Charles and Camilla's love story: A timeline of the King and Queen Consort's relationship

Charles and Camilla relationship
Charles and Camilla's relationship began 50 years ago. (Getty Images)

King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort’s relationship hasn't been smooth sailing. Despite sparks flying initially, they both married other people, before getting together 35 years after they first met.

As the couple are set to be crowned King and Queen of England on 6 May 2023, Yahoo UK looks back at their love story, and how their relationship came to be.

1970 – How Charles and Camilla met

Charles, then Prince of Wales, reportedly first met Camilla Shand at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in 1970.

However, another report suggests that the couple originally met at a mutual friend’s party, where Camilla’s first line to Charles was: “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather. I feel we have something in common.”

Whichever was their original meet-cute, the pair reportedly dated for about six months in the early 1970s, but Charles, already Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, entered the Royal Navy in 1971; a decision which put the brakes on their blossoming romance.

Prince Charles chats to Camilla Parker-Bowles at a polo match. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Prince Charles chats to Camilla at a polo match. (Getty Images)

There are differing accounts of why the couple never made it down the aisle the first time around. One is that their short relationship came in the middle of Camilla’s long-term on-again, off-again relationship with Andrew Parker-Bowles, who a few years later became her first husband.

Other accounts suggest that Camilla was seen as an unsuitable wife to the heir by some members of the Royal Family. Camilla’s dating history was a strike against her, because the future king needed to marry someone “who at least appeared virginal”, according to historian Bedall Smith.

1973 – Camilla’s first marriage

Camilla Shand was the first to marry, tying the knot with Parker Bowles in 1973.

According to some reports, pressure was mounting on them to get engaged such that Camilla’s father published an announcement in The Times to give them the hint.

Camilla Shand and Captain Andrew Parker Bowles on their wedding day.
Camilla Shand married her first husband Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. (Getty Images)

Parker Bowles had royal ties long before his ex-wife Camilla went on to marry King Charles. His father, Derek Henry Parker Bowles, was a close friend of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and according to Vanity Fair, a then 13-year-old Andrew served as page at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.

The wedding was a high-society event, with the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, and Princess Anne, who also once dated Parker-Bowles, all attending.

The newlywed couple remained friends with Prince Charles through the years, who they had both known before they married, with the future king even becoming godfather to their first child, Tom Parker Bowles, in 1974.

1981 – Charles and Diana’s engagement and wedding

A few years later, Charles met Lady Diana Spencer at her family home in Althorp, Northamptonshire, whilst he was dating her older sister Sarah. She was just 16 at this stage, but given how close the ties were between the Spencers and the Royal Family, they had likely crossed paths before.

The pair started dating in 1980, when Diana was 19, and announced their engagement the following year.

Charles and Diana at the announcement of their engagement in February 1981
Charles and Diana announced their engagement in February 1981. (Getty Images)

Charles, then 32, came under fire for his response during their engagement interview to the question “are you in love?” He said: “Whatever love is.”

Nonetheless, the couple married in July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral in the royal wedding of the century.

Camilla attended their wedding, though it’s thought Diana didn’t want her to be there.

Charles and Diana at their wedding in July 1981
Charles and Diana at their wedding in July 1981. (Getty Images)

Charles and Diana went on to have two children, William and Harry, whilst Camilla and Andrew also had a second child, Laura.

1986 – Charles and Camilla reportedly begin their affair

Charles remained close to his former flame, and it’s reported that in 1986, they began an affair.

Diana reportedly confronted Camilla in 1989, telling Andrew Morton in an interview for his book, Diana: Her True Story.

“Camilla, I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on between you and Charles,” she told Camilla. “I wasn't born yesterday.”

Lady Diana Spencer and Camilla Parker-Bowles at Ludlow Races where Prince Charles is competing, 1980. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Archive Photos)
Lady Diana Spencer and Camilla Parker-Bowles at Ludlow Races where Prince Charles was competing in 1980. (Getty Images)

In 1992, a recording of an intimate conversation between Charles and Camilla emerged, and the leaked tapes were dubbed "Tampongate", after a particularly explicit section of their conversation.

Then-prime minister John Major confirmed Charles and Diana had separated the same year.

1995-1996 – The couples divorce and Charles’ confession

In June 1994, two years after Major confirmed the royal separation, British media began to hint that Charles had accidentally revealed he had been unfaithful to Princess Diana during an ITN interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby.

