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Yes, Diana Was Married To Prince Charles, But Camilla Wasn't The 'Other Woman' — Diana Was

Photo: ComposedPics / Mark Reinstein / Shutterstock
Prince Charles, Camilla, Princess Diana

“It’s not easy,” Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and wife of Prince Charles told British Vogue's July issue when asked about the merciless way the media has analyzed her life.

“I was scrutinized for such a long time that you just have to find a way to live with it. Nobody likes to be looked at all the time and, you know, criticized.”

She has been married to the future King for the past 17 years and has been connected to the British Royal Family for much longer. Yet, her legacy is always wrapped up in a controversial affair that occurred over two decades ago.

Princess Diana was undoubtedly one of the most beloved women in the history of the world.

The tragic and mysterious nature of her death has therefore understandably become a touchstone of emotional reactivity for people across the globe.

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She is in so many ways representative of every conceivable ideal we all hold to be of the highest value in relation to characteristics women should possess.

This universal appeal of the woman once known affectionately as Lady Di applies across cultures, races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and political parties.

Even though the now-75-year-old Camilla finally married the man she has loved unflinchingly since her youth in 2005, she is more widely known as "the other woman" who infamously "came between" the Prince of Wales, 71, heir apparent to the British throne, and his first wife, Lady Diana Spencer.

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In the summer of 2017, the ever-present shadow that has loomed over Camilla's public persona for the past several decades was darkened further with the airing of a documentary on the late Princess's life based on Andrew Morton's biography, "Diana: Her True Story In Her Own Words."

Originally aired only in the UK and now available in the US on Netflix, "Diana: In Her Own Words" consists mainly of video footage shot by a BBC cameraman she selected herself.

Not to be confused with the tapes made by her then vocal coach, Peter Settelen, this footage was shot by an as yet unnamed cameraman claims to have been "secretly summoned to Kensington Palace by Diana in March 1997" for what was the first of what would seven sessions in which he rolled the cameras as she "she offloaded years of anger with the Royal Family, including how she caught Charles red-handed ... talking with his mistress."

Among the many highly personal and shocking details Diana revealed about the ways in which she was "traumatized" by her relationship with Charles.

The documentary included statements from Diana in which she described walking in on Charles sitting on the toilet as he was engaged in a steamy phone conversation with Camilla — it is alleged that "Camilla was the raunchier of the two."

But perhaps most damning for Camilla was Diana's description of the moment when she directly confronted her husband's lover about the affair.

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Here is an excerpt from one of the recordings made for "Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words" by Andrew Morton:

"The worst day of my life was realizing that Charles had gone back to Camilla. One of the bravest moments of my ten years of marriage was when we went to this ghastly party (thrown by Lady Annabel Goldsmith in February 1989) for Camilla’s sister’s 40th birthday...

"And then after dinner, we were all upstairs and I was chatting away, and I suddenly noticed there was no Camilla and no Charles. So this disturbed me. So I make my way to go downstairs. I know what I’m going to confront myself with...

"I go downstairs, and there is a very happy little threesome going on — Camilla, Charles, and another man chatting away. So I thought: ‘Right, this is your moment,’ and joined in the conversation as if we were all best friends. And the other man said: ‘I think we ought to go upstairs now.’

"So we stood up, and I said: ‘Camilla, I’d love to have a word with you, if it’s possible,’ and she looked really uncomfortable and put her head down...

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"I said: ‘Camilla, I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on.’

"She said: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!’

"And I said: ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles, and I just want you to know that.’

"And she said: ‘Oh, it’s not a cloak-and-dagger situation.’

"I said: ‘I think it is...'

"She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world falling in love with you, and you’ve got two beautiful children. What more could you want?’

"So I said: ‘I want my husband.'"

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The story is heartbreaking so it's understandable that Camilla hasn't always been the most likable character for Diana's supporters — though it must be stressed that Charles was the one betraying his wife.

However, given the time that has passed since Diana's death and what we now know about Charles and Camilla's relationship something should be said.

Yes, Diana was Charles' wife, but Camilla was not the "other woman." Diana was.

Camilla and Charles have a history with each other that dates back to their first meeting at a polo match in 1970, at which point they fell for each other, immediately began dating, and stayed together until he joined the Royal Navy in 1971.

And though Camilla married first, to Andrew Parker Bowles, in 1973, her choice to marry someone other than the future King wasn't for a lack of love or, to be certain, the physical attraction between the two.

In fact, Camilla was allegedly deemed ineligible to wed Charles for one extremely outdated reason — she lost her virginity to another man, her future husband, Andrew, prior to meeting Charles.

The world has consistently picked apart Camilla's virtue and deemed her unworthy of Royal status even though time has proven her to be a devoted member of "the firm."

Charles and Camilla have been connected for more than 50 years now.

The two continued to be spotted together in the years between her marriage and his February 6, 1981, engagement to Diana.

According to a biography of Camilla's life, "The Duchess: The Untold Story," written by "Britain’s top royal author" Penny Junor, based on her conversations with Camilla’s family and confidantes, "Charles is said to have begged Camilla to call off her wedding to her first husband and to have wept the night before his marriage to Diana.

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The book says a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, who had known of the Prince's misgivings, had stood with him at a Buckingham Palace window watching the crowds in the Mall with tears streaming down their faces."

Charles married Diana not for love or even for affection, but because his parents and his country told him to do so.

But Camilla always had his heart.

In February, Queen Elizabeth II ended 20 years of speculation by officially giving a “stamp of approval” that legitimized the Duchess’s role within “the firm.” 

“It is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort,” The Queen wrote in a message, finally declaring what title the Duchess would assume once Prince Charles takes the throne. 

As his second wife, and a divorcee, it was widely assumed that the Duchess would never receive the title Princess Diana would have been given had her marriage lasted. 

In a way, the Queen has demonstrated a desire to free Camilla from the status she has been relegated to since Charles and Diana’s divorce.

She has now been given as much honor as any other wife of a King throughout history has received. 

Yet, it remains to be seen whether the public will ever allow Camilla the same graciousness they give “The People’s Princess,” Diana.

None of this is to say that Diana is in any way to blame, in fact, she was a victim.

She was an innocent young woman, a child really, when she was introduced to Charles at the age of 16.

She could never have known the true depth of his not only his disinterest in her but his misplaced resentment of her for being the one by his side instead of his beloved Camilla Shand.

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But with due consideration to the complexity of the circumstances and the magnitude of the forces dictating every minor detail of the life of this (possible) future leader of all of Great Britain, the ongoing affair between Charles and Camilla may not be excusable, but it is, if we're being completely honest with ourselves, absolutely understandable.

So let's give Diana her tributes and remember her for all of the beautifully good work she did, both raising her wonderful sons and for people all across the world.

And in the spirit of her grace, even if she was never able to forgive Camilla herself, let's try to learn from her ability to relate so well to people regardless of class, station, or other life circumstances and show Camilla some grace of our own.

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, MSN, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Find her on Twitter and Instagram for more.

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