The real reason Charles didn’t marry Camilla in the first place

It was one of the last century’s most iconic “remember-where-you-were-when” moments: On July 29, 1981, Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer in a fairytale wedding watched by 750 million people, according to the BBC. It was, as Diana later said, the worst day of her life.

“I can’t marry him,” she told her sisters during a pre-wedding lunch. But she did. Of course, we all know the ending to that story. The unhappy, scandal-wrought marriage ended in divorce in 1996, but not before Prince Charles’s enduring love for Camilla Parker Bowles had become common knowledge. Here are more secrets you never knew about Charles’ and Diana’s wedding.

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Prince Charles and Camilla
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Prince Charles and Camilla
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 09: TRH Prince Charles & The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles depart the Civil Ceremony where they were legally married, at The Guildhall, Windsor on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales leaves the VE Day 70th Anniversary service at Westminster Abbey on May 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images)
The Wedding Of Hrh The Prince Of Wales & Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles At The Guildhall, Windsor. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with their families (L-R back row) Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles (L-R front row) Duke of Edinburgh, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla's father Major Bruce Shand, in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, after their wedding ceremony. (photo: Anwar Hussein)
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, formerly Camila Parker Bowles, arrive at St. Georges Chapel. (photo: Martin Hayhow/PA Archive)
In this handout from Royal Mail an image of a new stamp featuring HRH Prince Charles and Camila Parker Bowles is seen. A series of stamps will be released on the day of the royal wedding in April. The last set of Royal issue stamps was brought out to commemorate Prince William?s 21st birthday in July 2003. (Photo by Royal Mail via Getty Images)
In this handout from Royal Mail a composite image of new stamps featuring HRH Prince Charles and Camila Parker Bowles is seen. A series of stamps will be released on the day of the royal wedding in April. The last set of Royal issue stamps was brought out to commemorate Prince William?s 21st birthday in July 2003. (Photo by Royal Mail via Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles and his bride Camila Duchess of Cornwall leave St George's Chapel in Windsor following the church blessing of their civil wedding ceremony, 09 April 2005. In the background is Britain's Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, the true love of his life, on Saturday in a private civil ceremony that inevitably paled against his storybook wedding to Princess Diana more than 20 years ago. (Photo credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Charles, Prince of Wales sits as he attends a meeting with United States President Barack Obama (not pictured) in the Oval Office of the White House on March 19, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The Prince and Duchess are in Washington as part of a Four day visit to the United States. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
JINJA, UGANDA - NOVEMBER 24: HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales pose for a photograph at the source of the White Nile on November 24, 2007 in Jinja, Uganda. The Prince and Duchess are in Uganda during the Commonwealth Heads of Govenment Meeting. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: TRH Prince Charles and his wife The Duchess Of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles meet the crowd following the Service of Prayer and Dedication after their marriage at The Guildhall, at Windsor Castle on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on March 17, 2015 for a four-day visit to the US.(Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales visit the Lincoln Memorial on the second day of a visit to the United States on March 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Prince and Duchess are in Washington as part of a Four day visit to the United States. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks with armed forces personnel during a reception at Guildhall, after the Afghanistan service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral on March 13, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, United Kingdom: FILES - Picture taken 14 November 2002 shows Britain's Prince Charles (R) and his companion Camilla Parker-Bowles leaving the Ritz hotel where a private party was held to celebrate the succes of her jubilee in central London. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles will marry in Scotland in the coming autumn, a German royal expert and author said 18 May 2004. (Photo credit: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
SANDRINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive together to attend the Sandringham Flower Show on the Royal Sandringham Estate July 31, 2002 in Norfolk, England. Camilla's arrival with Charles, suggests an effort on the part of the British Royal Family to introduce her to more public Royal duties due to her relationship with the Prince. (Photo by Sion Touhig/Getty Images)
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Britain's Prince Charles attends a polo match at the Beaufort Polo Club for The Ronnie Wallace Memorial Trophy in aid of The Hunt Servants' Benefit Society July 27, 2002 in Glocestershire, England. (Photo by John Li / Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Britain's Prince Charles (R) and Camilla Parker Bowles (L) leavee the Ritz Hotel after a private party to celebrate the succes of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II jubilee in central London 14 november 2002. (Photo credit:  NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
NORFOLK,ENGLAND - JULY 23: Camilla Parker Bowles meets fans at the Sandringham Flower Show July 23, 2003 at Sandringham in Norfolk, England. (Photo By Steve Finn/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 20: Camilla Parker-Bowles enjoys the speech by the Prince of Wales to London black taxi drivers, during a garden reception in the grounds of Clarence House, on July 20, 2004 in London. (Photo by ROTA/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: The Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive for a charity concert, 11 November 2004 to celebrate the career of music producer Trevor Horn. Charles's partner joined him as he attended the official engagement, titled Produced By Trevor Horn, a concert for the Prince's Trust at London's Wembley Arena. (Photo credit: ANDREW PARSONS/AFP/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM: Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles arrive for a party at Windsor Castle after announcing their engagement earlier 10 February, 2005. Britain's Prince Charles and his longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles are to marry, his office announced Thursday, putting the official seal on a relationship that first blossomed 35 years ago. (Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM: Camilla Parker Bowles shows off her engagement ring as she and Prince Charles arrive for a party at Windsor Castle after announcing their engagement earlier 10 February, 2005. Britain's Prince Charles and his longtime companion Camilla Parker Bowles are to marry, his office announced Thursday, putting the official seal on a relationship that first blossomed 35 years ago.  (Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: HRH Prince Charles (L) and fiancee Camilla Parker Bowles leave church accompanied by the Rev. Christopher Mulholland, following the Sunday service at St Lawrence Church on March 13, 2005 in Gloucestershire, England. (Photo by Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales, and his new wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall and guests (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
HRH Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles during The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles - Outside at Guildhall in Windsor, Great Britain. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: HRH Prince Charles & The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles depart the Civil Ceremony where they were legally married, at The Guildhall, Windsor on April 9, 2005 in Berkshire, England. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
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In 2005, Prince Charles finally wed Camilla, and by all accounts, they’re as happy together as Diana, who died in that tragic car crash in 1997, always suspected they’d be. Today, with Prince Charles as the next in line for the throne, the question most often asked about Prince Charles and his second wife is whether she will ever be queen? But Charles and Camilla’s love, which has endured since they first began dating in 1972, begs another question:

