It’s been 18 years since Charles and Camilla wed, and only months since they took on their roles as Britain’s king and queen consort.
Now, on May 6, Charles will be formally inaugurated as sovereign in a coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, where Camilla will also be crowned. Nearly two decades together have culminated into this historic moment.
Before becoming Charles’ wife in 2005, Camilla spent years as his partner. Long before the couple shared their romance publicly, they carried on an off-again, on-again love affair that overlapped with their respective past marriages to Princess Diana and Andrew Parker Bowles.
So how did it all happen? For a complete rundown, from first meeting to first scandal and from marriage to the throne, take a look back at the history of the royals’ romance.
1970: Charles and Camilla meet
Camilla Shand was 23 when she met the eligible British heir, 22, at a polo match in 1970, just one year after Charles’ investiture as the Prince of Wales. In “The Diana Chronicles,” author Tina Brown claims Camilla made a good first impression with the prince by fawning over his horse.
Penny Junor’s biography of Camilla, “The Duchess: The Untold Story,” states that the two fell in love in 1971 after being introduced by a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz. During their introduction, Santa Cruz poked fun at their ancestors’ connection: Alice Keppel, Camilla’s great-grandmother, per Brittanica, had been a long-term mistress of King Edward VII.
While it’s believed they began dating shortly after that meeting, it seemed to be only a short fling, as they parted ways a few months later when the prince joined the Royal Navy in 1971.
1973: Camilla marries another
While Charles was away, Camilla resumed a relationship with a former beau, Andrew Parker Bowles. The British Army major, who’d also briefly dated Charles’ sister, Princess Anne, became engaged to Camilla in 1973. By July of that same year, the couple wed — but not without opposition to their union.
Charles, reportedly, still loved Camilla.
According to Junor’s Camilla biography, Charles was left heartbroken when he learned his former flame was promised to another.
Junor explained, “It seemed to him particularly cruel, he wrote in one letter, that after ‘such a blissful, peaceful and mutually happy relationship’, fate had decreed that it should last a mere six months.”
Though the author alleged that Charles made a “last-ditch” attempt to stop the wedding, it went on as planned.
1978: A friendship (and maybe more) thrives between Charles and Camilla
Camilla’s marriage to Parker Bowles didn’t end her friendship with Charles. The two continued to be seen in public, and as the years went on their friendship deepened.
“The Duchess: The Untold Story” makes the claim that by “1978 or early 1979,” the friends rekindled their romance for a time and further states that Parker Bowles wasn’t concerned about it.
“He knew Camilla was flattered by the prince’s adoration, but he didn’t think she was in love with him — and he knew perfectly well Charles could never marry a divorcée,” Junor wrote.
Also, during his birthday party in 1978, the Prince of Wales met a young woman would play a pivotal role in his future: Lady Diana Spencer.
1981: Charles marries Diana
In what was dubbed the wedding of the century, the Prince of Wales married Diana on July 29, 1981.
The young and popular princess seemed a perfect match for Charles, complete with an aristocratic pedigree that Camilla lacked.
But two weeks before Diana walked down the aisle at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, she found evidence that the connection Charles shared with Camilla remained strong.
In Andrew Morton’s “Diana: Her True Story, In Her Own Words,” a book based largely on audio tapes recorded by Diana and given to Morton, Diana recalled finding out Charles had sent Camilla an engraved bracelet bearing the initials “F” and “G,” a reference to their nicknames for one another, Fred and Gladys. Diana said the discovery left her “devastated.”
Then, shortly after the wedding, there was another incident that upset her.
“On our honeymoon, for instance, we were opening our diaries to discuss various things,” she said. “Out comes two pictures of Camilla.”
1986: Charles and Camilla resume their romance
While both were still married to others and after each becoming parents to two children, Charles and Camilla rekindled their romance once again in 1986, per Jonathan Dimbleby's authorized biography of Charles.
As for that affair, Charles told biographer Jonathan Dimbleby, in a 1994 interview, that he’d remained faithful in his marriage to Diana “until it became irretrievably broken down.”
1989: The confrontation
In a moment Diana called “calm, deathly calm,” she confronted Camilla about the affair in 1989, per Morton's book.
“I said: ‘Camilla, I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on between you and Charles, I wasn’t born yesterday,’” the Princess of Wales recounted in Morton’s book. “I said to Camilla: ‘I’m sorry I’m in the way, I obviously am in the way and it must be hell for both of you but I do know what is going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.’”
It was a cathartic moment for the royal, who added that she “cried and cried and cried” after it was over.
1992: Separation for Charles and Diana
British Prime Minister John Major shared news that shocked Britain when he spoke on the floor of the House of Commons on Dec. 9, 1992.
“It is announced from Buckingham Palace that, with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate. The Royal Highnesses have no plans to divorce, and their constitutional positions are unaffected.”
1993: The 'Camillagate' phone call is released
One month after the news of the separation, in January of 1993, a British tabloid published a transcript of an intimate 1989 telephone call between Charles and Camilla, marking a scandal that came to be known as “Camillagate.”
This incident is depicted in season five of “The Crown.” Dominic West, who plays Charles in the season, remarked on the scandal in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“What’s really (clear now) is how invasive and disgusting was the press’ attention to it, that they printed it out verbatim and you could call a number and listen to the actual tape,” he said.
1995 — 1996: Two divorces change everything
After 21 years of marriage, Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles divorced in 1995. And later that same year, following a turbulent marriage and a scandal-plague separation, Queen Elizabeth II recommended that Charles and Diana do the same.
“After considering the present situation, the queen wrote to both the prince and princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, that an early divorce is desirable,” a statement from the palace read.
In August of 1996, Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalized — just one year before the tragic death of the Princess of Wales.
1999: Charles and Camilla go public
On January 28, 1999, Charles and Camilla left an event held at London’s Ritz Hotel together, smiling as photographers captured their first public outing as a couple.
2003: Together they call Clarence House a home
2005: Engagement and wedding
Charles and Camilla announced their engagement on February 10, 2005, and at that time, a press release from Clarence House stated she would become the Duchess of Cornwall upon marriage and, “It is intended that Mrs. Parker Bowles should use the title HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne.”
On April 9, they wed in a small — by heir-apparent standards — civil ceremony held at Windsor Guildhall, not far from Windsor Castle. The groom wore a morning suit, and the bride wore a cream-colored silk chiffon dress with a feather-embellished straw hat, paired with a light blue coat. All of their children were there for the nuptials.
Neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Phillip attended the civil ceremony. They did, however, attend a blessing by the Archbishop of Canterbury in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and the reception.
2022: Queen Elizabeth’s blessing and death
In the final year of Queen Elizabeth’s life, the monarch celebrated her long reign with a Platinum Jubilee. And in February of 2022, she marked the 70th anniversary of her ascension to the throne by doing something she’d never done before — telling her subjects that Camilla had her blessing to take on an important title following Elizabeth’s eventual death.
And it wasn’t the title the public had previously been told Camilla would one day receive.
Her message read, “And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”
That same day, Charles released his own statement, in which they wrote, “We are deeply conscious of the honor represented by my mother’s wish. As we have sought together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my darling wife has been my own steadfast support throughout.”
After Charles ascended to the throne in September 2022, Buckingham Palace started planning Charles and Camilla's coronation ceremony, which will take place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6.
2023: First trip as king and queen consort
Charles and Camilla visited Germany March 29 to 31 in their first official trip abroad as sovereign and queen consort. They visited Berlin and Brandenburg, as well as Hamburg, where they enjoyed a lovely pint.