Brace Yourself: Here’s the True Story of Princess Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles’ Relationship

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It feels like we watched The Crown season 4 and its many, many awkward moments, like, 30 million years ago, but one scene that has unfortunately been living in my head rent-free since then? Yep, *that* lunch meeting between Princess Diana and now-Queen Camilla Parker Bowles at a restaurant called Ménage à Trois. It was…simply next-level. Like, straight up: If your new boyfriend tries to make you hang out with his ex-girlfriend, maybe…like…break up with him!

Since then, season 5 of The Crown has come and gone and went even more into depth on the time period between the ’90s and the early aughts—aka then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s divorce as well as Princess Diana’s tragic death. But if you’re still hung up on the lunch 🍵 (same)—and the general drama around Charles, Diana, and his affair with Camilla—here are all the deets right this way.

JFYI: Even though Diana and Camilla’s tense lunch scene felt almost too wild to be true, the women in Prince Charles’s life really did hang out. Here’s the true story of Princess Diana and Camilla’s relationship—and that awkward meeting.

Charles Didn’t Tell Diana He and Camilla Used to Date

Yep. Diana thought Charles and Camilla were just friends and found out about their history only after she said yes to his proposal. Check out what royal biographer Penny Junor wrote about the whole ~situation~ in her book, The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown (via Good Housekeeping):

“Instead of explaining to Diana at the outset that Camilla was an old girlfriend, he had presented her as nothing more than a friend. It didn’t occur to him that she needed to know before someone else told her.…He came clean after the engagement, admitting that Camilla had been one of his most intimate friends, but reassured Diana that from now on there would be no other women.”

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Diana Became Suspicious of Camilla During Their Lunch

First up, no: Charles and Diana didn’t actually meet at a restaurant called Ménage à Trois. That’s simply just The Crown trolling us all.

And when it comes to the details of their conversation, it looks like the show took some creative liberties there too. Meaning, no one knows exactly what these two talked about, and there’s no proof Camilla revealed that her and Charles’s nicknames for each other were Fred and Gladys. But thanks to royal biographer Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words, we do know that Camilla tried to do some digging into Charles and Diana’s ’ship:

“The friendly note invited her to lunch. It was during that meeting, arranged to coincide with Prince Charles’s trip to Australia and New Zealand, that Diana became suspicious. Camilla kept asking if Diana was going to hunt when she moved to Highgrove. Nonplussed by such an odd question, Diana replied in the negative. The relief on Camilla’s face was clear. Diana later realized that Camilla saw Charles’s love of hunting as a conduit to maintaining her own relationship with him.”

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Obviously, the friendship between Camilla and Diana didn’t exactly, uh, blossom, but they were spotted hanging out together at Ludlow races in 1980 (before Diana and Charles got married) to watch their, welp, shared man compete. How…fun for everyone. 😐

camilla parker bowles left and lady diana spencer later the princess of wales at ludlow racecourse to watch the amateur riders handicap steeplechase in which the prince was competing   photo by pa images via getty images

PA Images//Getty Images

Diana Eventually Confronted Camilla

According to Morton, Diana confronted Camilla at a birthday party, saying, “I know what’s going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that.” Camilla responded with, “You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?” and Diana said THIS in return: “I want my husband.” Boom.

Then Diana ended the conversation by apologizing to Camilla for being in the way, saying, “It must be hell for both of you but I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.”

Damn. Wild times!

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Mehera Bonner

Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm, She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade. 

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