Walking down the aisle, I saw Camilla in a grey pillbox hat. It’s such a vivid memory: Even on her wedding day the young Princess was obsessed with Charles’s lover, writes ANDREW MORTON
- The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was watched by an estimated 750million on TV
- Ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 was the biggest royal event in Britain since the Queen’s coronation
- No one knew that Diana believed Charles was still in love with Camilla and had considered calling wedding off
- Princess Diana, in her own words, reveals in detail how the dreams of her wedding day were soon dashed
The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981, was the biggest royal event in Britain since the Queen’s Coronation.
Declared a national holiday, it was watched by an estimated global TV audience of 750 million. Sitting in the congregation on that sunlit day was Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, one of the Prince’s previous lovers.
What no one knew then was that Diana believed Charles was still in love with Camilla — and had even considered calling off the wedding. But as the virginal 20-year-old walked up the aisle in a cloud of ivory silk taffeta and antique lace, there was no hint of the dramas to come, as Diana describes . . .
Princess Diana, in her own words, reveals in shocking detail how the dreams of her wedding day were soon dashed
I had a very bad fit of bulimia the night before the wedding. I ate everything I could possibly find, which amused my sister Jane because she was staying at Clarence House with me.
Nobody understood what was going on. It was very hush-hush. I was sick as a parrot that night. It was such an indication of what was going on.
Charles sent me a very nice signet ring on the same night, with the Prince of Wales feathers on and a very nice card that said: ‘I’m so proud of you and when you come up, I’ll be there at the altar for you tomorrow. Just look ’em in the eye and knock ’em dead.’
The next morning, I must have been awake about 5am. Interesting — they put me in a bedroom overlooking The Mall, which meant I didn’t get any sleep.
I was very, very calm, deathly calm. I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. I knew it and couldn’t do anything about it.
My last night of freedom with Jane at Clarence House.
On the day, there was great anticipation. Happiness because the crowds buoyed you up — but I don’t think I was happy.
Father [still suffering from the after-effects of a massive stroke] was so thrilled, he waved himself stupid. We went past St Martin-in-the-Fields and he thought we were at St Paul’s. He was ready to get out. It was wonderful, that.
As I walked up the aisle, I was looking for Camilla. I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her.
As I walked up the aisle, I was looking for Camilla. I knew she was in there, of course. I looked for her. I had to get my father basically up the aisle and that’s what I concentrated on
I remember being so in love with my husband that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I just absolutely thought I was the luckiest girl in the world
I thought the whole thing was hysterical, getting married, in the sense that it was just like it was so grown-up, and here was Diana — a kindergarten teacher. The whole thing was ridiculous!
I was basically wandering around, trying to find where I should be, clutching my long train with my bridesmaids and pages
I had to get my father basically up the aisle and that’s what I concentrated on. And I remember being terribly worried about curtsying to the Queen.
Anyway, I got up to the top. I thought the whole thing was hysterical, getting married, in the sense that it was just like it was so grown-up, and here was Diana — a kindergarten teacher. The whole thing was ridiculous!
I remember being so in love with my husband that I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I just absolutely thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. He was going to look after me. Well, was I wrong on that assumption!
So walking back down the aisle, I spotted Camilla — pale grey, veiled pillbox hat, saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair. To this day, you know — vivid memory. When we got out, it was a wonderful feeling: everybody hurraying, everybody happy because they thought we were happy. And there was the big question mark in my mind. I realised I had taken on an enormous role but had no idea what I was going into — just no idea.
Back to Buckingham Palace, did all the photographs. Nothing tactile, nothing.
I was basically wandering around, trying to find where I should be, clutching my long train with my bridesmaids and pages.
Got out on the balcony. It was overwhelming what we saw, so humble-making, all these thousands and thousands of people happy. It was just wonderful.
Sat next to Charles at the wedding breakfast, which was a lunch. Neither of us spoke to each other — we were so shattered. I was exhausted at the whole thing.
The royals took sides with my grandma over me
My grandma [the late Lady Fermoy, who was the Queen Mother’s lady-in-waiting] always said to me: ‘Darling, you must understand that their sense of humour and their lifestyle are different, and I don’t think it will suit you.’
She’s done a good hatchet job on me. All the Queen Mother’s household are anti me.
My mother and grandmother never got on. They clashed violently. Mummy sticks up for me, whereas my grandmother goes out to lacerate me at any opportunity. She feeds the Royal Family with hideous comments about my mother, about her running away and leaving the children.
[Deeply unhappy in her marriage, Diana’s mother Frances was having an affair when she left her husband in 1967. She failed to get custody of the children after her own mother testified in court on behalf of Viscount Althorp — later to become Earl Spencer.]
Whenever I mention my mother’s name within the Royal Family, which I barely do, they come on me like a ton of bricks. So I can never do anything in that department. They’re convinced she’s the baddie and that poor Johnnie [Diana’s father] had a very rough time.
