Desperate Prince Charles wanted to pull out of his wedding to Diana when he realised how ‘incompatible’ the pair were, but knew breaking off the engagement would be ‘cataclysmic’, bombshell book reveals
Explosive new royal biography marks Prince Charles 70th birthday in November
Its author and veteran royal reporter Robert Jobson toured the world with him
Charles described himself as ‘permanently between the devil and deep blue sea’
Revealed he wants to challenge ‘pernicious lies’ he says were pedaled by Diana
Prince Charles agonised over whether to call off his wedding to Diana, the Daily Mail can reveal today.
Despite realising that he and the aristocrat’s daughter were incompatible, he felt powerless to do anything about it.
Breaking off the engagement ‘would have been cataclysmic’, he said.
And he described himself as being ‘permanently between the devil and deep blue sea’.
Years later and still troubled by the tragedy of the marriage, he wept tears of frustration as he told friends: ‘I desperately wanted to get out of the wedding in 1981, when during the engagement I discovered just how awful the prospects were.’
The story of the heir to the throne’s anguish over the doomed marriage is told in an explosive new royal biography to mark his landmark 70th birthday next month.
It reveals how Charles wants to challenge ‘pernicious lies’ about him – which he believes were orchestrated by Diana herself.
Veteran royal correspondent Robert Jobson, the book’s author, has accompanied the prince for 18 months on tours around the world.
Mr Jobson, who has reported on the royals for almost three decades, has spoken to many current and former members of his staff – and to Charles himself.
The result is a compelling book full of ground-breaking new material which is being serialised in the Mail today and next week.
Among the sensational revelations are:
■How Charles is already ‘Shadow King’ and the Queen could stand aside at 95, allowing him to become Regent.
■How shocked Charles was by his sons’ level of belligerence;
■His dismay at being excluded from the boys’ 2017 documentary about Princess Diana;
■Harry’s meltdown ahead of his wedding to Meghan Markle;
■How Charles ‘talks to the dead’, including Earl Mountbatten, his mentor murdered by the IRA;
■His disdain for Tony Blair, whom he once mockingly referred to as ‘our magnificent leader;’
■His despair at the Iraq War, telling friends Mr Blair had behaved like George Bush’s poodle;
■How he disagrees with the burka bans introduced by France and other European countries;
■His distrust of US evangelicalism and the lobbying power of giant American corporations;
■His fear that America’s chemically-gown corn was fuelling that country’s ever-growing obesity and diabetes crisis;
But it is the revelation about his heartache over Diana that is bound to raise eyebrows.
Ever since Diana confided in biographer Andrew Morton we have known that the princess wanted to back out of the marriage.
But until now we had no idea that the prince did too.
It is at times brutal reading as the book details Charles’s sadness at his failure to confront what was to become an unfolding tragedy.
Mr Jobson says that the prince knew within just a handful of meetings they were ill-suited.
He told friends how in the weeks leading up to the wedding when he tried to explain his daily routine, Diana seemed incapable of grasping what he was saying.
The more he saw her, the more he realised he was making a mistake.
Charles said he blamed no one – neither his father nor his mother – for his inability to back out of the engagement.
Instead he blamed his own failure to get to know Diana properly beforehand.
The princess said they had met no more than 12 times before their engagement in February 1981.
According to Mr Jobson, the prince is haunted by sadness over the doomed marriage to this day.
But in one regard the sorrow is matched by his fury at lies peddled about him.
He blamed Diana for this, telling a friend of ‘unbelievable and pernicious lies aided and abetted by somebody rather close to me [who] lived hand to mouth with the Press’.
The most hurtful lie that has echoed down the years was the claim that he had secreted the then unmarried Diana on board the Royal Train for a tryst.
The story was untrue as was another – that Camilla was smuggled into Buckingham Palace the night before his wedding to Diana.
Other stories he labels ‘lies and inventions’ include claims that Camilla had been pelted by bread rolls by shoppers in a store in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
This, he describes as a ‘persistent lie’.
Last night fellow biographer Penny Junor, who wrote a well received book on Camilla last year, said: ‘This is the first time I have heard of [Charles] openly talking his doubts about marrying Diana while they were engaged. I certainly didn’t know he had mentioned any misgivings to friends.’
