When A Secret Tape Of Charles And Camilla Emerged, It Sparked An Almighty Royal Scandal

Not long after Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, a scandal threatened to damage the heir to the throne’s reputation forever. And even if the royal couple’s marriage hadn’t been over at that point, the contents of a taped phone call between Charles and his mistress Camilla Parker Bowles may well have been the final nail in the coffin. You see, the prince’s words to the other woman left listeners in no doubt about the closeness of their relationship – despite the fact that he still had a wife. In fact, at times, Charles and Camilla’s conversation is shockingly explicit.

But Camilla was more than just Charles’ on-the-side girlfriend; she was the woman he’d apparently always loved. The pair had first met in 1970 while attending the same polo match, and by some accounts, sparks had flown right away. Indeed, Camilla – then going under the last name of Shand – had reportedly wasted no time in informing the prince that her ancestor Alice Keppel had been a mistress to his late great-grandfather King Edward VII.

If Charles hadn’t been born a royal, then, he may have been able to make Camilla his wife. But, of course, he was a royal – and a very high-ranking one at that. And although Camilla was upper-class and the granddaughter of a baron, she still wasn’t considered good enough to be the bride of a future king.

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One of the problems, it seemed, was that Camilla was not a virgin. For one, she’d engaged in an on-off relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles – the man who would eventually become her husband. There had been other boyfriends, too. And, supposedly, the royals balked at the idea of an “experienced” woman joining their clan.

Understandably, the senior members of the family were apparently keen to ensure that there was no scandal when Charles eventually took a bride. In fact, in 1974 the prince’s great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten even wrote him a letter saying, “I think it is disturbing for women to have experiences if they have to remain on a pedestal after marriage.”

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To add to that, there was the fact that Camilla was essentially torn between Charles and his love rival. In November 2019 biographer Christopher Wilson told The Daily Telegraph, “By the time Camilla actually met Prince Charles, she was already four years into a five-year campaign to get Andrew Parker Bowles up the aisle.”

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Another royal biographer, Penny Junor, was interviewed by the British newspaper at the same time. And she suggested that Camilla may not have even wanted to marry Charles back then, saying, “[Andrew] was a commanding officer, [while] Charles was very much a work in progress at that point. There was no competition between the two men.”

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So with that, Camilla tied the knot with Parker Bowles in 1973. Yet letters from the time exposed Charles’ feelings on the matter. The prince wrote to Lord Mountbatten, “I suppose the feeling of emptiness will pass eventually.” He continued to visit Camilla’s house, too, with these trips leading people to suspect that Camilla was actually cheating on Andrew with him.

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There were even rumors that Andrew suspected an affair but didn’t mind, having had mistresses himself. Regardless, a year after the wedding, Camilla gave birth to the couple’s first child, Tom – with Charles interestingly named as the boy’s godfather. Meanwhile, the prince ultimately began dating a woman named Lady Sarah Spencer, who was a distant relative of Winston Churchill. But fate intervened when, in 1977, Charles met Sarah’s younger sister: Lady Diana Spencer.

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Before too long, Charles broke up with Sarah and dated Diana; notably, he was 31 at the time, while she was just 18. But Sarah didn’t mind, and she happily took credit for introducing the pair. And, eventually, it seemed likely that the shy, unassuming teenager would one day become the Queen of England.

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Indeed, Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981, with some historians suggesting that he actually popped the question in Camilla’s vegetable garden. But pretty soon, cracks began to show. When Charles and Diana were interviewed on television about their engagement, you see, they were asked if they were in love. And while Diana responded positively, Charles added, somewhat awkwardly, “Whatever love means.”

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Furthermore, Camilla was reportedly a presence even during the early years of Charles and Diana’s marriage. According to Andrew Morton, author of 1992’s Diana: Her True Story, Diana found a necklace with Camilla’s name on it among wedding gifts. Worse still, Charles reportedly then told her that “a certain amount of time [would] always be put aside for Camilla.”

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So, in 1986, Charles allegedly began sleeping with Camilla again – despite them both being married to other people and having their own families. Famously, Diana and Charles had had two sons by this time in William and Harry. And the princess had apparently experienced periods of mental ill-health during her relationship with Charles. It’s been said, for example, that she had thrown herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with William.

