How Charles and Camilla’s relationship is depicted in The Crown

Charles and Camilla reportedly met for the first time at a polo match at Windsor Castle in 1970. Now, 53 years on, the couple are the nation’s King and Queen.

In Netflix’s royal dramaThe Crown, Charles has been portrayed by numerous actors including Josh O’Connor and Dominic West, while Camilla has been played by Emerald Fennell and Olivia Williams.

All those actors have received critical acclaim for capturing the royals’ voices and mannerisms, but how accurate is the show’s depiction of their relationship?

In season three of The Crown, the royal family are shown to be disapproving of Camilla, with Lord Mountbatten (a paternal figure to Charles) seen arranging for the former prince to be sent on a Navy mission in 1972 to separate the two.

It is hard to know conclusively whether, in reality, the royal family were this calculated about splitting the pair up, but according to Tina Brown’s 2011 book The Diana Chronicles, the firm did see Camilla as a “learning experience” for Charles rather than as a serious partner.

While Charles was away, in 1973, Camilla got engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles.

According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, Charles continued to speak to Camilla very frequently after she got married.

Brown writes that the pair resumed their relationship in 1979, after Charles was left heartbroken by the IRA’s assassination of Lord Mountbatten. He began dating Diana in 1980 and they married the following year.

Episode three of season four of The Crown chronicles Diana finding a bracelet that Charles was going to give to Camilla. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Charles did indeed give the jewellery as a farewell gift to Camilla, as a way of saying that their relationship must end because he was marrying Diana.

The show suggests that the bracelet had F and G initials on it because Charles and Camilla called each other by the Goon-Show-inspired nicknames, Fred and Gladys, but according to Jonathan Dimbleby’s book, The Prince of Wales: A Biography, the bracelet’s engravings stood for “Girl Friday”, Charles’s nickname for Camilla.

Camilla and Charles in ‘The Crown’ (Netflix)
Camilla and Charles in ‘The Crown’ (Netflix)

It is unclear at which points during Charles’s marriage to Princess Diana (1981-1996) he was having an affair with Camilla, but some biographers have suggested that the affair was happening in 1986, given that in 1989, Diana confronted Camilla about it at a friend’s birthday party. That same year, Charles and Camilla had an intimate phone call that was later leaked to the press.

This phone call was the centre of the season five episode of The Crown, “The Way Ahead”. The Netflix show depicts how Charles told Camilla that he wanted to live inside her as a tampon. It also shows him later admitting to adultery in a TV interview with Dimbleby.

Diana’s “Revenge Dress” – the black off-the-shoulder garment she wore after the interview – also featured in this episode.

A later episode, “Couple 31”, sees Charles negotiating a divorce settlement with Diana. In the meantime, Charles suggests that Camilla meet with spin doctor Mark Bolland, as she has been demonised in the media and her image is desperately in need of rehabilitation.

“One doesn’t want to be all ‘poor me’ about it, but people have not been kind,” she is shown saying in the series. “I think they forget loving the Prince of Wales has cost me everything.”

Camilla really was seen as “the other woman” at that time, and Bolland really was hired to be Charles’s private secretary. In a 2005 interview he said: “It was decided by a little college of people that I would be the right person to help him. It was felt I could talk frankly to him; I would be respectful but kind of edgy.”

The forthcoming sixth and final season of The Crown is expected to portray Charles and Camilla’s 2005 wedding, eight years after the death of Diana.