When asked if he had remained “faithful and honourable” to his wife, the then-Prince of Wales initially replied “yes absolutely”, before admitting that was “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”

The same day the explosive interview aired to 13 million viewers across the country, Diana arrived at a gala at London's Serpentine Gallery in a dress so iconic that it has since simply been known as the 'Revenge Dress'.

Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a stunning black dress commissioned from Christina Stambolian, known as the revenge dress
Diana attending the Vanity Fair party in 1994 in what was later dubbed the 'Revenge Dress'. (Getty Images)

Camilla and Parker Bowles divorced in January 1995, and the latter remarried soon afterwards.

Later in 1995, Diana did her own now-infamous televised interview with Martin Bashir, in which she uttered the famous line, "There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded," when discussing her husband’s relationship with Camilla.

Charles and Diana finalised their divorce in 1996, and Diana was killed in a car accident a year later in Paris.

1998 – Charles and Camilla rekindle their romance

A year after Diana’s death, Charles introduced William and Harry to Camilla. They kept the relationship out of the public eye for a while, but made appearances together on rare occasions.

One of those was Camilla’s sister’s birthday party at the Ritz Hotel in 1999. They arrived separately but left together.

According to Good Housekeeping, the progress Camilla made by getting to know Charles’s sons was not matched with getting to know Queen Elizabeth. The late monarch even reportedly turned down an invitation to Charles’ birthday because Camilla will be attending.

Britain's Prince Charles (R) kisses his companion Camilla Parker Bowles (L) at the National Osteoporosis Society's 15th Birthday Celebrations at Somerset House, London June 26, 2001. The party is hosted by Camilla, whose mother died of osteoperosis in 1994.    BR
Charles and Camilla kiss as he supports her at an event in 2001. (Getty Images)

In 2001, the couple kissed in public for the first time – an important milestone in their relationship according to the BBC.

In 2003, Camilla officially moved into Charles’s London home, Clarence House.

2005 - Charles and Camilla's engagement and wedding

In 2005, Charles and Camilla announced their intention to marry. While the news may have shown Camilla had gained royal acceptance, there was a tough political decision ahead, particularly around the venue where they could marry.

A change in the law in 2002 meant they could remarry, though the Church of England is not supportive of second marriages where the spouse is still living. Wanting to avoid any more controversy, they opted for a civil ceremony in Windsor Guildhall.

The Prince of Wales and his new bride Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with their families (L-R) back row Prince Harry, Prince William, Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Parker Bowles (L-R front row) Duke of Edinburgh, HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla's fathe
Charles and Camilla on their wedding day with their families. (Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip did not attend, but did go to the couple’s blessing in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after the legal ceremony.

2022 - Charles and Camilla become king and queen

Camilla settled into royal life and quietly carved out a role for herself which has seen her win public approval after years of abuse.

She has taken care to be conscious of when to step forward and when to step back. In 2007, she opted not to attend the memorial for Diana, though she said she had been invited by Charles and the young princes.

Releasing a statement she said: "I accepted and wanted to support them, however, on reflection I believe my attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion which is to focus on the life and service of Diana. I'm grateful to my husband, William, and Harry for supporting my decision."

Charles and Camilla
Charles and Camilla have attended several official events together since becoming King and Queen. (Getty Images)

Over the years, Camilla has been at Charles’s side for hundreds of royal engagements and family events, including the weddings of William to Kate and Harry to Meghan, as well as taking on her own patronages and roles too, particularly focussing on supporting victims of domestic abuse.

For many years however, the debate over whether Camilla would ever be known as Queen raged on.

While legally entitled to use the title, the official line had been that she would instead be known as Princess Consort, as a way to appease those who blamed her for the breakdown of Charles's marriage to Diana, according to the BBC.

In 2022, Queen Elizabeth settled the argument, revealing that it was her "sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort", effectively declaring that Camilla had earned her place by Charles' side.

EMBARGOED until 2200 Wednesday April 8, 2020. Conditions of use: Please credit: Clarence House. Not for use after 16/4/2020 and has to be used in conjunction with TRHís 15th wedding anniversary. The photograph is free of charge and must not be sold on. Handout picture dated 8/4/2020 of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland), who celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary Thursday, at Birkhall, their home on the Balmoral Estate.
Charles and Camilla released this image to celebrate 15 years of marriage. (Clarence House)

That time came in September 2022 when Queen Elizabeth passed away at the age of 93, and Charles immediately became King, and Camilla, Queen Consort, upon her death.

With their matching dry wit and humour, and passion for the outdoors, Charles and Camilla have established themselves important and loved senior members of the Royal Family.

Watch: Inside the King's coronation at Westminster Abbey