8 Things You Didn’t Know About Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s Honeymoon
When most couples embark on their honeymoon, they're happy and in love—but Charles and Diana's honeymoon proved to be the exception.
1. It took place aboard the royal yacht Britannia
After Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s “wedding of the century” at St. Paul’s Cathedral in July 1981, the royal pair set off for Gibraltar on Spain’s south coast, where they boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia. The yacht cruised around the Mediterranean, including the Greek islands, for 14 days. The couple ended their getaway at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. It was a luxurious itinerary—but what really went down during those first few days of the couple’s doomed marriage? Turns out, a lot more drama than you might think.
2. Diana was still reeling over this engagement comment
While most people head out on their honeymoon with the impression that their partner is totally in love with them, Diana wasn’t so sure. Her insecurity stemmed from an awkward interview at the time of her and Charles’ engagement. “We had this ghastly interview the day we announced our engagement,” she told her speech coach on a tape that was later used for the Channel 4 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. “And this ridiculous [news] man said, ‘Are you in love?’ “I thought, what a thick question. So I said, ‘Yes, of course, we are,’ and Charles turned round and said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And that threw me completely. I thought, what a strange answer. It traumatized me.”
3. Charles called Camilla every chance he got
Although Charles’ former flame Camilla Parker Bowles had already been married to her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, for eight years, Charles still found a way to call her from the Mediterranean. “The Prince simply had to be in constant contact with Camilla or he couldn’t function properly,” his valet Stephen Barry said in the book The Diana Chronicles. “If he went without his daily phone call, he would become tetchy and ill-tempered.”
4. The pair didn’t enjoy their first night together
“That first night was nothing special,” Charles told a friend, according to Tina Brown’s The Diana Chronicles. “It was pleasant enough, of course. But she really was painfully naive.” According to Brown, “Charles had enjoyed women who led him, mastered him, and mothered him. He was used to being served, not required to seduce.”
5. Charles wore a gift from Camilla
As if calling Camilla wasn’t bad enough, Charles also received a gift from her. “On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists,” Diana said on the Channel 4 tapes. “Two C’s entwined like the Chanel ‘C’. Got it. One knew exactly. So I said, ‘Camilla gave you those, didn’t she?’ He said ‘Yes, so what’s wrong? They’re a present from a friend.’ And boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy. And it was such a good idea—the two ‘C’s—but it wasn’t that clever.”
6. The couple’s incompatibility became extremely apparent
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 12-year age gap had always been known, but never was it more apparent than aboard the Brittania. The 32-year-old prince envisioned spending his honeymoon sunning, swimming, reading, painting, and writing thank-you letters. “He’d taken along his watercolours, some canvases and a pile of books by the Afrikaner mystic and writer Laurens van der Post, which he’d hoped he and Diana might share and then discuss in the evenings,” wrote Penny Junor in her book The Duchess. “Diana, however, was no great reader. She hated his wretched books and was offended that he might prefer to bury his head in one of them rather than sit and talk to her. She resented him sitting for hours at his easel, too, and they had many blazing rows. One day, when Charles was painting on the veranda deck of Britannia, he went off to look at something for half an hour. He came back to find she’d destroyed his painting and all his materials.”
7. Diana’s bulimia spiraled out of control
Princess Diana had been struggling with bulimia for months by the time her honeymoon came around. “[During our engagement], my husband put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ and that triggered off something in me,” she told her biographer Andrew Morton. “And the Camilla thing. I was desperate, desperate. I remember the first time I made myself sick. I was so thrilled because I thought this was the release of tension.” The disorder only got worse aboard the Britannia.
8. Diana felt hopeless about the marriage by day two
While the world watched the prince and princess in awe, Diana began to feel despair. She told her biographer Andrew Morton that her “tremendous hope was slashed by day two.” At one point, she wrote “I feel so small, so lonely, so out of my depth,” according to Tina Brown’s book. The couple announced their separation in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
Next up, learn the secrets about Princess Diana we only learned after her death.