Now, I know it takes two to get in a situation like that. The four of us children never knew what happened, and we don’t actually want to know.
But Mummy’s come off very badly because Granny’s done a real hatchet job on her.
And my husband won’t even talk to my mother.
The worst moment was when we got to Broadlands [the family seat of Charles’s late great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten].
I thought, you know, it was just grim. I just had tremendous hope in me, which was slashed by day two.
We went to Broadlands. Second night, out come the van der Post novels he hadn’t read [Laurens van der Post, the South African philosopher and adventurer, was much admired by Charles]. Seven of them — they came on our honeymoon. He read them and we had to analyse them over lunch every day.
[On the second leg of the honeymoon, aboard the Royal Yacht] we had to entertain all the top people on Britannia every night, so there was never any time on our own. Found that very difficult to accept.
Got out on the balcony. It was overwhelming what we saw, so humble-making, all these thousands and thousands of people happy. It was just wonderful
The worst moment was when we got to Broadlands [the family seat of Charles’s late great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten]. I thought, you know, it was just grim. I just had tremendous hope in me, which was slashed by day two. Pictured: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer opening the Mountbatten Exhibition at Broadlands
The yacht was manned by 21 officers and 256 men. Evening meals were black-tie affairs, attended by selected officers. And while everyone ate, a Royal Marine band played in an adjoining room. By then, the bulimia was appalling, absolutely appalling. It was rife: four times a day on the yacht. Anything I could find, I would gobble up and be sick two minutes later — very tired.
So, of course, that slightly got the mood swings going, in the sense that one minute one would be happy, next blubbing one’s eyes out.
I remember crying my eyes out on our honeymoon. I was so tired, for all the wrong reasons totally.
We survived that all right. Then went off to Balmoral straight from the yacht. Everyone was there to welcome us and then the realisation set in.
My dreams were appalling. At night, I dreamt of Camilla the whole time. I was obsessed by Camilla totally. I didn’t trust Charles — thought every five minutes he was ringing her up, asking how to handle his marriage. Pictured: Prince Charles and Camilla leave a London theatre in 1975
My dreams were appalling. At night, I dreamt of Camilla the whole time.
I was obsessed by Camilla totally. I didn’t trust Charles — thought every five minutes he was ringing her up, asking how to handle his marriage.
Charles got Laurens van der Post up to come and help me. Laurens didn’t understand me.
Everybody saw I was getting thinner and thinner and I was being sicker and sicker.
Let down by my mother
When I didn’t include her in the later stages of wedding preparations she got hurt, so out came the Valium. She’s been on Valium ever since.
My mother [Frances Shand Kydd, who was divorced from her father] let me down terribly with the wedding. She kept crying and being all valiant and saying that she couldn’t cope with the pressure.
I tended to think that I was the one under pressure, because I was the bride. So I didn’t speak to her for three or four years afterwards.
Basically, they thought I could adapt to being Princess of Wales overnight. All the guests at Balmoral coming to stay just stared at me the whole time, treated me like glass.
As far as I was concerned, I was Diana — the only difference was people called me ‘Ma’am’ now, ‘Your Royal Highness’, and they curtsied.
That was the only difference, but I treated everybody else exactly the same.
Charles used to want to go for long walks around Balmoral the whole time. His idea of enjoyment — this will make you laugh — would be to sit on top of the highest hill at Balmoral.
It is beautiful up there. I completely understand; he would read Laurens van der Post or [Swiss psychoanalyst Carl] Jung to me. And bear in mind I hadn’t a clue about psychic powers or anything, but I knew there was something in me that hadn’t been awoken yet — and I didn’t think this was going to help!
So anyway, we read those and I did my tapestry and he was blissfully happy, and as far as he was happy, that was fine. He was in awe of his Mama, intimidated by his father, and I was always the third person in the room. It was never: ‘Darling, would you like a drink?’ It was always: ‘Mummy, would you like a drink?’ ‘Granny, would you like a drink?’ ‘Diana, would you like a drink?’
Fine, no problem. But I had to be told that that was normal because I always thought it was the wife first — stupid thought!
We stayed up there at Balmoral from August to October. I got terribly, terribly thin. People started commenting: ‘Your bones are showing.’ By October, I was in a very bad way.
I was so depressed, and I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades. It rained and rained and rained.
We stayed up there at Balmoral from August to October. I got terribly, terribly thin. People started commenting: ‘Your bones are showing.’ By October, I was in a very bad way. Pictured: Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the Balmoral grounds during their honeymoon
I came down early to London to seek treatment, not because I hated Balmoral but because I was in such a bad way.
Anyway, I came down here. All the analysts and psychiatrists you could ever dream of came plodding in trying to sort me out. Put me on high doses of Valium and everything else.
But the Diana that was still very much there had decided just time, patience and adapting were all that were needed. It was me telling them what I needed.