Why didn’t Charles just marry Camilla in the first place?

The question was tackled most recently in Sally Bedell Smith’s biography,Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. According to Bedell Smith, right from the start, Charles adored the then-Camilla Shand, who’s close in age to Charles (Diana was 13 years younger) and has always treated him as an equal rather than as someone she idolized. However, the royal family wasn’t interested in having Camilla as its princess. For one thing, she was perceived as an “experienced” woman, which was a nonstarter for the royal family back then in terms of their notion of a suitable spouse for Prince Charles. For another, she wasn’t perceived as “aristocratic” enough to be a princess, according to a report by the Daily Mail on another biography of Prince Charles.

“Lovely for you two to have a fling, but this absolutely cannot end in marriage,” Prince Charles’s great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, advised him, according to the UK’s Express. Soon after, Charles was called away on naval business overseas (convenient, eh?), and used the time to put distance between himself and Camilla. Camilla soothed herself by reconnecting with her former beau, Andrew Parker Bowles. And that’s precisely where Bedell Smith theorizes that a scheme was hatched to get Camilla married off to Andrew.

The forcing of Andrew’s “hand”

It’s rumored that Camilla’s father planted a fake Camilla-Andrew engagement notice in The Times, apparently forcing Andrew’s hand. Literally. Prince Charles returned home to news of Camilla and Andrew’s engagement. According to Bedell Smith, in the absence of the fake engagement announcement that led to Andrew’s actual proposal to Camilla, Charles might have married Camilla, despite his family’s objections.