Ingrid Seward, editor in chief of Majesty magazine, said: ‘This effectively rewrites the Charles and Diana story with its significant interpretation that Charles as well as Diana felt the marriage was doomed from the beginning.’
Charles’ agony: ‘I desperately wanted to get out of the wedding when I discovered how awful the prospects were’
To mark Prince Charles’s 70th year; his latest biographer has accompanied him for the past 18 months on official tours around the world.
In addition to scrutinising him at close quarters, Robert Jobson – a royal reporter for nearly three decades – spoke to many current and former courtiers and staff, and also to the Prince.
The result is a book full of groundbreaking new material, which includes everything from Charles’s political views to his less-than-perfect relationship with his sons – and what he really felt in the run-up to his wedding to Princess Diana…
The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was watched by 750 million people around the world — at the time the biggest viewing audience for any event in television history.
Back then, it looked very much like a romantic fairytale come to life.
But in fact, as we were to learn years later when Diana secretly co-operated with a book about her life, just a few weeks before she walked up the aisle she was having second thoughts.
‘Well, bad luck, Duch,’ her sisters said, using her childhood nickname. ‘Your face is on the tea towels, so you’re too late to chicken out.’
What we haven’t known until now is what Prince Charles himself was feeling.
And the sad truth, I can reveal, is that he already knew that the marriage was doomed.
It hadn’t taken him long — just a few meetings with Diana — to realise that they were totally incompatible.
During the weeks leading up to the wedding, he told friends, he would try to talk to her about his work commitments and what kind of day he’d just had — and Diana would stare back at him blankly.
She seemed incapable of grasping the intellectual thread of what he was saying.
Then for no apparent reason, he recalled, she’d suddenly well up and burst into tears.
A sympathetic man, Charles was at a total loss. Why was Diana so upset? Had he said something wrong?
Then there were alarming and irrational mood swings and temper, which the Prince found impossible to deal with.
The more he saw of his volatile fiancee, the more Charles knew in his heart that he’d made a terrible mistake.
As he confided to close friends some years later: ‘I desperately wanted to get out of the wedding in 1981, when during the engagement I discovered just how awful the prospects were, having had no chance whatsoever to get to know Diana beforehand.’
On one occasion, Charles was reduced to tears as he recounted his frustrations over the calamitous episode.
That the Prince went ahead with the marriage, despite his firm conviction that it was a mistake, is something he deeply regrets to this day.
Moreover, he has agonised over this for years.
Through his inability to call off the wedding, he believes that he let down not only himself and Diana, but the monarchy itself.
Charles obviously loves his sons, the result of his and Diana’s union, and he acknowledges that there were periods in the marriage when he and Diana felt a bond between them — such as after the birth of Prince William.
He also respects Harry and William’s love for their late mother and the way they have cherished her memory.
Nevertheless, the marriage unquestionably led to deep unhappiness for both Charles and Diana.
Why, then, did this ill-suited couple so quickly get engaged?
According to Diana, they had met only 12 times and barely knew one another.
Part of the reason was that Charles was 32 when they started dating, and pressure was beginning to mount on him to take a wife.
To the watching world, Diana seemed the perfect candidate — virginal, aristocratic and wonderfully photogenic.
It was a fraught time for the 19-year-old, as the world’s media hounded her in ways that would be totally unacceptable today.
To escape them, she started risking her life by racing through red traffic lights.
What had begun as a few exploratory dates was rapidly turning into a highly dangerous scenario. And Charles felt responsible.
It didn’t seem right to him that he had a team of armed Scotland Yard police protection officers looking after him, while a defenceless young woman had nobody.
But there was little he could do.
His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, was equally concerned, and wrote to Charles saying that the situation was unfair on Diana.
He should either propose to her or release her.
Some have said that the letter was curt, and that Charles later bitterly resented his father for bullying him into an unsuitable marriage. This is untrue.
‘It was measured and sensitive,’ said Charles’s cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, who claimed to have read the Duke’s letter herself.
More important, insiders say Charles does not blame his father or mother at all for his unhappy marriage. Nor does he blame them for his inability to back out of the engagement.