They were telling me ‘pills’! That was going to keep them happy — they could go to bed at night and sleep, knowing the Princess of Wales wasn’t going to stab anyone.
Anyway, a godsend, William was conceived in October. I was told I was pregnant, fine, great excitement. Marvellous news, occupied my mind. In those days, my greatest pleasure was that I was lucky enough to have a baby on the way.
Anyway, a godsend, William was conceived in October. I was told I was pregnant, fine, great excitement. Marvellous news, occupied my mind. Pictured: Princess Diana at polo, just two weeks before the birth of Prince William
Then we went to Wales for three days [in October 1981] to do our visit as Princess and Prince of Wales. Boy, oh boy, was that a culture shock in every sense of the word.
Wrong clothes, wrong everything, wrong timing, feeling terribly sick, carrying this child, hadn’t told the world I was pregnant but looking grey and gaunt and still being sick. [I was] desperately trying to make Charles proud of me. Made a speech in Welsh. He was more nervous than I was. Never got any praise for it. I began to understand that that was absolutely normal.
Sick as a parrot, it rained the whole time round Wales. It wasn’t easy, I cried a lot in the car, saying I couldn’t get out, couldn’t cope with the crowds.’
He said: ‘You’ve just got to get out and do it.’
So I just got out. He tried his hardest and he did really well in that department, got me out — and once I was out, I was able to do my bit. But it cost me such a lot because I hadn’t got the energy because I was being sick with my bulimia — so much.
[I was] desperately trying to make Charles proud of me. Made a speech in Welsh. He was more nervous than I was. Never got any praise for it. I began to understand that that was absolutely normal. Pictured: The pair on their engagement day at Buckingham Palace
I couldn’t sleep, didn’t eat, whole world was collapsing around me. Very, very difficult pregnancy indeed. Sick the whole time, bulimia and morning sickness.
People tried to put me on pills to stop me from being sick. I refused to risk the child becoming handicapped as a result. So sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.
And this family’s never had anybody who’s had morning sickness before, so every time at Balmoral, Sandringham or Windsor in my evening dress I had to go out, I either fainted or was sick.
It was so embarrassing because I didn’t know anything because I hadn’t read my books, but I knew it was morning sickness because you just do.
So I was ‘a problem’ and they registered Diana as ‘a problem’. ‘She’s different, she’s doing everything that we never did. Why? Poor Charles is having such a hard time.’
Meanwhile, he decided he couldn’t suggest too much.
I suppose I did worry about William; with Harry the morning sickness wasn’t so bad. With William, it was appalling: almost every time I stood up, I was sick. I couldn’t define what triggered it off, but obviously I felt it was a nuisance to the set-up — and I was made to feel it was a nuisance to the set-up.
Suddenly, in the middle of a black dress and black-tie do, I would go out to be sick and come back again, and they’d say: ‘Why didn’t she go off to bed?’
I felt it was my duty to sit at the table. Duty was all over the shop. I didn’t know which way to turn at all.
There was only ever one cancellation when I was carrying William: the visit to the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate. And I was made to feel so guilty by my husband for that.
When we had William [on June 21, 1982], we had to find a date in the diary that suited Charles and his polo.
William had to be induced because I couldn’t handle the Press pressure any longer — it was becoming unbearable. It was as if everybody was monitoring every day for me.
Anyway, we went into St Mary’s Hospital very early. I was sick as a parrot the whole way through the labour. Very bad labour. They wanted a Caesarean — no one told me this until afterwards.
Anyway, the boy arrived. Great excitement. Thrilled. Everyone absolutely high as a kite.
We had found a date where Charles could get off his polo pony for me to give birth. That was very nice — felt very grateful about that!
When the Queen came to see William in hospital, she looked in the incubator and said: ‘Thank goodness he hasn’t got ears like his father.’
Came home, and then postnatal depression hit me hard. And it wasn’t so much the baby that had produced it — it was the baby that triggered off all else that was going on in my mind.
Everything was out of control, everything. I wasn’t very well and I just blubbed my eyes out. William started crying, too. Well, he just sensed that I wasn’t exactly hunky-dory. Pictured: Diana holding Prince William with Charles, Prince Philip and the Queen
Boy, was I troubled. If Charles didn’t come home when he said he was coming home, I thought something dreadful had happened to him. Tears, panic, all the rest of it. He didn’t always see the panic because I would sit there quietly.
At William’s christening [on August 4, 1982] I was treated like nobody else’s business. Nobody asked me when it was suitable for William — 11 o’clock, couldn’t have been worse.
Endless pictures of the Queen, Queen Mother, Charles and William. I was excluded totally that day.
I felt desperate, because I had literally just given birth — William was only six weeks old.
And it was all decided around me. Hence the ghastly pictures.
Everything was out of control, everything. I wasn’t very well and I just blubbed my eyes out. William started crying, too. Well, he just sensed that I wasn’t exactly hunky-dory.
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