The truth about Princess Diana and Prince Charles' marriage

In 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana announced their engagement after meeting some four years prior. Even at that time, the red flags were becoming innumerable. Still, Charles and Diana went through with their wedding — and what a wedding that was. Two children, Princes William and Harry, and 15 years later, the royal couple ultimately decided to part ways and officially divorced in 1996.

Just one year after they split, Princess Diana was killed in a tragic car accident. The secrets about her marriage to Charles, however, were not laid to rest with her. From the interviews conducted prior to the princess' passing to authorized biographies and documentaries, the truth behind the couple's often unstable and nearly-always tumultuous marriage started to come out. As it turns out, there are many details that the world never got a chance to know about Diana and Charles' relationship while the princess was still alive. Some of them might just surprise you.

The hidden truth in so many photos of the royal couple

You've likely seen countless photos of Charles and Diana together. It's also quite likely that, all the while, you've never realized one particular detail. On Twitter, sociologist Philip N. Cohen pointed out something amiss in the posed photos of the couple: the prince and princess were the same height, but Charles always photographed at least a foot taller than his wife. So, what's going on?

The royal family, including Charles, have never commented on this odd camera trick, but candid photos of the couple have confirmed the truth. Diana was, in fact, the same height as her husband. Perhaps the prince was sensitive about his height. Maybe it goes even deeper than that — was this his way of being domineering? One may never know for sure, but it is definitely an interesting facet of the couple's relationship and paints a new, if also unflattering, picture of their marriage — that Charles didn't want to accept at least one reality about it.

Charles forgot to kiss Diana at their wedding

The first kiss as husband and wife is always a big deal. Tracie Domino, a wedding planner and founder of Tracie Domino Events, told Brides that she even recommends practicing the ceremony smooch with your fiancé prior to the big day. This is important to avoid an awkward moment, she explained. However, even an awkward kiss would surely be better than no kiss at all, right?

According to History, Prince Charles forgot — forgot! — to kiss his new bride after they exchanged vows at the altar. Consequently, this is how the balcony kiss tradition came to be. As a way to rectify the situation, Charles and Diana took to the balcony of Buckingham Palace to lock lips in front of cheering crowds. It must be a bit embarrassing for Charles that one of the sweetest royal wedding rituals — one that his own son recreated when marrying Kate Middleton — was born out of his forgetfulness. Oh, Charles.

Diana didn't vow to "obey" Charles

In 1981, The New York Times reported a way in which Diana was going against "royal precedent" when marrying Charles. Breaking tradition, Diana chose to follow a new ritual of the Church of England. Instead of vowing to "obey" her prince during the couple's ceremony, Diana vowed to "love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health."

This was quite a departure from what was custom for royalty at that time. Even Queen Elizabeth II vowed to obey Prince Philip — despite being of a much higher position. Although it could seem like omitting to "obey" Charles was a red flag in the couple's relationship, it was likely a way of modernizing tradition.

"Marriage is the kind of relationship where there should be two equal partners, and if there is going to be a dominant partner, it won't be settled by this oath” Dr. Edward Carpenter, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, told the newspaper. Surely, there were much greater issues at hand than these vows.

The sex was "odd — very odd"

In tapes recorded by Diana at Kensington Palace in the early '90s, the princess spoke candidly to her speech tutor, Peter Settelen, about the intimate details of her marriage. By this time, the couple had been married for 12 years and, therefore, were about three years away from divorcing.

"Well there was [sex]. There was. There was. But it was odd, very odd," she said (via Express). Elaborating somewhat, Diana said, "Instinct told me, it was just so odd." Eek. Not exactly a ringing endorsement if you're Prince Charles, that's for sure. Diana went on, saying their intimacy all but "fizzled out" some seven years prior, shortly after Harry was born.

Although Diana didn't go into too much more detail about the couple's sex life, she'd already said more than enough to make it painfully obvious that her relationship with the prince was by no means thriving. 

