The Night A Humiliated Diana Confronted Prince Charles' Lover – And The 'Ruthless Campaign' To Rehabilitate Camilla's Image After Her Death
Diana, Princess of Wales confronted her husband’s lover Camilla Parker Bowles face-to-face at a party in 1989, and the resulting bust up sealed the end of her marriage to Prince Charles.
The astonishing insight into the fiery exchange is revealed in the latest episode of the hit podcast "The Firm: Blood, Lies and Royal Succession," released on Tuesday, August 16, and is told by a man who witnessed the confrontation first hand.
Former bodyguard to Diana Ken Wharfe tells the host of the podcast that the royal clash came at a party to celebrate the 40th birthday of Camilla’s sister, Annabel Elliot — a bash that Camilla assumed Diana would not even attend.
“I was surprised that Diana would go to such an event knowing that Camilla would be there,” he said. “But nevertheless, she did, and I think this was a surprise to the Prince as well.”
When the Prince and Princess arrived, it soon became clear that none of the other guests expected Diana to come either – and that, most humiliatingly of all, Charles and Camilla’s affair was apparently public knowledge among the aristocracy.
“When we arrived at the house, everyone was dressed in their finery,” he said. “And once the door opened you could see this gasp of ‘hey, how?’ It was like freeze framing a slide of a movie.”
He then describes what happened next – and Diana’s extraordinary decision to have it out with the woman seemingly intent on ruining her marriage.
“And then about an hour later I heard my name being called from outside, and it was Diana's voice,” he said. “She said, ‘I can't find the Prince and I can't see Camilla either. I want to go and find them.’ And my answer was, ‘Do you think this is a good idea?’ She said, "Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I still want to see where they are and I want you to come with me.'"
Diana and Wharfe found the adulterous couple huddled together in what he describes as a “basement area” of the house – where Diana confronted Camilla.
“And Diana, very confidently, went across and, without any anger, it was very polite, she said, ‘Look, please don't treat me like an idiot. I know exactly what is going on,’ expecting some sort of reply from Camilla or at least the Prince,” he explained.
Camilla’s defense of her adultery remains astonishing to Wharfe, even 33 years later.
“But Camilla then said something which was very strange to me,” he continued. “She said, ‘Well it's all right for you. You've got two wonderful boys,’ as if that might end the conversation and we'd all go back to normal, but, of course, it didn't. And if there was ever a chance of a reconciliation, now that opportunity had gone.”
The marriage was to last just three more turbulent years before British Prime Minister John Major announced their legal separation, and in August 1996, Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalized.
Tragically, Diana would only live another year before her shocking death in August 1997. And, as also revealed by the podcast, even as the world mourned her passing, senior members of “The Firm” – the shadowy fixers and enablers who manage the royal family’s brand and public image – began to plot how to rehabilitate Camilla’s public image and eventual marriage to Charles.
“After Diana's tragic death, Charles had to rehabilitate Camilla who was non-negotiable in his life, so they intended to marry,” explained royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams. “It was a concerted ruthless campaign with a specific purpose and it was launched by the Prince of Wales.”
According to Fitzwilliams, the “campaign” took a softly-softly approach, gradually releasing positive pictures and stories of Camilla with members of Charles’ family including the Queen and Princes William and Harry to the press over a number of years.
“It had to be handled in a way that people would find acceptable bit by bit,” he said. “The fact that Camilla took tea with William, the fact that the Queen happened to meet Camilla at a certain function, the fact that Charles and Camilla were seen together, and so forth. These certain things were released with specific intent to the newspapers, step-by-step. And it was done brilliantly.”
So brilliantly, in fact, that just eight years after Diana’s death, and 16 years after her fiery exchange with a humiliated Princess of Wales, Charles and Camilla were married. And as part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations this spring, the Queen even let it be known that when Charles becomes King, she would like Camilla to be known as Queen Consort. For Fitzwilliams, such a turnaround remains astonishing.
“If you'd said after Diana's death, that Charles and Camilla would be married by 2005, I don't think you'd have found many people who believed it,” he said.
"The Firm: Blood, Lies and Royal Succession" continues to dominate podcast charts around the world, with further episodes promising revelations about Harry and Meghan’s split from the royal family, as well as new insight into the fractured relationships between Princes William and Harry. Click on the link below to listen.