The Prince and Princess of Wales’ wedding was perceived as a fairytale — but the idyllic union soon dissolved into bitter resentment between the two royals within the first few years of marriage. Both turned to extramarital affairs to cope but eventually split in 1992 and officially divorced four years later. The tale of their separation is usually pieced together based on two key accounts provided by Diana — Andrew Morton’s ‘Diana: Her True Story’ which the royal secretly contributed to, and her explosive BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir.
This infamous confession with Mr Bashir cemented all the reports surrounding Charles’ ongoing affair with his married former flame, Camilla.
Diana said, “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, a claim which severely dented the heir’s reputation and led viewers to believe Camilla had been integral to their marriage.
This narrative has been picked up once again by Netflix’s hugely popular drama, The Crown, which retells significant events from the Queen’s reign with some creative licence.
The Prince of Wales dated Camilla in 1972, and had an illicit relationship with her in 1979 after she was married, but he is said to have stopped seeing her when he decided to marry Diana.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ marriage publicly fell apart in the Nineties
Some reports suggest Diana’s first affair was in 1983 — the couple pictured in 1983 during an overseas tour
The Crown, on the other hand, emphasises that Charles never stopped contacting his former mistress.
Howard Hodgson, royal biographer and an acquaintance of the Prince of Wales, told Express.co.uk that this particular storyline was completely inaccurate.
He explained: “When Charles comes to his third [relationship] with Camilla, they are by now both married and both very unhappy, and Patti Palmer-Tomkinson invites them to her house in 1986, and that’s it.
“By that time, Diana had had affairs with 10 people, all of which the public knew nothing about.”
Patti Palmer-Tomkinson is a close friend of Charles and has been since the Seventies.
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Diana is thought to have had an affair with her protection officer, Barry Mannakee, in 1985
Diana also had a famous affair with James Hewitt
Mr Hodgson also pointed out how the Prince of Wales was asked by journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in a 1994 interview if he had tried to be “faithful and honourable” to his wife.
Charles replied, “yes, absolutely”, but then added: “Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
He appeared to confirm that his affair with Camilla only began in 1986, five years after he married Diana.
Mr Hodgson said that The Crown’s implication in season four that Charles never ceased his affair with Camilla is “just not true”.
He explained: “If it was true, there is absolutely no supporting evidence.”
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Diana, as portrayed by Emma Corrin, in season 4 of The Crown
Diana and Charles fighting in The Crown (L) and Camilla seen admiring Diana’s engagement ring
He added that Mrs Palmer-Tomkinson would be able to back up claims that the two had ceased communicating until she pushed them together again.
Mr Hodgson said: “She invited them both to her house, these two people were very miserable, they were put together again and they actually met up again in 1986.”
The royal commentator added that this affair came about because both of their marriages had “totally and utterly collapsed”, as Charles said in the interview with Mr Dimbleby.
The pair are thought to have then maintained their relationship throughout both of their divorces, and married one another in 2005.
Although these events occurred more than two decades ago, The Crown’s depiction of them has reignited backlash against the couple in favour of Diana — their Twitter account @clarencehouse even disabled comments to dodge trolls.
Yet, Mr Hodgson believes Diana had three affairs in 1986 alone, and, as Charles was aware of them, he decided to return to Camilla.
Charles and Camilla during their first extramarital affair in 1979 — Camilla was married
One of Diana’s most famous lovers in James Hewitt, who she first started seeing in 1986 — but Mr Hodgson said that he was actually “way down the list of the people she was unfaithful with”.
Mr Hodgson claimed her first affair was in 1983 with a man called Henry Herbert, the 17th Earl of Pembroke.
Reports that Diana was having an affair with her protection officer, Barry Mannakee emerged in 1985.
There were additional claims she had dalliances with city financiers, foreign royalty and some married men, among others, in her first five years of marriage.
As Biographer Penny Junor later claimed: “[Diana] appeared to enjoy the power she had over [men] telephoning and having them arrive at her bidding and dismissing them when she wanted them gone.”
However, this is not the way events are presented to the public.
Charles and Camilla have been happily married since 2005
Diana allegedly told biographer Lady Colin Campbell: “He was having an affair with that woman all along.
“That was the problem. That’s what caused my behaviour.
“Wouldn’t you have been disturbed if your husband was having an affair? No wonder he couldn’t give me the love I needed.”
Mr Hodgson noted that Diana also wanted to hurt Charles with her Panorama interview, because of how miserable she had been inside the Royal Family.
He explained: “The best way she could get back at Charles was to say, ‘there were three of us in this marriage.’”
The BBC Panorama interview from 1995 is currently under investigation.
Howard Hodgson is the author of ‘Charles — The Man Who Will Be King’, which was published by John Blake Publishing in 2007 and is available here.