Despite some misgivings, he proposed to Lady Diana Spencer on February 3, 1981.
‘It was like a call to duty, really,’ Diana revealed in audio recordings used in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words.
‘He sat me down and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I thought the whole thing was hysterical, getting married. It was so grown up. And I laughed. I remember thinking: ‘This is a joke.’ And he was deadly serious.’
In truth, neither of them was actually in love with the other, although both may have been temporarily enamoured with the idea of being in love.
Diana enjoyed the concept of being swept off her feet by a charming prince, while Charles certainly found her very attractive.
Had he had more forethought, he might have realised that the media frenzy over their ‘romance’ would merely escalate after the engagement.
As it was, he soon realised that he and Diana had precious little in common — but felt it was impossible to back out.
‘Things were very different in those days,’ Charles has told close friends.
‘The power and influence of the media driving matters towards an engagement and wedding were unstoppable.
‘To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic. Hence I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea.’
As it was, the failure of the marriage led not only to personal misery, but also a severe denting of his popularity.
When his marriage fell apart, public opinion gravitated towards the Princess.
She had married as a 20-year-old still addicted to the romantic novels of Barbara Cartland, and in retrospect seemed to be the victim of a cold-hearted older man who had wilfully wrecked her life.
For Charles’s detractors, his lifetime of service and his often visionary interventions — such as decrying the use of single-use plastics and calling for a halt to the destruction of rain forests, long before those issues became popular — weighed far less in the balance than his apparent neglect of Diana.
His adultery with Camilla was also cited as the reason he would make an unsuitable king — despite Diana’s own adultery with at least three other men.
Charles long ago accepted there is no point in fighting against this distorted portrayal of his character, particularly in the wake of Diana’s tragic death.
There is nothing he can do, he feels, to change the minds of his critics.
What frustrates him, though, is that one version of history — Diana’s version — has become so engrained in the popular psyche that it has gone down as ‘historic fact’.
In his view, this version is a tissue of lies peddled by a Machiavellian princess to a sympathetic media.
Or, in his unusually strong words to an impeccable source: there were ‘unbelievable and pernicious lies aided and abetted by somebody rather close to me [Diana]’ who he believes ‘lived hand to mouth with the Press’.
After years of soul-searching, say people in his circle, he’s decided that at least a few falsehoods from the Diana years should be corrected.
‘The most extraordinary and pernicious of these,’ Charles told a close friend, ‘is that first of all I secreted Diana on board the royal train.’
This story, which appeared in November 1980, three months before their engagement, claimed that she’d sneaked onto the train for an illicit tryst with the Prince. It caused an immediate furore.
Diana herself was deeply shocked and upset, knowing it couldn’t have been her as she’d been miles away, tucked up in bed. Had her boyfriend been two-timing her, she wondered?
It was at this point that the Duke of Edinburgh despatched his ‘marry her or leave her’ letter to Charles.
In December 1980, Diana’s mother, Frances Shand Kydd, wrote a letter for publication in The Times, protesting in the strongest terms about the ‘lies and harassment’ that her daughter had been forced to endure.
‘She [Diana] had denied with justifiable indignation her reported presence on the royal train,’ she added.
In fact, there’d never been a tryst of any kind on that train. The story is an ‘extraordinary’ fabrication that has haunted the Prince ever since it was first circulated.
It irritates him to this day, quite possibly because its publication helped convince him that he needed to propose in order to protect Lady Diana’s honour.
Later, the paper that had carried the story claimed that it had had an impeccable source — one of the local policemen assigned to watch the train overnight in the sidings.
But Charles has told friends: ‘The truth is the Daily Mirror [it was actually the Sunday Mirror] had mistaken a private secretary’s blonde secretary for Diana.
‘The Press obstinately stuck to this story. Then, years later, they pushed the invention even further, claiming it was the Duchess of Cornwall [I had secreted aboard the royal train] after all.’ It is the falsehoods that centre on the Duchess of Cornwall that have particularly upset him.
He told a friend: ‘One of the worst lies of all is that the Duchess was smuggled into Buckingham Palace the night before our wedding in 1981.
‘The idea that this could even have happened and that I could have done any such thing is beyond belief, and yet this monstrous nonsense has persisted.’
