What Prince Charles Realized About Diana After Her Death

With 3,500 guests inside St. Paul's Cathedral and another 750 million watching on television, the eyes of the world were on Prince Charles and Diana exchanging vows in July of 1981, but no one could have predicted how things would turn out. "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Princess Diana famously said during a 1995 interview with the BBC, telling the world that what looked like a fairytale was nowhere close.

In September of 1980, according to a relationship timeline Vogue created, the press caught their first taste of Prince Charles and Diana and they were immediately hooked. Charles, it seemed, was also hooked on Diana; in February of 1981, after only 12 or 13 dates, he proposed to Diana at Windsor Castle. Even then, the media's appetite for the couple, and Diana especially, was insatiable.

But as the press followed Diana closely, to the point she had to be moved from her apartment to Clarence House, Charles retreated. Following their engagement, he spent five weeks in New Zealand, making time first for Camilla Parker Bowles. Photographers caught Diana crying as the prince left Heathrow Airport. At the time, this was written off as a touching gesture from the prince's new fiancée, but they were actually tears of heartbreak.

Handling Princess Diana's death changed Prince Charles

Just a few years later, in 1986, Prince Charles admitted to restarting his romantic relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. In a letter to a friend, Charles wrote: "How awful incompatibility is, and how dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this extraordinary drama. It has all the ingredients of a Greek tragedy" (via AP). He goes on to admit that he "never thought it would end up like this." But Diana's death may have changed the way the prince felt about Diana. 

Any chance for Prince Charles and Princess Diana to reconcile was taken away in the summer of 1997. On August 31, 1997, just one year after being officially divorced, Princess Diana was killed as a result of a car accident. During an attempt to get away from the paparazzi, Henri Paul — Diana's driver— is said to have been driving recklessly fast before he crashed the car in Paris' Pont de l'Alma tunnel (via Parade). Diana had been running from the paparazzi for her whole relationship with the prince, but never was able to escape them.

Princess Diana was second-guessing her divorce before she died

The princess' death shook the entire royal family, but Prince Charles especially. Matt Robins, a royal expert and producer of CNN's six-part documentary series "Diana," told Us Weekly in an interview: "I see him as somebody who carried an enormous burden through [Princess Diana's] death and her funeral, somebody [who] has to make impossible decisions." One of those decisions was to have Prince William and Prince Harry, then aged 15 and 12, walk in their mother's funeral procession. While he criticized the decision in an interview with Newsweek, Prince Harry told BBC that in retrospect, he thought his father had made the right decision, and the best decision he could given the circumstances.

Robins told Us Weekly he believed the funeral is the moment Prince Charles and the rest of the royal family realized how much the public cared for not just Diana, but for them as well. "They feel that surge of emotion, you know, just the way I think in the final episode we talk about the wave of applause that comes through Westminster Abbey after the eulogy, that has a tidal wave of emotion," Robins explained to Us Weekly. "And it would be impossible not to be affected by that as a human being."

This is what Prince Charles regretted after Diana's death

According to royal sources, Prince Charles had been changing his mind about Diana before her death. Princess Diana, too, was allegedly regretting her divorce from the prince. Tina Brown, royal biographer and author of "The Diana Chronicles," told The Telegraph that "At the end of Diana's life, she and Charles were on the best terms they'd been for a very long time." It was even reported that Charles would "drop in" on Diana at her apartments at Kensington Palace. "They even had some laughs together," Brown added.

Princess Diana was reportedly heartbroken when she and Prince Charles did finally separate and divorce, despite her own relationship with Captain James Hewitt. She even reportedly told Brown that she "would go back to Charles in a heartbeat if he wanted her." So why the change? According to Brown, Diana had come to terms with the fact that Camilla Parker Bowles was "the love of his life, and there was just nothing she could do about it."

Even with the prince's strong feelings for Camilla, there was no denying the connection he and Diana shared. Simone Simmons, a friend of Diana's, told the Daily Mail (via Express) that Charles and Diana were close friends following the divorce because "she understood him." It wasn't until her death that Charles, according to Simmons, even realized "how much he loved Diana." Camilla may be the love of Charles' life, but there's no denying the hole left in the prince's life after Diana's death.