Charles and Camilla were secretly seeing each other while he was married.
The death of Princess Diana changed everything. That tragic crash in a Paris tunnel on a summer night in 1997 instantly opened Charles’ mind — if not Camilla’s — to the possibility they could be seen in public together and she could even become his wife.
“It was the only thing he could think about,” says a former courtier. “Even while the British nation was still struggling to overcome its feelings of loss, Charles was already at work, plotting and planning. To be honest, I don’t think Camilla knew anything about it at the start. But after a lifetime of walking in the shadow of his mother the Queen, and keeping his wits about him, Charles knew how the British establishment worked.”
“He knew that with a mixture of flattery, charm, stubbornness, and bullying he would get what he wanted,” the courtier added. “And he wanted Camilla as his wife for a variety of reasons. First, he loved her with a consuming passion. The fact that their love affair was forced to remain secret for decades made his feelings towards her that much more intense. Second, he’s a man who is all too aware of his own status. He pictured the moment when he would be crowned King. He wanted a wife by his side — not some mistress hiding upstairs in the gallery.
“And last, he wanted to vanquish the critics who, for years, had been sniping at Camilla — for her looks, for her morals, for her drinking.”
Still, Charles and Camilla went to massive lengths to avoid being photographed together after Diana died. British newspapers offered $2 million for the first photo of the lovers together.
Eventually, in 1999, as the hatred towards Camilla faded somewhat, the couple was photographed together at a carefully orchestrated event as they left a birthday party at London’s Ritz Hotel. That August they were photographed again on a romantic holiday to the Mediterranean and soon after that Charles and Camilla began to attend public engagements as a couple.
Prince Charles paid for Camilla’s jewels and designer wardrobe plus the decoration of her two-room quarters in his own official residence, Clarence House, by designer Robert Kime. By 2005 Camilla and Charles were inseparable and the public — as well as the Queen — accepted the inevitability of their relationship.