An investigation into whether Charles actually dated Diana's sister first

Jennifer Savin
·3-min read
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

When it comes to historic couples, Princess Diana and Prince Charles are up there as one of the most famous unions in the world. But how did the two meet? Well, as hinted at in the new series of The Crown, it's widely rumoured that Charles actually dated Diana Spencer's elder sister, Sarah, or at least was good friends with her beforehand.

In the show, it's suggested that Charles and Sarah were courting – as there's a scene in the first episode where the royal family are discussing how Charles hasn't settled down yet (something he was feeling the pressure to do). The Queen says, "From what I gather the latest is Sarah Spencer... I rather like that idea."

The Prince is then seen at the Spencer family home, where Sarah suggests the pair go riding together so they could be alone. The character of Diana (played by Emma Corrin) pops up later on dressed as a tree (random!) but doesn't have any sort of meaningful interaction with Charles (played by Josh O'Connor). Later in the programme, Diana introduces herself to the Prince as "Sarah Spencer's younger sister" while attending a group trip to a funfair (at this point she's thought to be 18 years old).

In reality, Charles and Diana said in a 1981 interview following their engagement that they'd first come into contact with one another at a shooting party (when Diana was 16 years old and Charles was 29) held at the Spencer family home in 1977 – so that much we know is true. The future King of Britain was in attendance as Sarah's guest.

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

"It was 1977, Charles came to stay as a friend of my sister Sarah's... for a shoot. We sort of met in a plowed field," Diana says shyly, before Charles added, "I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything." This could be why the makers of The Crown decided to have Diana's character appear dressed as a tree, to show that whimsical side of her personality.

In the interview, Charles then adds he realised Diana was the bride for him "gradually", about a year before their engagement (and three years since their first run-in).

Recounting their first meeting during the 2017 documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words, a tape of Diana speaking captures the Princess saying, "For a 16-year-old, for someone like that to show any attention was just so, sort of amazed. Why would anyone like that be interested in me?"

As to whether or not Charles and Sarah were anything more than good friends, albeit with some possible flirtation thrown in the mix, it's a tricky one to confirm – but it's certainly alluded to. "My sister was all over him like a bad rash," Diana is also heard saying in the documentary, when discussing the years between Charles and her meeting, going their separate ways and then being reunited for his 30th birthday party, which he invited both the sisters to.

Following that, Charles and Diana met again when she was invited to stay at their mutual friend Philip de Pass's house, where she sympathised with him over the loss of his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten. The royal couple were believed to have only met a total of thirteen times before deciding to marry.

We can't wait to see how it all plays out in The Crown!

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