Princess Diana described Prince Harry‘s birth as the moment her marriage “went down the drain”—while an authorized biography of King Charles III said that at that time he cut off friends his wife believed were “conspiring against her.”
Charles and Diana’s perspectives both appear to frame the period around the Duke of Sussex’s birth as a pivotal moment during which relations broke down, but their accounts of how it happened were markedly different.
The princess described the pair as being “very, very close” in the weeks before the birth, while the marriage collapsed afterwards. But she had been suspicious that Charles was secretly in love with Camilla, now the Queen Consort, since before her wedding.
Meanwhile, a 1994 book that the king gave interviews for, said Charles struggled to cope with Diana’s “swings of mood” and ostracized friends in an effort to placate her.
The comparison, including both the similarities and differences, provides key insight into one of the most talked about eras of Charles’ life as he prepares for his coronation on May 6.
The collapse of Diana and Charles’ marriage has been thrown back into the spotlight in recent years through a series of dramatizations, including the Netflix series The Crown.
Prince Harry has also made frequent references to his mother’s experiences in explaining his own feelings about the monarchy, telling Apple TV series The Me You Can’t See: “I’ve got a hell of a lot of my mum in me.”
Most of all, though, for many in Britain and America Diana is still the prism through which Charles and Camilla’s relationship is perceived even as they approach their coronation as King and Queen Consort.
Princess Diana’s Account to Andrew Morton
Princess Diana described her struggles with bulimia, her suspicions about Camilla and the collapse of her marriage in tapes she secretly recorded for biographer Andrew Morten’s 1992 book Diana: Her True Story.
At the time, her involvement was kept secret, but later editions published after her death included the full transcript of her comments.
Diana told Morton: “Then between William and Harry being born it is total darkness. I can’t remember much, I’ve blotted it out, it was such pain. However, Harry appeared by a miracle.
“We were very, very close to each other the six weeks before Harry was born, the closest we’ve ever, ever been and ever will be.
“Then suddenly as Harry was born it just went bang, our marriage, the whole thing went down the drain.”
Prince Harry was born in September 1984, three years after their wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral, in July, 1981.
The princess didn’t go into specifics, but did say she at one stage spoke to the queen, who suggested her bulimia was the cause of the problems in her relationship, while Diana felt it was instead a symptom.
King Charles III’s Perspective in 1994 Book
Two years after Diana: Her True Story, Charles’ perspective on the marriage came out via the authorized book The Prince of Wales: A Biography, by the journalist Jonathan Dimbleby. It was based on interviews with the prince and his friends, as well as his archive of letters and diaries, which Charles granted access to.
“While she was pregnant with Prince Harry and for six months after his birth,” Dimbleby wrote, “the Princess made no further official visits abroad, preferring to stay at home with her very small children.
“For much of the time they lived within the shell of a normal marriage, though they still lacked the intimacy and mutual understanding without which the relationship could not grow.
“As they shared no common interests there was little to talk about except the mundane arrangements that are necessary when two people share the same roof.
“The Princess had dispensed with the services of her psychiatrist, saying that she was better. However, her swings of mood continued, and there were periods of distress that were exhausting to both of them.”
The account appears to alight on the same general time period as a moment of schism between them, however, the book conveys none of Diana’s sense that there had been a period of intense closeness leading up to the birth.
By contrast, Charles appeared to feel that he was pressured to cut off friends and close confidantes who Diana did not trust and the book conveys a sense that the king and those around him felt the princess was not acting rationally.
“At these times,” Dimbleby wrote, “the Princess still appeared to believe not only that the Prince’s friends were conspiring against her, but that their very presence in her life was corroding their marriage.
“She clearly believed that a number of his oldest friends and advisers including distinguished figures in public life, were, as she put it, ‘oilers,’ sycophants whose influence on his judgement was malign.
“One by one, friends who in some cases he had known since childhood found themselves suddenly expelled.
“From a mixture of embarrassment and loyalty to his wife, the prince evidently could not bring himself to explain his action to them, with the result that they discovered what was happening only when the phone calls stopped, the letters ceased to flow and the invitations to Highgrove and Balmoral failed to arrive.”
According to the book, friends including Nicholas Soames, grandson to wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, were hurt “more deeply than they at the time would admit.”
“Apparently in the hope of securing his wife’s peace of mind,” the biography read, “the Prince was even known to have surrendered his labrador, Harvey, at the Princess’ insistence, but for no reason that anyone could fathom.
“It was to no avail: though they both still tried and though there were interludes of happiness, neither of them was able to reach across the gulf that separated them.”
Aftermath of the Two Biographies
After Morton’s book came out, Charles and Diana separated in 1992 during what Queen Elizabeth II would later describe as her “annus horribilis,” or horrible year.
Dimbleby’s 1994 book came together with a TV interview the same year in which Charles admitted on camera that he had cheated on Diana with Camilla, though he said he had been faithful “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
Then in 1995, Diana agreed to her own sit down interview with BBC Panorama in which she famously said: “There were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.”
The couple formally divorced in 1996, a year before the princess died in a Paris car crash in August 1997.
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