In 1981, King Charles and Princess Diana were married in front of an audience of 3,500 guests at St. Paul’s Cathedral and nearly 750 million TV viewers.
The royal couple’s separation in 1992 and divorce (which was finalized in August 1996) was a far more private affair—though they both later conducted revealing interviews that gave their side of the story.
The queen described 1992 as her “annus horribilus,” thanks to the publication of a scandalous book and Charles and Diana’s public separation.
In candid tapes, Diana described her struggle with an eating disorder; suicide attempts; Charles’s enduring affair with his married girlfriend (and now wife), Camilla Parker Bowles; and feelings of despair regarding her marriage. Of her wedding, she said, “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. And I knew it.”
As the marriage went on, Diana’s popularity also created a wedge between them. During the couple’s first trip to Wales in 1981, crowds would “groan” if King Charles was on their side, Morton wrote. The Crown’s episode “Terra Nullius” explores this dynamic further during their 1983 trip to Australia.
peaking to the BBC’s Martin Bashir in 1995, Diana said the royal family was “shocked and horrified and very disappointed” by the book, which was an instant bestseller. “What had been hidden—or rather what we thought had been hidden—then became out in the open and was spoken about on a daily basis, and the pressure was for us to sort ourselves out in some way,” Diana said.
On June 29, 1994, a two-and-a-half-hour TV documentary on Charles aired. Though Charles spoke about things like the avalanche that killed his friend, it’s best known for the interview in which he admitted to cheating on Diana. Charles told journalist Jonathan Dimbleby that he was “absolutely” faithful to Diana, “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried,” the New York Times reports.
The day the documentary, and Charles’s confession of infidelities, aired, Diana stepped out in a striking black dress—known forever as the “revenge dress.”
Diana, like Charles, also admitted to infidelities in her interview with Martin Bashir on BBC’s Panorama. She had a five-year-long relationship with Major James Hewitt, who had just published a book about their affair. Diana said she “was in love with him,” but was “very let down” by his behavior.
Diana also pointed to Charles’s infidelities, uttering the famous line, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” She went on to insinuate that Charles was not fit to be king and that the monarchy was out of touch.
Through this interview, it became clear that Diana was ready to move on. “I don’t sit here with resentment: I sit here with sadness because marriage hasn’t worked. I sit here with hope because there’s a future ahead, a future for my husband, a future for myself and a future for the monarchy,” Diana said.
And the Panorama interview gave her the leverage to do so. “The Panorama interview had given her the popular support she needed for a divorce on something like her own terms,” Brown wrote in her biography.