Diana - After Divorce
Why did we ever think the marriage would work? Charles entered married life with the
resigned pragmatism of a man reared to put duty first. He was under tremendous pressure from
the public and his family to end his prolonged bachelorhood and settle down to the all-important
business of producing the requisite "heir and a spare." He needed a well-born virgin, she fit
Diana was full of hope and romance. She saw Charles as a real-life Prince Charming, a sophisticated older man who could provide her with the emotional stability she craved. He had, in fact, been the object of her fantasies since her boarding-school days, when she reportedly told a friend her ambition was to be either a dancer or the Princess of Wales. Marriage to the future King of England was not only glamorous; it was also insurance against divorce. Charles himself understood, as he once told a reporter, that when he chose a wife, it would have to be "for life." After the ugly breakup of her own parents' marriage, the prospect of an inviolable union must have seemed especially important to the young Diana. "I desperately wanted it to work," she told an interviewer years later. "I wanted to share everything."
But what, in fact, could they share? They had little in common. She was only 20 when they married. Her formal education had ended at 16; her knowledge of the world was largely limited to upper-class society. Charles was 12 years older, a graduate of Cambridge, a lover of opera and classical music who fancied himself an intellectual. According to Andrew Morton's 1992 book, "Diana: Her True Story," his honeymoon baggage on the royal yacht Britannia included a half-dozen books by his mentor, the South African philosopher Sir Laurens van der Post. Charles thought they could read the books together and discuss them over meals. Diana just wanted to get to know her new husband better, a task that proved impossible in the presence of hundreds of officers and sailors.
And then there was Camilla Parker Bowles.
Just before the wedding, Chales and Diana argued over Diana's discovery of a bracelet Charles had bought for his longtime love. During their honeymoon, according to the Morton book, they fought again when two photographs of Camilla fell from the pages of Charles's diary. Once they were back home, the situation got worse. Diana's anxiety over her new role and her jealousy of Camilla, friends say, prompted her first bouts of bulimia. Staffers at Kensington Palance and at their country home, Highgrove, were reportedly amazed at the huge quantities of food - a whole steak-and-kidney pie, bowls of custard - consumed by the ever-slimmer princess.
Her emotional health deteriorated dramatically in the winter of 1982. That January, during a visit to the royal retreat at Sandringham, Diana - three months pregnant with William - threw herself down a staircase after a fight with Charles, according to the Morton book. It was one of several self-destructive episodes in the early years of their marriage. None of these attempts, she later said, was serious; rather, they were cries for help - pleas for attention from Charles that went largely unanswered.
Raised to keep his emotions in check, Charles was at first baffled and then angry with his unpredictable wife. He summoned various doctors, psychiatrists and alternative therapists, but Diana never seemed to connect with any of them. Soon after William's birth, in June 1982, she fell into a deep depression. While she was thrilled to be a mother and enjoyed caring for her firstborn son, she could not shake her anxiety about her marriage and her own feelings of inadequacy.
By early 1983 her weight appeared to drop so dramatically that gossip columnists declared her anorexic. The press turned against her in other ways as well. Between 1981 and 1985 dozens of employees of the royal couple - including some of Charle's most loyal and longtime aides - left the palace. Diana was blamed - unfairly, she said. Her glamorous image put her on best-dressed lists and magazine covers around the world, but it also left her open to charges that she was just an empty-headed mannequin spending millions on her wardrobe.
Yet, even in the midst of criticism, Diana was emerging as a world-class celebrity. That growing popularity turned out to be the ultimate undoing of the marriage, she later said, "I seemed to be on the front page of a newspaper every single day," she told an interviewer in 1995. "With the media attention," she added, "came a lot of jealousy." When the couple worked a crowd - he on one side of the street, she on the other - there were often audible groans from Diana fans who had to settle for Charles. He was a proud man; it hurt to watch his star fade as his wife's soared.
No matter how miserable she felt in private, Diana was almost always able to smile in public. Her husband, despite his years of training as the monarch-to-be, was finding it increasingly difficult to hide his unhappiness with Diana's growing fame. In 1985 Diana's official public engagements outnumbered her husband's for the first time. She was the star of charity galas in London, often dancing with gusto until the early hours of the morning. He spent more and more time in the country, painting and tending to his garden. As she became more confident, he was reported to be increasingly adrift, unsure of his role. What was the point of all those years spent shaking hands and studying organic farming if people were really only interested in Diana's latest hairstyle or gown?
By 1987 gossiping about the Waleses' marriage had become something of a national obsession. The British tabloids started counting up their many separate vacations and the rare nights they actually spent under the same roof. In late October they met at Highgrove for what was supposed to be a reconciliation of sorts. The press reported that Charles flew down from Balmoral while Diana helicoptered in from London. But less than 24 hours after her arrival, Diana was seen driving away in her new dark blue Jaguar. Charles stayed on alone an additinal two days.
At that point, no one really took the prospect of a royal divorce seriously. It seemed as though the Waleses were headed for the kind of marrige of convenience so common in upper-crust British society. It was assumed that they would lead essentially separate lives, appearing polite and proper in public. It was around this time, both later admitted, that they began extramarital affairs. Charles with Camilla and Diana with James Hewitt, a cavalry officer. Diana had begun to conquer her emotional problems, although it would be a few years more before she totally overcame her bulimia. But Charles was still in a funk. In June 1990 he broke his right arm playing polo. While it certainly was not a life-threatening injury, it seemed to overwhelm him. Friends said he wallowed in self-pity during his long convalescence because he could no longer fish, ride or shoot - the only activities that he said kept him sane.
In 1991 Diana turned 30. Charles reportedly offered to throw her a party. Instead, she celebrated with friends in London while he stayed at Highgrove. Charle's romance with Camilla was an open secret; she was his hostess at a number of parties at Highgrove, and they were even rumoured to have vacationed together in Italy. Diana was finding her own way, becoming increasingly active in charities she cared about - AIDS and homelessness - and winning points with the public for her devoted mothering of William and Harry. It seemed as if each had made peace with a difficult situation.
That peace was deceptive. When the Morton book was published the following year, the carefully constructed fašade of civility collapsed. Diana's friends and family had cooperated with the author, and the revelations about the state of the Waleses' relationship were devastating. During a tour of South Korea in November, reporters noted that they could hardly bear each other's presence. A month later Prime Minister John Major announced their official separation.
Their private battles now broke out in public - and in the press. There were scandals; the release of intimate taped telephone conversations between Charles and Camilla and between Diana and a male friend. In 1994 Charles admitted in a television interview that he had cheated on Diana and, most hurtfully, implied that he had never loved her. A year later Diana engaged in her own televised confessional. The queen had had enough. She wrote to both, urging them to divorce as soon as possible. The decree was granted just over a year ago. Diana lost the honorific "Her Royal Highness" but retained the title of Princess of Wales. She also received a lump-sum payment of $26.5 million, $600,000 a year for her office staff and an apartment in Kensington Palace. The marriage in which she had spent her entire adult life had failed. Now it was time to succeed on her own.
Diana - Princess of Wales - Front Page
A young Diana
Diana's married years
100 additional Diana pictures