The not-so-secret affairs

Outside of their seemingly loveless marriage, both Charles and Diana were cultivating other relationships. "When I was 24 or 25 I was deeply in love with someone who worked in this environment [security]," she told her speech tutor (via Independent). Sadly, Diana said he was let go and, three weeks later, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Despite evidence supporting that his death was accidental, Diana felt he had been intentionally killed, or "bumped off," as she put it. Diana also admitted to Settleten, "He was the greatest friend I've ever had." Although she never named her "greatest friend" on the tapes, the details made it clear that she was referring to her bodyguard, Barry Mannakee. 

In 1986, Charles started having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana knew about their affair and even approached Charles' mistress about it at the time, as a taped conversation with her biographer (via People) confirmed. In hindsight, it's no surprise the couple parted ways.

Was Charles ever really in love with Diana?

If you were to just look at Charles and Diana's wedding, it would be easy to reason that they lived a fairy tale romance. This couldn't be further from the truth. In actuality, it's entirely possible that Charles never truly loved Diana. In their first joint interview after becoming engaged, the interviewer asks the couple if they are in love. "Of course," Diana quickly replied. Charles chimed in, saying, "Whatever 'in love' means." 

This moment is one that haunted Diana for years afterward. In a taped conversation with Peter Settelen (via Express), she admitted that she thought it was "a thick question" for the interviewer to ask, but replied nevertheless. Charles' reply, however, stunned her even more than the question. "That threw me completely," she told her tutor, "I thought what a strange question and answer. God. Absolutely traumatised me." Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith told People"He said she was someone [he] could learn to love." We may never know if that moment ever came for Charles.

A time of eating disorders and self-harm

In the thick of Charles' affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana petitioned the Queen for relationship advice. According to Diana in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words (via Independent), the Queen told her, "I don't know what you should do, Charles is hopeless." 

In her equally hopeless situation, Diana developed an eating disorder. "Everyone in the family knew about the bulimia, and everyone blamed the bulimia for the failure of the marriage," Diana explained. Sadly, she said that she felt her eating disorder would be the most "discreet" way to harm herself.

Diana also detailed on tape (via Express) other ways she was crying out for help. "When I was four months pregnant with William I threw myself downstairs, trying to get my husband's attention, for him to listen to me," she said. Detailing another event, she divulged, saying, "I picked up [Charles'] penknife off his dressing table and scratched myself heavily down my chest and both thighs. There was a lot of blood — and he hadn't made any reaction whatsoever." Unbeknownst to the world at that time, Charles and Diana's relationship had become more of a nightmare than a fairytale. 

Charles became convinced Diana was trying to sabotage him

In a relationship so riddled with strife and extramarital affairs, trust was no doubt absent or, at least, in short supply. A year before the couple divorced, Diana was interviewed and expressed doubts about Charles being fit to rule as King of England. Charles began to think that Diana, along with Sarah Ferguson, Diana's best friend and the wife of Charles' brother, Prince Andrew, were coming up with ways to prevent him from future rulership. 

In Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles (via Express), royal biographer Tom Bower explained the prince's thought process. Upon the Queen's death or abdication, Charles thought Andrew would become Regent until William's eighteenth birthday, at which point he would become king, passing over Charles entirely. Can you imagine being married to someone you think is sabotaging you? Not only did he distrust his wife, but Charles also became convinced his own brother was in on the "plan." What a mess!

Surprisingly, neither Charles nor Diana initiated their divorce

Knowing what you now know, it's not surprising — at all — that Prince Charles and Princess Diana ended their marriage. What is surprising, however, is who got the ball rolling. With Charles thinking his wife was out to get him and Diana so hurt by her husband's ambivalence, you can probably picture both wanting a divorce. 

Instead, the couple opted for a long-term separation. By 1996, Charles and Diana had been separated for about four years. Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, said that all changed when Diana received a letter from the Queen. According to the Fiji SunDiana was essentially given an "order" to formally divorce. Burrell further said that Diana didn't want a divorce. Having grown up with divorced parents herself, she didn't like the idea of her sons growing up in a "broken home." Nevertheless, she felt the matter was "taken out of her hands" and, on August 28, 1996, the tumultuous royal marriage officially came to an end.