Charles, Prince of Wales and son of Queen Elizabeth II, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will celebrate 15 years of marriage this year. Some people are calling it a miracle, while others are calling it a miracle that this happy anniversary celebration is even happening at all. But theirs is not a new or easy relationship; rather, it has a stormy history that culminated in a secret that the Royal Family only recently decided to divulge.
Meet Charles, Prince of Wales
On November 14, 1948, Charles Philip Arthur George was born; he would later become the Prince of Wales. His parents, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth II, bear a strong resemblance to him.
If and when Queen Elizabeth II passes away, her eldest son, Charles, will succeed to the throne and become King Charles II. There was concern that his amorous choices were putting his future and inheritance at risk for a long time.
Heavy Is the Head…
For better or worse, Prince Charles has left his mark on the annals of royal history in numerous ways. In the fall of 1948, when Elizabeth II was still a princess, she became the proud mother of Prince Charles.
The media called the baby a “lovely boy, a really splendid baby.” He was the first member of the royal family to be born in Buckingham Palace in the 20th century. Charles, granted, did not have to worry about surviving either of the great wars. His own battles, though, were still to come.
Even as a teenager, Prince Charles was known for breaking with royal tradition, and he showed no signs of slowing down. Charles became the first royal heir to attend college when he elected to enroll at Trinity College, Cambridge in the fall of 1967.
In the end, he earned a 2:1 in history and a 2:1 in anthropology and archaeology. Many people were mystified as to why a member of the British royal family couldn’t get a first-class degree, and they came up with all sorts of explanations.
Ladies Loved Him
Even before he married anyone and experienced a truly turbulent personal life, the royal family didn’t have much sympathy for Charles when it came to who he dated. He was portrayed as a rebellious figure, with a number of relatives describing him as a “ladies’ man.”
Despite these claims, Charles begged to differ. On the contrary, these accusations actually hurt his feelings. At the end of the day though, Charles’s future relationships only added fuel to the fire…
Camilla, Prince Charles’ First Love
Born just a year before Charles (1947), Camilla Rosemary Shand was the daughter of a Major in the British Army and spent the majority of her life growing up in East Sussex and South Kensington, England.
Although not a member of the Royal Family, Camilla was the granddaughter of the 3rd Baron Ashcombe, making her a member of the British aristocracy. As such, she received education in England, France, and even Switzerland and was the first to steal Charles’ heart.
The Meeting Between The Two
The first time that Charles and Camilla met was through a mutual friend, Chilean historian Lucia Santa Cruz, in 1970 at a polo match in Windsor. At the time the two were 22 and 23 respectively.
As happens with many young people, their emotions got the better of them, and they began dating – often sneaking away to an estate in the Broadlands belonging to Charles’ uncle, Lord Mountbatten. But something looming on the horizon would separate the two young lovers.
Charles Ships Out To Sea
According to royal biographer Penny Juror who wrote The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown, Charles was immediately taken with Camilla because she was, “not in anyway overawed by him, not fawning or sycophantic.”
Even though their romance was worthy of any fairy tale, it sadly was forced to come to an end when, in 1971, Charles joined the Royal Navy. Would Camilla be willing to wait for him while he served his country?
The Decision That Changed Everything
Rather than force upon Camilla the heartache and longing that comes with dating someone who is serving overseas, Charles decided it would be best for them if they stopped seeing each other for the time being.
As the saying goes, “if it’s meant to be then it’s meant to be.” Charles was a member of the Royal Family, a position that comes with responsibility and patriotic duty. For Camilla, it meant that she needed to move on with her life.
Camilla Meets A Special Someone
Although Camilla had been dating Prince Charles throughout the year, there was another one as well who had pined for her affection. Major Andrew Parker Bowles had met Camilla at her debutante party in 1965.
According to Penny Juror, “He was 25 and a rather beautiful officer in the Household Cavalry; she was 17 but remarkably self-assured. Andrew went over to her and simply said, ‘Let’s dance.’ They danced and she fell in love.” Who was Camilla going to pick?
Camilla’s Marriage To Andrew Bowles
Although they had a tumultuous relationship Major Andrew proposed to Camilla in 1973, who accepted, while Charles was thousands of miles away in the West Indies. The next year the two married, and it seemed as though Charles would have to move on and find somebody else after his return from his military duties abroad.
It is obvious though, based on current events, that the two still help feelings for each other. But the road back together would be incredibly long.
Charles Had Many Eligible Bachelorettes
In spite of Charles’ feelings towards Camilla, many of his family members behind the scenes had been pushing him to meet other women who they preferred.
