbearabable legacy of hate of the British and international public. His son’s, Harry’s, Dutch of Sussex, revelations about the Royal Family’s neglectful attitude towards his and his wife’s Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, mental health along with allegations of racism, and the launch of the Netflix series The Crown had revived the memories of public about Charles’ almost forgotten failed marriage with Diana. Almost all media unanimously support Princes Diana and blame Charles for everything. But how fair are these statements?
Most of the people who are quick to judge Charles for his actions mostly focus on the privileges of his royal status rather than the pressure and responsibilities that come with that. From the moment you first open your eyes till your deathbed, you are followed by the countless servants, bodyguards, and intelligence officers. Your life and schedule are regulated an enormous amount of effort and of your childhood and adolescent time is devoured by the duties, which involve restraining yourself and always upholding a positive image. With the collapse of the British Empire and the development of the press and technologies, the presence of media in the lives of Royals became omnipresent and their attitude more relaxed and critical.
Charles’s introverted nature, his love towards nature, sciences, and hunting along with his clumsiness had not gained him much popularity among the press unlike his wife, Princess Diana who had contrasted him with her love for attention, warm and welcoming nature, laugh, and colourful style. Writers in both the conservative and the liberal press regularly mentioned him as ‘a prat’,’a twit’, and ‘an idiot’ with no apparent explanation, while Diana gained a title of ‘Queen of Hearts’ which no one could take after her.
Charles had the intention of marrying his sweetheart Camilla Shand, but later got in a love triangle with her on and off boyfriend Andrew Parker Bowles, or if speaking quite honestly, love square since his sister Princess Ann had a short affair with Andrew. According to a legend, Camilla had initiated conversation at a polo match in 1970 with Charles herself by saying ‘Do you know that my great-grandmother Alice Keppel had had an affair with your great-great-grandfather? Should we try this too?’. Camilla referred to the actual historical fact: her great-grandmother Alice Keppel was indeed a mistress with Charles’ great-great-grandfather Edward VII’s mistress.
They dated before he left to serve in the Royal Navy, but when he returned home, she was engaged to Parker Bowles. Camilla got married to 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.
The reason Charles desire to marry Camilla was not met with much enthusiasm for two main reasons. First, Camilla was considered a commoner in eyes of the monarchy. Her father was a baron but the family looked for a bride with the highest pedigree possible. Secondly, Camilla has openly been in numerous affairs and never attempted to hide it which was problematic since the royal bride must at least appear virginal to the public.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince’s great-uncle, and mentor, had advised him that finding a virginal bride was a primary goal for heir of the throne. Mountbatten wrote a letter to a 25-year-old Charles in 1974 that said, in part: ‘I think it is disturbing for women to have experienced if they have to remain on a pedestal after marriage’. In fact, Mountbatten had also advised Charles to enjoy his bachelorhood as possible before settling with one woman instead of a continuing relationship with Camilla.
As a first child, Charles was pressured to get married since he had already passed the age of 30. He got married to 19-year old Diana Spencer, daughter of Earl, only after six weeks of knowing her which is extremely short for a responsible thing like marriage.
Although we cannot know everything that happened behind closed doors, numerous biographers including Andrew Morton claimed that these two were too different to be a proper couple. Diana had hardly tolerated country life that Charles gravitated towards with great boredom. They shared little interest in common since Diana also did not like hunting and reading or sciences. Diana despised the intellectual life that Charles tried to make his wife get interested in. Diana only loved to read romantic fiction. Her favourite author was Barbara Cartland.
In 1993, Barbara Cartland commented this: ‘The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren’t terribly good for her’.
Diana’s public appearances, her popularity among only made the gap grow bigger with time.
According to authorised biography,Charles and Camilla allegedly rekindled their affair in 1986.
Diana famously spoke out about Camilla and Charle’s relationship in her 1995 BBC Panorama. ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,’ she said.
Camilla and Parker Bowles divorced in March 1995, while Charles and Diana did the same in August 1996. Diana died in a car accident in August 1997, which made Princes Charles to put on hold his relationship with Camilla.
So what do we see out here?
While Charles can be blamed for being irresponsible and not too decisive in his actions, we can’t see that he is much different from many men out there in the world. Royals, culturally, are put out on a god-like pedestal and that does really prevent us from seeing them as normal people with their goods and bads. Princes Charles had done mistakes but his mistakes were put out to the world to judge. He always had to look out if his actions are approved by the other family members and whether or not what he does looks good on paper. He had hardly was given any opportunity to make decision that were fully his own. Moreover, he had not had opportunity to process his emotions in a healthy way, privately. I don’t think many of us imagine how much suffering the title had brought to Charles.
When it comes to arranged/forced marriage, we tend to always view woman as a main victim. Men are usually give a role of oppressor and predator and denied of any emotions at all.
The liberal values of the West and the undeniable freedoms that people enjoy make people think that being coerced into marriage is something either very obsolete or completely irrelevant to Western culture.
While this is true, the Royal Family serves as an exception in many ways.
Unlike most of jobs, one does not choose to be a Royal but is born one. This does not leave any room for freedom including freedom to choose who you want to get married to. Also, the Royal Family has preserved the conservative values of arranged marriages just like it existed in most of the cultures.
When it comes to Royals, marriage does not remain only a private matter but turns into a state one. How much say did Charles had in what was happening in his marriage to Diana? How much financially and reputationally it cost him to finally marry his soulmate?
Challenges faced by Charles and Diana, in a way had brought more reforms than any legislation did. Today their sons are married to commoners and a divorcee, yet we don’t think about how many lives were sacrificed for this moment to happen.
I challenge everyone to always look to the other side of the story. And try to put yourself in other person’s shoes. Maybe then, it becomes harder to judge someone whose story is out there in news.
On April 16, 2005, one week after his wedding with Camilla ,Prince of Wales wrote to royal maid Marjorie Dawson:’You can have no idea how lucky I am to have my Darling Camilla’.
Written by Chinara Sadikhova