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Then in 1990, People magazine spoke to some inside sources about the trouble in the royal marriage. And one of these individuals claimed, “[Diana] is prepared to make sacrifices to maintain her position – the main one being marital happiness. If she was in love with Charles once, I don’t believe she is now.”

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A different People source was more damning of the prince, saying, “Diana has to turn a blind eye to the fact of how incredibly selfish Charles is. He is a man who insists on getting his own way and gets cross and bad-tempered and childish if anybody thwarts him. He expects everybody to kowtow to him, to bow and scrape, and he has tried to treat his wife in the same way.”

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Sadly, things soon got past the point of no return. According to tapes made by Diana for Andrew Morton, the princess once saw Camilla speaking to Charles at a party and confronted her. Strikingly, Diana said that the prince and a fellow male guest then “shot upstairs like chickens with no heads.” The princess added, “And I could feel, upstairs, all hell breaking loose – [saying] ‘What is she going to do?’”

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According to The Daily Telegraph, Camilla subsequently told Diana, “You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world [falling] in love with you, and you’ve got two beautiful children. What more do you want?” Apparently, Diana then responded, “I want my husband” before going on to add, “I’m sorry I’m in the way… and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what’s going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.”

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Yet Diana herself was also having an affair at the time with British soldier James Hewitt, with the liaison lasting for around five years. And once the clandestine relationship had ended, there were rumors that Hewitt, not Charles, was the father of Harry. According to the parties involved, though, Harry was actually born two years before any affair began. Nonetheless, there would soon be a further bombshell.

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Indeed, in 1992 the whole world got a taste of the turmoil in the prince and princess’ marriage when Diana: Her True Story was released. And in the book, Diana was quoted as speaking candidly about her mental health issues, saying, “I threw myself down the stairs. Charles said I was crying wolf, and I said I just felt so desperate, and I was crying my eyes out. And he said, ‘I’m not going to listen. You are always doing this to me. I’m going riding now.’ So I threw myself down the stairs – bearing in my mind I was carrying a child.”

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The princess also mentioned that Charles had kept a picture of Camilla and wore gifts that she gave to him. And realizing the scandal that was playing out, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh reportedly tried their best to fix things by urging Charles and Diana to reconcile – although ultimately this was to no avail.

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Unsurprisingly, Diana and Camilla were reported to hate each other by this point. According to Morton and his book, Diana had the unflattering nickname of “the Rottweiler” for Camilla, while the other woman called Diana “that ridiculous creature.” And if the press wanted more on the rivalry, it seemingly wasn’t going to be all that difficult to find.

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Yes, people on the inside appeared all too happy to speak to the newspapers. According to People, socialite Lady Colin Campbell said, “Before the marriage, [Diana] presented herself as being a soft, sweet, easygoing, country-loving girl who wanted to please her husband. Afterward, she turned out to be a temperamental woman given to histrionics.” In other words, Diana had apparently driven Charles to infidelity. But that’s not all.

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For one, Diana came in for a slating from British newspaper the Daily Express. In particular, the publication noted Camilla’s “earthiness,” “fuller figure” and “maturity” while contrasting her with Diana. And in the Express’ article about the scandal, it was noted, “Psychologists might say that for a man who had precious little mothering during his formative years, Camilla would – in other circumstances – be [Charles’] ideal partner.”

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But while the media worked themselves up over the story, Andrew seemed to be largely unaffected. According to insiders, he and Camilla were largely living separately anyway. And at the time, the Evening Standard even reported that “[Andrew’s] circle of friends is wide and includes some of London’s most attractive women.”

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Then, in January 1993, came the most scandalous part of the whole saga. That month, you see, the media got hold of a tape containing an old phone call between Charles and Camilla. The conversation had been secretly recorded back in 1989, in fact, and it was stunning in its sexual explicitness.

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During the talk, for example, Camilla tells Charles, “You’re awfully good at feeling your way along.” To this, Charles answers, “Oh stop! I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out… Particularly in and out.” And Camilla, knowing full well what he was saying, replies, “Oh, that’s just what I need at the moment.”

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Charles then tells Camilla, “I fill up your tank!” before declaring, “The trouble is I need you several times a week.” After that, Camilla answers, “Mmm, so do I. I need you all the week. All the time.” And Charles says in response, “Oh, God. I’ll just live inside your trousers or something. It would be much easier!” But the conversation only gets weirder from there.

