It’s often said that British people’s obsession with history is why they still have a monarchy. It’s often said that the monarchy is part historical relic and a living history tying the country together. With all of this talk of history, one would think that every member of the Windsor clan would take the long view, to instinctively understand that inconveniences will pass, that rash decisions should not be made, that this will all be part of the historical record one day. One would think. Instead, Prince Charles believed he could choose a “mousy,” naive young woman as little more than a broodmare, then spend the next sixteen years cheating on her, gaslighting her and treating her like sh-t. And he never thought that would come back to haunt him. From People Magazine’s Princess Diana cover story:
Twenty-five years after Princess Diana’s tragic death, Prince Charles is still remembered for their failed marriage. Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir was considered the world’s most eligible bachelor when he wed 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981. However, there were soon struggles in the relationship, and they separated in 1992. Many blamed Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles — especially after the car accident that killed Diana and two others.
Prince Charles married Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in 2005, and the Queen recently expressed her wish for Camilla to be known as Queen Consort when Charles takes the throne. But still, despite Prince Charles’ many achievements in his royal life, Princess Diana’s legacy lingers over the heir.
“His tragedy is whatever he does, whatever he says, however he behaves, he will be remembered for one thing: the fact that his fairy-tale marriage ended,” Andrew Morton, Princess Diana’s biographer, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Just as Henry VIII is remembered for his six wives, Prince Charles is remembered for his first wife. It will always haunt him. His life has been defined by his marriage.”
Adds says royal biographer Ingrid Seward, “The ghost of Diana really stalked him at every turn.”
More like “the ghost of Diana laughed at him and overshadowed him at every turn.” I actually think Morton isn’t completely correct – it’s not that Charles will be remembered solely for how his marriage ENDED. He’ll be remembered for everything that he did to Diana overall. I don’t want to give Peter Morgan sole credit, but The Crown has definitely introduced Charles’s douchebaggery to new generations, and Season 4 is going to be pretty epic. Much is being made about how The Crown will dramatize Diana’s Panorama interview, but I suspect they’ll dramatize Charles’s Jonathan Dimbleby interview too, which came first. That interview genuinely convinced a lot of people that Charles was utterly unsuited to be king (and that Diana was nothing more to him than a broodmare, and that he cheated on her).
Can I also say? Earlier this summer, the Duchess of Cornwall had a big PR blitz for her 75th birthday. It involved several interviews and magazine covers and PR fluff. And inevitably, as I read through all of it, I just felt sad. Sad because of Diana. Diana isn’t *just* haunting Charles, is what I’m saying. Diana is the spectre at Camilla’s feast too.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of People.