Yes, Diana and Camilla's Agonizing Lunch From 'The Crown' Really Happened

Emma Dibdin
·2-min read
Yes, Diana and Camilla's Agonizing Lunch From 'The Crown' Really Happened

From ELLE

"Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." Those infamous words, spoken by Princess Diana in her bombshell 1995 interview with the BBC's Martin Bashir, are embodied beautifully in a memorable scene from The Crown season 4.

The season's third episode, ironically titled "Fairytale," explores the aftermath of Charles's proposal to Diana, and Diana's transition from a normal life with roommates in London to a lonely, gilded existence in Buckingham Palace. Charles is MIA for most of the episode, leaving his 19-year-old fiancée to fend for herself. But in his characteristically sensitive fashion, he suggests she reach out to Camilla Parker-Bowles, the ex-girlfriend he's still in love with. "In case you want some company, she's the best company!" he enthuses. What could go wrong?!?

Once Diana gets desperate enough to call Camilla, the two share an agonizing lunch during which it becomes painfully clear just how intimately Camilla knows Charles, and how out of place Diana feels in their world. But did such a lunch happen in real life?

According to Andrew Morton's 1992 biography, Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, the answer is yes. Morton, who interviewed Diana extensively for the biography, writes that Camilla sent Diana a letter dated two days before the engagement announcement on February 24, 1981. The letter read, in part:

Such exciting news about the engagement. Do let's have lunch soon when the Prince of Wales goes to Australia and New Zealand. He's going to be away for three weeks. I'd love to see the ring, lots of love, Camilla.

"That was 'Wow!'" Diana told Morton of receiving the letter "So I organized lunch." That lunch, she said in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, was "very tricky, very tricky indeed."

Photo credit: Express Newspapers - Getty Images
Photo credit: Express Newspapers - Getty Images

During the lunch, Camilla reportedly asked a strange question. "[Camilla] said: 'You are not going to hunt, are you?'" Diana explained to Morton. "I said, 'On what?' She said, 'Horse. You are not going to hunt when you go and live at Highgrove are you?' I said, 'No.' She said, 'I just wanted to know.' And I thought as far as she was concerned, that was her communication route. Still too immature to understand all the messages coming my way."

In other words, Diana became suspicious of Camilla's motives during the lunch, and later realized that Camilla was checking whether Diana would be accompanying Charles on his hunting trips, because she hoped to use those trips as a way to continue her affair with Charles.

So while it may not have been quite as excruciating as The Crown's version—or involved such deeply symbolic consumption of chocolate mousse—it was a very real and very significant moment in the Charles/Camilla/Diana triangle.

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