Carolly Erickson wrote in Lilibet: An Intimate Portrait of Elizabeth II that his uncle Lord Mountbatten, the same uncle with the estate in the Broadlands that Charles and Camilla had used, wanted Charles to marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchball. But Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t about to be outfoxed, she had other plans for Charles.
Queen Elizabeth Makes A Match
Queen Elizabeth II, also known as the Queen Mother, had begun pushing her eldest son toward the granddaughter of her friend and Lady In Waiting, Lady Ruth Fermoy. Where other members of the Royal Family had failed, Queen Elizabeth II succeeded.
Her efforts at finding a suitable woman for her son led to him dating Lady Sarah Spencer in 1977. Lady Sarah Spencer had a sister though, one who would forever change history for both Charles and for the world.
Charles First Meets Lady Diana
Charles began formally dating Lady Sarah Spencer in 1977 and it was during that time that he met her younger sister. The beautiful and vivacious Lady Diana Spencer. She was only 16 at the time they met, and it wouldn’t be for another three years until Charles left Lady Sarah in favor of her younger sister.
While this inter-family relationship might seem unusual or bothersome, the two sisters didn’t let it get between them and still managed to remain close.
Their First Days Together
Despite already having met Diana Spencer in 1977, it took Prince Charles a further three years before he conjured up the idea of asking her out on a date. Biographer Jonathan Dimbleby claimed that after The Prince of Wales lost his uncle Lord Mountbatten, Diana was there by his side.
“Without any apparent surge in feeling, he began to think seriously of her as a potential bride”, Dimbleby wrote. Seeing their dynamic, Prince Phillip urged Charles to make a decision…
A Big Decision
Just before Diana began a busy trip to Australia, Prince Charles got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage. He did it at this time in order to give Diana enough time to think about the proposal before finally making a decision.
However, she made her choice before boarding that plane, saying “yes” in an instant. By the time 1981 came around, 31-year-old Charles and 19-year-old Diana announced their engagement to the world. However, when asked if they were in love? “Whatever ‘in love means,” Charles answered.
Royal Wedding Bells Finally Ring
On February 6, 1981, a spectacular event occurred. Charles finally proposed marriage… to Lady Diana! Two weeks later, on February 24, the engagement was announced and the world cheered along with Charles and Diana.
That summer the two married on July 29 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a magnificent royal wedding. Despite Diana’s wishes, Camilla was present for the ceremony – who can imagine how she was feeling? But the new royal couple were about to get some more good news.
Prince William And Prince Harry
Almost exactly a year after the July 29, 1981 wedding, on June 21, 1982, the now Princess Diana gave birth to her and Charles’ first son, Prince William. Two years later, on September 15, 1984, Prince Harry was born, and for a moment it looked like they were going to be one happy and loving family.
However, things suddenly took a turn for Prince Charles and Princess Diana, someone special from his past was now coming back in the picture.
The Beginning of the End
Even the most dedicated royal fans don’t have a clear answer as to why their relationship started to crumble. Whether it was their age gap or the clash in personalities, it only took five years for the cracks to start showing in their relationship.
Diana was still finding herself as an individual and was still in the formative years of her adulthood. Eventually, footage surfaced of Diana claiming to have been “deeply in love” with an individual who had close ties with the royal family…
Camilla And Charles Are Caught
According to the ABC special, The Last 100 Days of Diana, in spite of being under the public’s eye and scrutiny, Prince Charles and Camilla couldn’t help but keep their relationship going even though both were in high-profile marriages.
According to the same special Camilla idolized her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, the famous mistress of Prince Charles’ great-great-grandfather Edward VII and thus felt justified in her actions. This was not going to bode very well for Charles and Diana’s relationship.
Princess Diana Confronts Charles’ Mistress
According to tapes of Diana recorded by Andrew Morton, Diana confronted Camilla at a party. “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.”
Camilla responded, “You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world to fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children. What more do you want?” And Diana said, “I want my husband.”
With rumors spreading about Prince Charles’s rekindled relationship with Camilla, Diana seemed to have no problem compromising her own marriage for attention elsewhere. In 1992, a transcript surfaced detailing a conversation that Diana had with her horseback riding teacher, James Gilbey.
However, the conversation had happened a few years beforehand. At one point in the transcript, Gilbey expressed his love for Diana and referred to her by the nickname “Squidgy.” After referring to her by this name a staggering 53 times – the scandal became known as “Squidgygate.”
Charles’s Leaked Call
It wasn’t just Diana who was getting caught for making intimate phone calls outside of her marriage. A phone call between Camilla and Prince Charles surfaced around the same time. Any speculation surrounding the extramarital relationship was all but confirmed by this phone call.
