The Biggest Age Gaps In Royal Marriages

Age gaps in royal marriages are hardly anything new, though increasingly modern royal couples are much closer in age than their predecessors. For example, Prince Philip was only five years older than Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle is three years older than Prince Harry, and the Prince and Princess of Wales are the same age, only five months apart. And while King Charles and Queen Camilla are separated by 16 months in age, Charles was a whopping 13 years older than Princess Diana (per Oprah Daily).

If the age gap between Charles and Diana seems like a lot, it's nothing compared to the literal decades that other royal couples have had between them. For example, King William III of the Netherlands was 41 years older than his wife Queen Emma when they married in 1879 (via History of Royal Women), and King Hussein of Jordan was 16 years older than Queen Noor on their wedding date in 1978 (per Royal Central).

Here's a look at some of the biggest age gaps between royal pairings in history.

Prince Charles was 12 years older than Princess Diana

Many royal fans and watchers know that King Charles was older than his first wife Princess Diana, but it might surprise you to learn that he was a full 12 years older than the late Princess of Wales. Diana was only 16 years old when she met Charles for the first time at Althorp Home, her family's residence, per "Today."

Charles later explained that Diana's youth was part of her appeal to him. During an interview discussing their engagement, Charles said, "I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean great fun, bouncy and full of life and everything" (via YouTube).

Diana was 19 when she said yes to Charles' proposal. Their age gap would go on to be a major feature in their marriage. As Oprah Daily noted, when Charles was asked in an interview whether he was in love with Diana, he replied, "Whatever 'in love' means," which was both confusing and hurtful for his teenage fiancée. As she later recounted in an interview featured in the documentary "Diana: In Her Own Words," "[His response] threw me completely. I thought, 'What a strange question — uh, answer.' God, absolutely traumatized me" (via Today).

Prince Charles reportedly contemplated canceling their wedding because, as he wrote to a friend, "She does not look old enough to be out of school, much less married." In his book "Diana vs. Charles," James Whittaker wrote, "[Charles] behaved as if he were much older, a habit he never succeeded in discarding and which would come to infuriate Diana in the years ahead" (via Oprah Daily). He continued, writing, "[But for Diana] the memory of him, so much older when she was a tiny child, never quite went away."

King William III was 41 years older than Queen Emma

When it comes to royal marriages, a 12-year age gap is absolutely nothing — as proven by the Netherlands' King William III and Queen Emma. When they married in January 1879, William was a full 41 years older than his wife, who was 20 years old (via History of Royal Women). The two would go on to have one child, a daughter who was born in August 1880. 

This was William's second marriage; his first wife, Sophie of Württemberg, passed away two years before the king married Emma. William and Sophie had three sons together: William, Maurice, and Alexander. Maurice died at the age of six, and upon Sophie's death, William seemed convinced that neither William nor Alexander would have children of their own and the line of succession would be broken. Enter: Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont.

William had originally planned to begin a relationship with Emma's older sister Pauline, who reportedly rejected him outright. Both of William's surviving sons refused to attend the wedding and the Netherlands did not initially accept Emma. Once she gave birth to a daughter, Wilhelmina, things changed and the country dedicated the year 2020 to Wilhelmina.

King WIlliam IV was 27 years older than Queen Adelaide

In 1817, the future King George IV lost his wife, Princess Charlotte, during childbirth. The British royal family was plunged into chaos as it became imperative to find a wife for George's brother, William, Duke of Clarence. One thing led to another, and William married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in a double wedding with the Duke and Duchess of Kent in July 1818. Despite the fact that William was 27 years older than Adelaide, the University of Oxford has recorded that they had a happy marriage.

The royal couples all began attempting to have babies to name an heir to the throne; Adelaide suffered several miscarriages and stillbirths in this pursuit. She also gave birth to two infants who died as children. Ultimately, the Duke and Duchess of Kent welcomed their daughter, Princess Victoria, who would later inherit the throne.

Oxford also explains that King William IV ascended the throne with Adelaide as his queen consort in 1830. When her husband died seven years later, Adelaide was the first queen dowager in a century. She began to pull back from royal life, though was often on hand to provide Princess Victoria with advice about being queen. 

King Wladyslaw Jagiello was 53 years older than Queen Sophia

Poland's King Wladyslaw Jagiello was one of the Duke of Lithuania's 12 sons and ultimately named his father's heir apparent. When his father died in 1377, he didn't initially ascend the throne due to family disagreements about the legitimacy of his claim. Ultimately, Polish nobles asked if he wanted to marry Queen Jadwiga and share her throne, and Jagiello took them up on the offer (per Britannica).

Jadwiga died alongside the pair's only child during childbirth in 1399, which gave Jagiello the opportunity to rule as king. He next married Anna of Celje, who gave birth to a daughter, also named Jadwiga, before dying in 1416. He married Elisabeth of Pilica following Anna's passing, though the two didn't have children together. He once again married, this time to the young Sophia of Halshany, who was 53 years younger than him. Jagiello and Sophia had two sons, one of whom inherited the throne after the death of Princess Jadwiga in 1431 (per the New World Encyclopedia).

King Henry VIII was 17 years older than Jane Seymour

King Henry VIII famously had several wives, one of whom was the young Jane Seymour, who was 17 years his junior when they married in May 1536, only days after the execution of Henry's wife Anne of Boelyn. Jane was Henry's third wife, and it's said that he genuinely enjoyed her and their marriage because she was different from both of the women who preceded her in marriage and death, Catherine and Anne (per History on the Net).