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Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
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Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 06: Prince Charles With His Fiance Lady Diana Spencer During A Photocall Before Their Wedding While Staying At Craigowan Lodge On The Balmoral Estate (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
BALMORAL - AUGUST 19: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a suit designed by Bill Pashley, pose for a photo on the banks of the river Dee in the grounds of Balmoral Castle during their honeymoon on August 19, 1981 in Balmoral, Scotland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: On July 29, 1981, Lady Diana SPENCER (aged 19) married Prince CHARLES (aged 32) at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: Prince Charles And Princess Diana On The Balcony Of Buckingham Palace On Their Wedding Day. The Princess Is Wearing A Wedding Dress Designed By David And Elizabeth Emanuel. The Prince Is Wearing Naval Dress Uniform. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDRES, ROYAUME-UNI - 10 MARS: Lady Diana et le Prince Charles discutant avec la Princesse Grace de Monaco au Goldsmith's Hall, le 10 mars 1981 a Londres, Royaume-Uni. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Queen Elizabeth joins the Prince and Princess of Wales on a Buckingham Palace balcony following their London wedding. (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive back at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland after their honeymoon, September 1981. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales at the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland, September 1981. She wears a tartan suit by Caroline Charles and a tam o'shanter hat. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Prince Charles Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997, later Diana, Princess of Wales) at Caernarvon Castle during an official tour of Wales, 27th October 1981. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 22: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Mary's Hospital in Paddington with their baby son, Prince William (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Uluru, Northern Territory on 21 March 1983. . (Photo by Gerrit Fokkema/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 04: The Prince And Princess Of Wales With The Queen Attending The Braemar Games In Scotalnd (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Melbourne, Australia: Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales share a joke with Australian comedian Paul Hogan at a gala performance in Melbourne, April 14th.
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles arrive for a state reception in Hobart, Tasmania, 30th March 1983. The princess is wearing the Spencer family tiara and a dress by Bruce Oldfield. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: The Prince And Princess Of Wales Attending A Charity Ball In Sydney During A Trip To Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles leaving St Mary's Hospital, London with their new-born son Prince Harry, September 1984. The Princess is wearing a red coat by Jan van Velden. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles at an Italian naval base at La Spezia, 20th April 1985. Charles is wearing a naval Commander's uniform, while Diana is wearing a white coat dress by Catherine Walker. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales visit a church in Florence during their tour of Italy, April 1985. The Princess is wearing a suit by Jasper Conran. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
VATICAN - APRIL: Diana Princess of Wales with Prince Charles have an audience with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, Rome, Italy in April 1985 during the Royal Tour of Italy.Diana wore a black lace dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles on a skiing holiday in Malbun, Liechtenstein, January 1985. The princess is wearing a Head ski suit. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
WINDSOR - JUNE 29: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales kisses Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as she presents him with an award following a charity polo match at Windsor Great Park on June 29, 1985 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 9, 1985: (FILE PHOTO) In this file photo issued October 31, 2005, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales meet President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Mrs Nancy Reagan at the White House on November 9, 1985 during an official visit to America in Washington DC, USA. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales is taking his new wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall on a visit to the United States which begins formally on November 1, 2005 (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 03: The Prince And Princess Of Wales During A Visit To Vancouver, Canada. She Is Wearing A Suit Designed By Fashion Designer Bruce Oldfield (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON - AUGUST 4: Prince Edward, Viscount Linley, Prince Charles, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen at the Queen Mothers 87th birthday celebration on August 4, 1987 at Clarence House in London, England. Diana wore a dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 26: The Princess Of Wales Presents A Medal To Her Husband, Prince Charles, After A Polo Match At Windsor (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 30: Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at the Central Coast Surf Carnival at Terrigal Beach, Sydney, Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 15: The Prince And Princess Of Wales attend a desert picnic on March 15, 1989 in Adu Dhab, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 16: The Prince And Princess Of Wales On A Walkabout In Dubai On The Gulf Tour. Diana's Outfit Is By Fashion Designer Catherine Walker And Hat By Milliner Philip Somerville. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997), wearing a Belville Sassoon dress, presenting Prince Charles with a trophy after competing at the Hola Cup polo match at the Guards Polo Club, Windsor, 29th June 1988. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
PARIS - NOVEMBER: Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales meet guests arriving at a dinner in the Elysee Palace in Paris, France in November 1988, during the Royal Tour of France. Diana wore a dress designed by Victor Edelstein. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
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Instead, Camilla married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973, and Charles went on to date a number of “suitable” women until he met Diana Spencer in 1980. But all the while, Camilla remained in his heart, and occasionally in his plans, as Charles, himself admitted. By the end of 1995, the Parker Bowles couple was divorced, the Prince and Princess were on their way to a divorce, and Diana had famously told television interviewer Martin Bashir that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Find out more about what really happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The happy ending for the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles got their long-awaited happy ending in 2005 when they married in a civil ceremony, which his mother, the Queen, did not attend (although she did turn up at the reception). Camilla was given the title, “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall.” Thirteen years later, they’re still happily married. Don’t miss these 15 surprising things you never knew about Camilla Parker Bowles.

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