He added: ‘There are doubtless endless other lies and inventions.’
The BBC compounded another myth involving the Duchess. In 2001, a story on its website called Camilla ‘the woman who has in the past suffered such indignities as . . . having bread rolls thrown at her by Diana fans’.
Six years later, another story — in the Daily Telegraph — claimed: ‘Her unpopularity was such that an irate shopper was reported to have thrown a bread roll at her in a supermarket in Wiltshire.’
Every time this is repeated, the Prince gets riled. As he’s told friends, it’s ‘another persistent lie that the Duchess had bread rolls thrown at her by angry shoppers.
‘This was, in fact, a totally fabricated media exercise stunt which involved actresses throwing bread rolls at one another.
‘A lookalike actress was employed and placed in the store in Chippenham.’
Other persistent myths include the ‘fact’ that Charles was so pampered that he even had his toothpaste squeezed on to the toothbrush for him.
At a royal dinner one night I sat next to Michael Fawcett, the Prince’s former valet, most trusted aide and supposed squeezer of the royal dentifrice.
The story, he said, still irks him. ‘It is just not true,’ he told me. I believed him.
How I got to know the real Prince Charles…
Over the past 18 months I have accompanied the Prince of Wales at home and abroad, as he crisscrossed the globe on official business, joining him aboard royal jets and following him in support helicopters as he ventured deep into rainforests and other remote regions.
I was there, too, at his early 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration in the immaculate gardens of Buckingham Palace in May.
I have spoken privately and publicly to the Prince and to people close to him, and I believe I have, as a result, developed an in-depth appreciation of what makes the fascinating, diverse man who is destined to be our next monarch.
I’ve enjoyed tea and conversation with him at Highgrove House, his beloved country estate; been his dinner guest at Dumfries House in Ayrshire; and chatted with him aboard a royal jet and at royal receptions overseas.
Throughout my research I have been assisted by impeccable inside sources, whom I cannot identify for obvious reasons, but to whom I am deeply indebted.
With their help I have been able to unearth groundbreaking new material that goes some way to correcting past inaccuracies that, unless revised at this moment, were in danger of becoming regarded as historic record.
Charles’ answer to Diana’s tantrum? Another martini!
During the later stages of his marriage to Princess Diana, Charles’s temper was sometimes sorely tried.
On one particular night in April 1988, they were to attend a state banquet held in honour of King Olav V of Norway.
However, it wasn’t yet time for them to leave Kensington Palace.
Inspector Ken Wharfe, overseeing the couple’s security, noticed that Diana was in an impatient mood, ‘tutting loudly and tapping her feet’.
Charles, for his part, was feeling extremely relaxed.
He knew that on state occasions, members of the Royal Family arrive at their destination in reverse order of rank.
‘It may sound a little absurd,’ Wharfe told me, ‘but state banquets are when the business of royalty becomes very serious indeed. Diana did not quite see it like that. As far as she was concerned, a state banquet was just an irritation.’
She asked Wharfe if she could head off early.
The Scotland Yard officer explained that she couldn’t yet leave because Princess Anne had got stuck in traffic. Diana snapped back: ‘Ken, I know all about their bloody orders . . . I want to go now.’
At this point, Charles appeared, tugging on his cuffs in a slightly nervous manner.
He clearly sensed an impending tantrum from his wife.
‘Are we ready to go, Ken?’ he asked. There was a stony silence as the policeman again said it was not their slot yet.
‘Have I got time for another martini, then?’ the Prince asked politely.
Wharfe, finding the situation and the Prince amusing, did his best not to laugh. It struck him as all rather absurd.
The frost emanating from Diana became icier towards her policeman.
‘Is anything the matter?’ the Prince asked, not directing his question to anyone in particular. Diana was spoiling for a fight and he sensed it.
‘Well, Charles, there is, actually. I want to go now. I don’t want to hang around here. Why can’t we go now?’
‘Diana,’ Charles replied reasonably, ‘you know the system. We have to go at the set time, so that we arrive just before Her Majesty.’
He took a measured step back as though preparing himself for an onslaught. Diana turned on him.
‘But Charles, why can’t you go on your own? I can get there earlier. Nobody will worry about me,’ she said.