At one point during the conversation, Charles made a crude statement that may have been arousing for Camilla but would make any other listener cringe. The next few months would prove to be a critical period in Charles and Diana’s marriage.
Opening Up to the Press
Soon enough, Jonathan Dimbleby was able to look at all of the documents and diaries that belonged to Prince Charles in order to write a book about him. In 1994, The Prince of Wales was released, with much of Charles’s affair being documented inside.
Moreover, there were numerous accounts describing Diana’s mental state. The contents of the book certainly painted a clearer picture of the problems the couple faced. According to Charles, he was “faithful and honorable…until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
Her Side of the Story
Eventually, Princess Diana would find the strength to share her side of the story during this tumultuous period. On November 20th, 1995, Diana had an interview with Panorama.
During this interview, she explicitly blamed Camilla for her relationship with Charles coming to an end. She said the following when describing her marriage: “Well there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.” A staggering 23 million people ended up seeing the interview.
Charles And Diana Are Over
It didn’t take long for the public to catch up to what was going on between Charles, Diana, and Camilla. After a series of intimate conversations between Charles and Camilla were released to the public (in what was later dubbed Camillagate) larger marital difficulties ensued followed by an official divorce in 1995.
Many now wondered what was going to happen to Princess Diana. Would she remain within the royal fold? Or was the pain too much for her to handle?
Diana Has Her Priorities Set
For Diana, nothing was more important to her than being a mother to William and Harry. Even though she had been dealing with her husband’s affair she had made sure to always make time for her sons.
Rather than let her duties dictate every second of her life, she made sure there was always time to be with her boys and was even the one to drop them off at school. Soon word of her kindness began to spread worldwide.
Diana As A Media Icon
Diana wasn’t just a wonderful mother, she took full responsibility for her position and the good it could bring. She devoted herself to charities and became a champion of issues that were close to her heart.
The public couldn’t get enough of her and she soon became the most photographed woman in the world. Everything seemed to be getting back on track when one horrible day, a devastating tragedy struck that would forever change the Royal Family and the world.
The World Remembers Princess Diana
In 1997, while trying to flee the paparazzi while traveling in Paris, France, Princess Diana died after her car crashed while driving through a tunnel. The world was horrified as one of its most treasured icons suddenly passed.
During the massive funeral procession, Charles stood next to his sons as they gave their mother one last goodbye. For Charles, as sad as the passing was, it was now going to complicate his life and Camilla’s life in a totally unexpected way.
Charles Was Keeping A Secret
Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Charles had continued his affair with Camilla even after falling hard under public scrutiny. In 1995, Camilla also announced her divorce to her husband, and the two had continued to meet in secret as they had nearly 15 years prior.
A year after Diana passed, Charles made the bold decision to introduce Camilla to his sons but was reluctant to go public with their relationship. That would result in unprecedented public madness.
Charles And Camilla Go Public
In 1999 the couple finally made their first public appearance – although accounts differ if it was really meant for the night of Camilla’s sister’s 50th birthday. The birthday was hosted at the London Ritz with Charles and Camilla arriving two hours apart, but that didn’t stop them from leaving together.
That public exit resulted in a flurry of press attention, many having mixed feelings about Charles moving on so quickly after Diana. Their reaction though was nothing compared to the Queen’s.
Looking For The Queen’s Approval
Charles and Camilla had gone public, he had even introduced her to his sons, but the couple had one final hurdle to overcome. The Queen refused to attend Charles’ 50th birthday party due to Camilla being one of the guests.
It wouldn’t be for another year that she would even go to a party where Camilla was present. Once she did, Charles and Camilla took that as her tacit approval of their relationship. There was only one thing left to do.
Charles And Camilla Finally Marry
It was 2005 when Charles and Camilla decided to publicly announce their engagement. By now the couple had known each other for 35 years and in spite of it all they were getting married.
The Queen, however, refrained from attending the wedding, choosing instead to make an appearance at the Service of Prayer and Dedication and the reception. Prince William served as the best man, and after the wedding, he and Prince Harry welcomed into the family yet another person.
The (Somewhat) Secret Step Sister
A year after Charles had met Princess Diana while dating her sister, Camilla was busy building a family of her own. In 1978 she gave birth to a girl.
Although this girl would grow to be a woman who was not interested in life as a royal, or in being in the spotlight like her mother, she would nonetheless be step-sister to two royal princes and the stepdaughter to the air to the throne. This woman’s name was…
Who Is This Step Sister?