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A laughing Camilla then asks her lover, “What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? Oh, you’re going to come back as a pair of knickers.” And Charles speaks up delightedly, “Or, God forbid, a Tampax. Just my luck!” The pair erupt in fits of giggles.

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However, implying that he had given the matter some thought, Charles goes on, “My luck to be chucked down a lavatory and go on and on forever swirling round on the top, never going down.” Not to be outdone, Camilla replies, “Oh, perhaps you could just come back as a box… A box of Tampax, so you could just keep going.”

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Then Camilla tells her married lover, “Oh, darling, oh I just want you now… desperately, desperately, desperately” before the conversation turns to other things. At the end of the phone call, though, the pair begin talking about how much they love each other. And if you could ignore the obvious infidelity involved, it may seem rather sweet.

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Towards the conclusion of the conversation, Charles tells Camilla, “I’m so proud of you.” Camilla responds, however, “Don’t be so silly. I’ve never achieved anything.” So, Charles fires back, “Yes you have… Your great achievement is to love me.” And a clearly touched Camilla replies, “Oh, darling. Easier than falling off a chair.”

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But just as the chat seemed to become more sober and self-reflective, it was time to hang up the phone. And at that moment, Camilla is recorded as telling Charles, “Bye. Press the button.” Charles answers, meanwhile, by saying, “Going to press the tit.” With that, the dirty talk begins again. Camilla adds, “All right, darling. I wish you were pressing mine,” to which Charles responds, “God, I wish I was. Harder and harder.”

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Needless to say, as soon as the details of the talk were published, they sparked quite the furor. Of the scandal, the Los Angeles Times reported, “The widespread publication of an intimate telephone conversation reportedly between Britain’s Prince Charles and a married woman friend raised doubts in political and editorial circles [on] Wednesday that he will ever be king.”

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Yet The Sun writer Deidre Sanders had a slightly more charitable view. As she went on to explain, “It’s all very intimate, down-to-earth and – if you can forgive the fact they are both cheating on their partners – endearingly human. But if Charles had wanted to rob the monarchy of mystique, he couldn’t have calculated a more effective method.”

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And Diana’s reaction to the conversation wasn’t actually revealed until 2017, when one-time protection officer Ken Wharfe published a book called Guarding Diana: Protecting the Princess Around the World. Surprisingly, she was apparently delighted that the scandal – which had been dubbed “Camillagate” by the press – had taken place, but she nevertheless labeled Charles and Camilla’s comments as “sick.”

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And Diana would go on to have her own scandal, too. In 1995, you see, she took part in an in-depth interview with the BBC in which she confessed to cheating on Charles. During that broadcast, she also went into detail about the prince’s affair with Camilla, giving a line that would go on to become famous. Diana claimed, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

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Although the marriage was obviously over at that point, Diana and Charles didn’t officially divorce until August 1996, with the BBC interview reportedly being the catalyst for the Queen to give the pair her blessing. Then tragedy soon struck. Almost exactly one year on from the split, Diana’s car crashed in Paris as her driver sped away from the waiting paparazzi. And as we all know, she didn’t survive the accident.

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Then, in the wake of Diana’s death, Camilla became a target for even more hatred. For instance, on the anniversaries of the princess’ passing, slogans from the British public slamming Camilla would be left outside Kensington Palace. So, Charles strove to rehabilitate her image from home-wrecker to suitable queen.

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And, gradually, things began to change. In 2002 The Globe and Mail – yet again bringing up the phone scandal – noted, “Camilla has come a long way from the ‘rottweiler’ moniker she acquired during the years she was the ‘third person’ in Diana’s marriage. That’s one of the two metaphors that has clung to Camilla like a pair of unflattering trousers. The other is the tampon that Charles professed he wanted to be so he could get closer to her.”

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Finally, in 2005, Charles and Camilla married. And it was widely reported that during the ceremony the couple recited a prayer with the words, “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, against thy Divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.” Maybe they were thinking of the Camillagate scandal at the time. Nonetheless, as of March 2020, the couple are still together – meaning their union has now lasted for longer than Charles and Diana’s.

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