Of course, she knew that if she turned up without her husband, the waiting media would plaster it all over the front pages, speculating, quite rightly, that the Prince and Princess of Wales had had yet another row.
When Charles pointed this out to her, however, she became even more frustrated. Pacing like a caged animal, Diana shouted: ‘Charles, I have really had enough of this. I’m off.’
‘No, Diana, we really have to wait,’ he insisted. Whereupon he ordered another martini from butler Harold Brown and retreated to his study. Wharfe let out a little chortle.
‘Do you find my husband funny, Ken?’ Diana snapped. ‘Well, do you?’
Wharfe replied: ‘Well, actually, I do, ma’am. I think he has a great sense of humour. It’s not too far removed from my own.’
Clearly exasperated, Diana retorted curtly: ‘So, what kind of humour is that?’ For the rest of that night she said not one word to Wharfe.
It was an amusing incident, but also a telling one.
It demonstrated the extent to which the royal relationship had soured and how difficult it could be for anyone caught in the crossfire.
Harry and William’s television snub that so wounded their father
Last year, the relationship between Charles and his sons became frosty.
The cause? In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death in a Paris tunnel, William and Harry had decided to take part in an ITV documentary — Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy.
And consciously or not, they did it without once mentioning Charles.
The Prince, of course, was fully aware he was never going to win the never-ending PR fight against his now iconic dead wife.
But what did upset him was his sons’ decision to write him completely out of their history.
‘It was as if he had never existed,’ said one of his friends.
An insider remarked: ‘It would have been nice if they had acknowledged his contribution to their upbringing. He was, and tries to be, a jolly good father after all.’
Even when Harry and William appeared at a press launch for the documentary, they failed to give him so much as a mention.
And in the programme itself, when Prince William said that his mother gave him ‘the right tools’ for life, some heard a hint that his style of monarchy will perhaps be different from his father’s and grandmother’s.
Touching as the documentary was in many other ways, it also had another important omission.
In the months before it was shown, William and Harry had led calls for openness about mental health issues — yet the film signally failed to tackle their mother’s mental frailties, let alone her clandestine affairs.
It was, in short, a candy-coated portrayal of somebody who in reality was far more complex.
Intriguingly, the princes had warned the film-makers at the start not to expect too much from them.
‘They prefaced their interviews by saying: ‘We don’t actually have that many memories of our mum’,’ producers Ashley Getting and Nick Kent recalled.
Perhaps the boys’ grief had suppressed many of their memories. Perhaps they were too raw and unprocessed.
In any case, once filming began, they were able to recall more than they’d expected.
For Charles, the period leading up to the anniversary of Diana’s death felt like an excruciating version of Groundhog Day.
He could do nothing but remain tight-lipped as the ghost of his late wife returned, along with the tainted narrative of himself as the calculating and sinful older husband.
Worst of all, from his viewpoint, was when Channel 4 showed videotaped confessions made by Princess Diana herself, with the help of her speech coach Peter Settelen, in which she cast Charles as a villain.
The final Diana documentary last summer was a BBC film focusing on the days between her death and funeral.
And here, Charles’s role was finally acknowledged — by Harry.
Speaking in the film, Harry said: ‘One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that the other parent has died. But he was there for us, he was the one out of two left. And he tried to do his best to make sure we were protected and looked after.’
This felt like too little too late, said sources close to the Prince. But Charles, at least, was pacified.
Her sons also organised a rededication of their mother’s grave this year. Instead of using the 20th anniversary of her death on August 31, they chose her birthday, July 1.
This date came during Charles and Camilla’s planned tour of Canada.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was there, as was the then three-year-old Prince George. But the Prince of Wales wasn’t, and it seems likely his sons had planned it that way.
Seeds for breakfast, air force workouts… and a crumpet for tea
When he eventually ascends the throne, Charles will be the oldest person ever to become monarch.
Those close to him say that time is already catching up with him.
He sometimes finds himself exhausted by the early evening — possibly, say aides, because he eats very little during the day.
Like his mother, he is up early, usually before 7am.
To keep his back mobile, he begins each day by doing a series of exercises originally designed for Royal Canadian Air Force pilots.
