Charles first looked at 16-year-old Lady Diana Spencer in 1978 when he was invited to Althorp, her family’s estate, by one of his lovers, her older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. At his 30th birthday party at Buckingham Palace, Diana saw Charles dancing with her sister Camilla and others.
Andrew Parker Bowles was a friend of the Queen Mother and her circle, so he and Camilla were never far from the center of Charles’ universe. Charles and Camilla remained confidants, and according to The Diana Chronicles, their affair was rekindled in 1979 when Charles heard about the death of Uncle Dickie, who was killed along with his teenage grandson and another boy, when an assassin bombed his chased, the fishing boat became sad.
Despite being crazy about Charles’ poorly kept secret, neither the Queen nor Philip said much about her son’s many indiscretions. Philip once wrote a letter to his son accusing him of “showing off” one of his friends. They just hoped Charles would choose someone suitable to marry, and the virgin Diana happened to fit the bill.
Despite their innumerable differences and an age difference of 12 years, Charles and Diana began a romance when she turned 19 in July 1980. A positively scandalous headline in the Daily Mirror – “Royal Love Train” reporting that they had spent two nights together aboard the Royal Train – sparked endless chatter about when or if Charles would ever make her an honest woman.
In January 1981, Philip sent his son another of his famous letters, telling him to go one way or another – to propose or to separate. Charles just read it like that.
In their televised engagement interview, which aired on February 24, 1981, Charles said he was “delighted and happy”. When asked rhetorically whether he was “in love” with Diana, he said, “Whatever” in love “means.”