Laura Parker Bowles grew up in Bolehyde Manor in Allington, and later Middlewick House in Corsham, also in Wiltshire. Laura was later educated at Catholic girls boarding school in Dorset, and afterward, she went on to study both Histories of Art and Marketing at Oxford Brookes University.
In 2001 she moved to Venice, Italy where she worked in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a modern art museum on the Grand Canal. Her next job put her next to someone special.
She Also Has A Brother
After coming back from Venice, Laura got a job with her older brother Tom at the high-end magazine, Tatler. For those unfamiliar with the magazine, Tatler’s readers are a mostly wealthy and upper class who are provided with articles about a wide variety of topics.
Laura was the motoring correspondent while her brother was Tatler’s food correspondent and reviewer. It seemed as though Tatler was a good jumping-off point for the two of them considering where they are now.
Laura’s Got A Cool Job
After leaving the magazine Laura moved into the art world and began managing The Space Gallery in London’s Belgravia area. In 2005 Laura opened up her own shop, she co-founded London’s Eleven Gallery where she is also working as the gallery’s director.
For Laura, it seems that staying out of the tabloids is the preferred style of living. That and, of course, art. While she has managed to keep her name out of the headlines, her brother has quite the reputation.
Tom Makes A Big Splash
While Laura prefers to keep a low profile, Tom is a big deal in the food world. As a writer, he has published seven cookbooks and even won the Guild of Food Writers Award in 2010 for his writings on British food.
His expertise has placed him on several food-based television shows as a judge and he has even traveled the country writing for various magazines. But there seems to be one thing missing from his and Laura’s lives.
The Inter-Sibling Royal Rivalry
Growing up, Tom and Laura had a tumultuous family relationship. Even though they themselves were lucky enough to not be the focus of headlines as children they didn’t exactly get along with Harry and William’s children.
According to Express magazine in the UK, the two young princes unfairly blamed Tom and Laura for their and their parent’s woes. Things weren’t looking so good between the royal siblings and their step-siblings, so how were things going to get repaired between them?
The First Sign Of Improvement
Even though things were tough between the siblings as children, it seems that by adulthood everyone was able to work out their differences. The biggest and most public sign that things had improved between everyone was the lead-up to the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Leading up to the wedding, Laura had gone with her mother Camilla, Kate, and Kate’s sister Pippa to a brunch. During that brunch, onlookers overheard Camilla saying something quite direct to Kate.
Mother In Law Gives Advice
According to a report from ABC, during that lunch onlookers reported hearing Camilla giving Kate some advice about how to have a successful marriage. While Kate’s response was polite, it was unclear what her true feelings were at having someone who had blown up tabloid headlines giving her tips on how to run her marriage.
And all this before the wedding bells had even rung! Would something like this ruin Laura and Tom’s chances at reconnecting with their royal step-siblings?
Bridesmaid For William And Kate
In 2011 Laura’s daughter Eliza was invited to be a bridesmaid at William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. It seemed to be a gesture that all the tension of their childhood past was nothing but water under the bridge.
Since then, all the step siblings have been seen at each other’s weddings. While attending family events is a sign of a healthy bond between family, there has always been a feeling that step-sister Laura can’t quite shake.
Married Into It, Not Born
Even though Laura and Tom do attend things like weddings they are still a rare sight at other royal functions. Tom explained on Good Morning Britain that he and his sister were “not quite part of the royal family to be honest.”
He continued by explaining that “My mother married into it. She’s part of it. We’re the common children. We’re just on the side.” It seems to be a hard fact for any royal step-sibling to accept.
What About Harry And Meghan?
Leading up to the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the press speculated if they were going to get a glimpse of Tom and Laura. Although there was some heated debate, most assumed it was just the press stirring up drama.
Many pointed out that for Laura’s marriage to her husband Harry Lopes, William flew back from vacationing in Mustique and Harry had traveled back all the way from Cape Town, South Africa to be there for the two.
There On The Big Day
May 19, 2018, was the date of another fabulous royal wedding as Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle, generating excitement on both sides of the pond. Sure enough, in attendance were low-key step-sister Laura Lopes and her brother Tom.
Both, it seemed, were welcomed to the marriage and both of them were dressed in their royal best. For Laura, it seems that having a life outside of fame doesn’t stop her from being there for the family.
Laura Has Her Own Family
Some 18 months after Laura’s wedding day to accountant Harry Lopes on May 6, 2006, she came forward with some great news. Laura gave birth to a daughter Eliza, in January 2008.
In July 2009, it was announced that the couple was expecting twins, and sure enough, on 30 December, she gave birth to Gus and Louis, two fraternal brothers. We may not see a lot of her, but she and her family are definitely a part of royal life.