Then it’s on to breakfast, which always consists of a bowl of seed mixed in with a tiny amount of yoghurt.
With Radio 4’s Today programme on in the background, he starts reading the newspapers.
From 8am, if he doesn’t have any early engagements, he spends two hours poring over paperwork and making handwritten notes in black ink.
Over the phone, he also chases up projects on anything from organic farming and architecture to the environment and interfaith relations.
After that, he plunges into his royal engagements, of which there are about 25 a week. He never eats lunch while doing these, partly so he can pack as much into the day as possible.
Years of experience have also taught him just how much water he needs to drink to keep himself hydrated, but not so much that he will need frequent loo stops.
At teatime, he may occasionally have a slice of fruit cake or a crumpet — but just the one. And he never misses having a good dinner, often preceded by a strong mixed martini or two.
Despite this almost military regime, says a source close to the Prince, ‘his workload sometimes does take its toll on him.
He admits it himself, but he is a driven man and wants to do as much as he can with the time he is allotted to make a real difference.
‘Sometimes he is so tired he almost falls asleep over his papers. But nobody can tell him to slow down — not even the Duchess, who leaves him to do his thing.’
No one understands better than Charles that, when the time comes, his reign will probably be short.
In the meantime, he intends to keep in the best possible shape, pack in as much work as he can and at least leave a lasting legacy as the Prince of Wales.
Rows with Philip… but also a kiss
For years, it wasn’t just the public who doubted Prince Charles’s suitability for the throne. His parents did, too.
According to sources close to the Queen and Prince Philip, they regarded their eldest son as something of a ‘loose cannon’.
He was too quick to anger, given to tantrums and driven by an almost revolutionary zeal to ‘make his mark’ with various initiatives and causes that they believed teetered dangerously on the brink of quackery.
To make matters worse, there was a period of tension between parents and son after a biography by Jonathan Dimbleby revealed that Charles felt they lacked affection for him as a child.
At one point, relations were so bad that the Prince and his father communicated only in writing.
As the years have gone by, however, relations have greatly improved.
Even so, Philip and Charles still loudly disagree on occasion —to the point that if a stranger walked into a room during one of their debates, he might suspect a fight was about to take place.
‘Of course, they love each other,’ said a senior source close to Charles. ‘They always kiss each other when they meet, but on occasion they fundamentally disagree about big issues.
‘These discussions may look quite heated, but actually they are just passionate people —passionate about what they believe in. That doesn’t make them enemies, it just means they disagree.’
In truth, Charles’s ultra- traditional childhood — during which he often saw more of his nannies than his parents — did leave him craving his parents’ love.
This may well be at the root of his restlessness and constant desire to prove himself.
‘The trouble is I always feel that unless I rush about doing things and trying to help furiously, I will not be seen to be relevant and I will be considered a mere playboy,’ he wrote in a private letter of March 31, 1987.
He still feels much the same. But there’s been an important change in the way he now views his parents.
Neither the Queen nor Prince Philip, he has come to realise, should be blamed for what he regarded as an unhappy childhood.
They did their best, he believes, within the constraints of their position.
Doing their bit to combat global warming, many people take care not to leave lights burning unnecessarily — but Prince Charles has been known to take this to extremes.
On one occasion, he drove out from Balmoral Castle with his usual entourage of policemen and ghillies, for a day in the Highlands.
Once they’d reached their destination, however, Charles insisted on turning back.
Why? Because he’d just remembered that he’d left his bathroom light on in the castle.
It was a long drive back — so his police protection officers sensibly suggested that they radio back to Balmoral instead and ask a housemaid to turn off the light.
‘No, no, I can’t do that,’ Charles insisted. ‘I have a personal responsibility.’
The entire party turned their Range Rovers around and drove back — just so the Prince could personally turn his bathroom light off.
On another occasion, Charles advised Camilla to stop wasting energy during the winter by heating her swimming pool at Ray Mill, her house near the picturesque Wiltshire village of Lacock.
She did as he suggested — even though she’d been advised by professionals to keep the heating on in order to avoid the pipes freezing and bursting and causing damage to the pump.
And as they’d predicted, that’s precisely what happened — resulting in a repair bill for thousands of pounds.