At the time of their marriage, Henry was 45 years old and Jane was 28 years old. Jane spent part of their 17-month-long marriage working to put Henry's daughter Mary, born to Catherine of Aragon, in good favor with her father again. She also gave birth to the pair's son, Edward VI, in October 1537. Sadly, Jane passed away 12 days after Edward was born. Britannica has noted that despite Jane's early death, Henry continued to help her family for the rest of his life. 

King Hussein was 16 years older than Queen Noor

King Hussein of Jordan married Queen Noor in June 1978, a month after the king's proposal and a year after the two met. They were introduced at the opening of Jordan's Queen Alia International Airport, where Noor was the director of facilities planning and design for Arab Air Services. The king was 16 years older than his bride, who converted to Sunni Islam for the marriage (per Royal Central).

Noor and Hussein have four children together: Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, Prince Hashim bin Hussein, and daughters Iman bint Hussein and Raiyah bint Hussein. The America-born queen was Hussein's fourth wife, and in 1979, Noor told The New York Times that she wasn't 100% sure about the marriage when Hussein proposed. She explained, "I was unsure I would be exactly what he needed, that I wouldn't be a hindrance, being relatively new to Jordan and because it did happen fairly quickly. In asking me, he was offering me an opportunity to not only love him and his children, but to put what I had inside me to the best possible use" (via the Daily Express).

However, Noor later wrote in her 2003 memoir "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life" that the two had a happy and equal marriage until King Hussein died of cancer in 1999.

Princess Caroline was 17 years younger than Philippe Junot

Princess Caroline of Monaco and banker Philippe Junot had an outdoor courtyard wedding at the Royal Palace of Monaco when they married in June 1978. Per Vogue, the two had what was described as a somewhat more low-key royal wedding than most. The pair, who had a 17-year age difference, ended up divorcing two years after they got married.

It seems the odds were stacked against Caroline and Philippe from the beginning. Vanity Fair noted in June 2021 that Caroline's family viewed Philippe as a commoner and an outsider, despite Grace Kelly's own ascension into the royal family from Hollywood to Monaco. The outlet insisted that at the time of Caroline's wedding, both Prince Rainier and Princess Grace were deeply unhappy with her choice of husband. The two were also plagued with rumors of infidelity, with many insisting that Philippe had relationships outside of his marriage.

Prince Johannes was 34 years older than Princess Gloria

In 1980, a 20-year-old Gloria von Schönburg-Glauchau married 54-year-old Prince Johannes of Thurn und Taxis, the largest landowner in Germany at the time (via Vanity Fair). In an interview with Russia 24, Gloria explained that her parents opposed the marriage from the very beginning, something that she worked to change. She said, "We had an age difference of 30 years, but I never paid attention to the age. I always look at a person. I convinced [my] parents of this" (via Nasvete).

Despite those familial objections, the couple would go on to welcome three children: Princess Maria Theresa, Princess Elisabeth, and Prince Albert. Gloria gained several nicknames throughout the 1980s, including "Punk Princess" and "Princess TNT." When her husband died in 1990, Gloria had to face his debt of $500 million, but she managed to become a success in the world of business (per The Royal Watcher).

Gloria and her husband were massively wealthy, according to Vanity Fair, which noted that a friend of the couple said, "Johannes and Gloria live on a scale matched only by the Queen of England and the Queen of Holland. In fact, their schloss in Regensburg is much larger than Buckingham Palace. And you should see the way it is kept up. My dears, there isn't a corner where you couldn't eat off the floor."

Count Lennart Bernadotte was 35 years older than Sonja Haunz

Count Lennart Bernadotte was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1909 and was the only child of Prince Wilhelm of Sweden and his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. He was raised by his grandparents, King Gustav V and Queen Victoria, but lost his royal title in 1932 when he married his first wife, Karin Emma Louise Nissvandt. The pair divorced in 1971 and he married his second wife, Sonja Haunz, in 1972 (via Kunghuset).

The two had a 35-year age gap, but that didn't stop them from having five children together. Lennart and Sonja met when the latter became employed as her future husband's assistant. Despite the seemingly surprising and dramatic nature of their relationship, Lennart was clear in a 1994 interview that he was happy with the choices he'd made in life. As the Scotsman reported, he told an outlet, "I have lived a happy life and I still think it is fun."

Count Athanasius Colonna-Walewski was 60 years older than Countess Marie

Count Athanasius Colonna-Walewski of France married his young wife, Countess Marie, when he was 68 years old and she was 20 years old. Marie was encouraged to marry the much older count by her mother following the unexpected death of her father, Mathieu Laczynski, which left the family in a tough spot. Their marriage was the third for Count Athanasius, who had previously been twice widowed (per

Marie gave birth to one son, Antoni Rudolf Bazyli Colonna-Walewski, but her sister-in-law and nieces by marriage took the baby from her. Marie was then left to live what has been described as a lonely life before meeting French Emperor Napoleon in 1807. She soon became Napoleon's mistress, and the pair had a son together. Marie later wrote in her memoirs that she had the affair to help secure the independence of her native Poland (via Unofficial Royalty).

Marie reportedly took great pains to keep the affair a secret, coming and going under the cover of darkness, though she eventually moved into an apartment that was next to that of the emperor. She moved to Paris after Napoleon returned and their relationship ended, but the emperor provided for her and their son for the rest of her life (via Unofficial Royalty).