The Crown: A Timeline of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’s Controversial Relationship

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On May 6, King Charles III will walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey to be crowned for his coronation. He will wear the imperial state crown—composed of 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and 4 rubies. He will hold a bejeweled scepter and, at one point, a golden orb. By his side? Queen Camilla, adorned in full royal regalia.

It’s an upcoming scene that decades ago felt not just improbable but impossible: Charles was amid a messy divorce from Princess Diana, in large part spurred on by his long-term affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. (“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana famously said.) The British media called her the most hated woman in Britain. She regularly received angry mail, and for years, the public vehemently opposed the idea of her being named queen.

In The Crown season five, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’s controversial relationship acts as a central plot point. Wondering what is fact over fiction? Here, a historical timeline of their relationship over the decades, from the beginning to the middle to the present day.

Prince Charles and Camilla Shand in 1972.

Hulton Deutsch/Getty Images

The Beginning: Sparks Fly—At the Wrong Time

1971:  According to Penny Junor’s 2018 biography, The Duchess, Prince Charles and then Camilla Shand are introduced by a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz, at her apartment. “Now you two be very careful,” Santa Cruz jokes. “You got genetic antecedence.” (This was a reference to Alice Keppel, Camilla’s great-grandmother who was a mistress to Edward VII.) There is an immediate attraction between the pair, but any potential courtship is complicated by Camilla’s on-and-off relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles.

1972: Charles and Camilla first become romantically involved, with the young prince wooing her at polo matches in Windsor. They strengthen their relationship with weekends at Broadlands, the house of Charles’s uncle Louis Mountbatten. It is widely reported, however, that Camilla still harbors feelings for Andrew, who at the time is seen with other women—including Charles’s sister, Princess Anne.

1973: Prince Charles departs on a six-month tour with the royal navy. Charles and Camilla are said to have a “tearful farewell in his rooms at Buckingham Palace.” One month later, Camilla announces her engagement to Andrew. Charles pleads with her not to go through with the wedding. She does anyway.

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