What Really Happened On King Charles & Princess Diana's Honeymoon?

It's hardly news that King Charles and Princess Diana didn't have a very happy or fulfilling marriage, but not everyone realizes that things between the two were already souring when they set out on their honeymoon in 1981. After hosting one of the most lavish weddings of all time, and certainly the most popular of modern royal weddings, the pair boarded the royal yacht Britannia to spend several weeks cruising the Greek islands.

The trip was complicated by a number of factors, including Diana and Charles' age difference (twelve years), Charles' ongoing relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles (his second wife and now queen), and Diana's battle with bulimia, which she later admitted began around the time she and Charles got engaged. While the sailing journey could have been an incredible one for the couple, it seems it simply wasn't meant to be.

After making it back to the United Kingdom, Charles and Diana spent a few days at Balmoral, the royal family's home in Scotland. Here is a look at what happened on their honeymoon, and what went wrong between the two.

King Charles and Princess Diana got married on July 29, 1981

King Charles and Princess Diana were married in a lavish ceremony on July 29, 1981. As many now know, the circumstances leading up to their wedding day were less than ideal. In the 2020 ITV documentary "The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess," Diana's astrologer Penny Thornton shed some light on what kind of conversations Charles and Diana were having before the big day.

Per People, she explained, "One of the most shocking things that Diana told me was that the night before the wedding, Charles told her that he didn't love her. I think Charles didn't want to go into the wedding on a false premise. He wanted to square it with her, and it was devastating for Diana." Diana reportedly wanted to call off the entire wedding, but the show had to go on.

The wedding cost approximately $48 million at the time and was watched on TV by 750 million people around the world. The two had announced their intention to marry only five months prior, during an interview with the BBC. The interview became notorious after Charles was asked if he and Diana were in love, and he replied, "Whatever in love means." Diana later claimed that Charles' dismissive comment was "traumatizing." 

King Charles and Princess Diana honeymooned onboard the royal yacht

When it came time to take their honeymoon, King Charles and Princess Diana set sail on the royal yacht Britannia. The two boarded the ship in Spain and immediately set sail for Greece and the surrounding islands. While the idea of a private cruise to the Greek islands might be a dream come true for many of us, the reality is that the trip was anything but pleasant for the already feuding couple.

The pair weren't the only royals to use the yacht for their own purposes. Queen Elizabeth II was especially fond of the vessel, which was so important to her that it was largely regarded as one of her homes. In fact, between 1954 and 1997, the yacht sailed over one million miles as it ferried members of the British royal family around the world.

Other royal couples also boarded the yacht for their own honeymoons. These included Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, then the Duke and Duchess of York. In 1997, the yacht was decommissioned during an emotional ceremony that even brought Queen Elizabeth to tears.

King Charles and Princess Diana spent two weeks in the Mediterranean

King Charles and Princess Diana spent half a month in one of the most beautiful parts of the world: the Mediterranean, and in particular, the Greek islands. Unfortunately, that setting wasn't enough for the doomed pair, who reportedly spent most of their honeymoon fighting or just not getting along. 

In addition to their fighting, the pair were also spending their honeymoon with people who worked for them, whether they were part of the ship's crew or security detail. While that's an understandable necessity, it might not have created the most romantic environment for the newlyweds, especially when it seemed that the pair already had so much stacked against them. This crew reportedly included at least 200 people working the ship, as well as at least 20 members of the British Navy.

Once the pair returned to the United Kingdom, they spent the rest of their honeymoon at Balmoral, the royal family's home in Scotland. Diana was said to be particularly disappointed by this part of the trip, and even cried for six hours the day they arrived.

King Charles had to be in constant contact with Camilla during the honeymoon

Part of the reason that King Charles and Princess Diana had such a dismal honeymoon appears to be that Charles insisted on being with Camilla Parker Bowles as much as possible. In fact, despite the fact that Camilla had been married for eight years and Charles was on his honeymoon with his own wife, he still somehow found ways to call his girlfriend on the phone, all the way from the middle of the ocean.

As former royal valet Stephen Barry told Tina Brown for her book "The Diana Chronicles": "The Prince simply had to be in contact with Camilla or he couldn't function properly. If he went without his daily phone call, he would become tetchy and ill-tempered." Diana was already well aware of the fact that Camilla was in her new husband's life, and soon found a gift from Camilla that made everything painfully obvious.

The honeymoon was when Diana spied a pair of cufflinks that belonged to Charles. She reportedly thought the interlocking Cs were Chanel before realizing that they were initials for Charles and Camilla. As Diana told Panorama, "On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists. Two C's entwined like the Chanel 'C'. Got it. One knew exactly. So I said, 'Camilla gave you those, didn't she?' He said 'Yes, so what's wrong? They're a present from a friend'" (via Reader's Digest Australia).

King Charles did not enjoy his wedding night with Princess Diana

It's never been clear if Princess Diana had many boyfriends before she began a relationship with King Charles, but what has been clear is that she was fairly naive when she married the 33-year-old at age 19. This fact about Diana wasn't lost on her new husband, but it doesn't seem that he felt the need to attempt to be particularly sensitive to her naivete or inexperience on their wedding night. In fact, Charles did quite the opposite. A 2007 article in The New Yorker noted that Charles told a friend the night was "nothing special."

It's possible that the intimate troubles between Diana and Charles were compounded by Diana's bulimia, which she later admitted was very difficult to bear at the time. In his biography "Diana: Her True Story," author Andrew Morton wrote that Charles had commented on Diana's waist ahead of their marriage and noted that she was, by his estimation, "chubby." As reported by Reader's Digest Australia, this sent Diana spiraling. She told Morton that this "triggered something in me" and "I was desperate, desperate. I remember the first time I made myself sick. I was so thrilled because I thought this was the release of tension."

King Charles and Princess Diana fought about what they did on the ship

King Charles and Princess Diana were also at odds during their honeymoon about how to spend their time on board the ship. The pair had a 12-year age difference, something that a number of sources have since indicated caused issues for them during the honeymoon and beyond. Author Penny Junor wrote in her book "The Duchess" that Charles had brought a number of items, including watercolor books and stacks of books, that he intended to enjoy on the trip. Diana was less than pleased with his plans, and instead hoped that he would spend more time with her.

Reader's Digest Australia has detailed one particularly intense fight between the two that culminated in destruction. The outlet shares that Junor documented the event in her book, writing, "One day, when Charles was painting on the veranda deck of Britannia, he went off to look at something for half an hour. He came back to find she'd destroyed his painting and all his materials."

King Charles and Princess Diana tried to take a second honeymoon

In 1991, King Charles and Princess Diana traveled with their young sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to Italy to attempt to take what the press dubbed their "second honeymoon." The pair again sailed on a yacht to the Mediterranean and opted to travel to Italy with their friends as well as their children.

The trip was meant to celebrate the couple's tenth wedding anniversary, a feat that likely surprised the pair. At this point, the marriage between Charles and Diana was already souring; they would end up announcing their separation the following year. It's also been noted that Diana spent 1991 and 1992 recording tapes with Andrew Morton, who later used those recordings to write his book, "Diana: Her True Story." Of course, it isn't known if Diana began the interviews before or after the trip.

History Extra has reported that while it's never been made clear what did or didn't happen on the second honeymoon, Diana and Charles had already spent some time apart before heading out on the trip. The outlet noted that when the two went on a trip to Czechoslovakia in May of 1991, they slept on separate floors of the home they occupied in Prague.