The Prince of Wales was wracked with such doubts about his doomed marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales that he told an aide on the eve of his wedding: “I can’t go through with it,” a new biography reveals.
Both the Prince and his young bride-to-be entertained thoughts of calling off the wedding because each knew that their relationship was deeply flawed.
While the then Lady Diana Spencer knew the Prince held a candle for Camilla Parker Bowles, her groom panicked that he was rushing into marriage with a girl he hardly knew.
Catherine Mayer, whose unauthorised biography Charles: Heart of a King is published on Thursday, quotes a member of the Prince’s inner circle as saying that on the eve of the wedding in 1981 the Prince “was desperate”.
The future Princess, to whom he had been engaged for five months after a brief courtship, was “not the jolly country girl he had assumed”, but instead a vulnerable, complicated woman already suffering from an eating disorder.
He is said to have told his confidant: “I can’t go through with it…I can’t do it.”
The same friend is quoted as saying that: “I always told him afterwards that if it had been a Catholic marriage, it could have been declared null. Because he wasn’t really [committed], because she started with the bulimia and everything before the wedding.”
Lady Diana, meanwhile, had found a bracelet intended for Camilla Parker Bowles which had the letters “GF” engraved on it. She believed they stood for “Gladys” and “Fred”, the pet names the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles had given each other, though an alternative suggestion was that they stood for “Girl Friday”, another nickname the Prince had given her.
Lady Diana later told her own biographer Andrew Morton that she confided in her sisters, telling them: “I can’t marry him, I can’t do this, this is absolutely unbelievable.”
They told her it was too late to pull out because “your face is [already] on the tea towels”.
But, says Mayer: “She had no idea her bridegroom also had to be coaxed to the altar.”
A mutual friend of the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall debunks the myth that they met at a polo match, and instead reveals that she introduced the two over a drink at her flat in 1971, certain that they would make a good match.
The biography has already caused controversy over its depictions of the Prince’s court as a modern-day “Wolf Hall” riven with backstabbing and rivalry, and Clarence House has responded to the book by claiming Mayer overstated the exclusive access she was given to the Prince, which amounted to a nine-minute conversation, according to an aide.
Yesterday Mayer hit back, telling the BBC: “I had some help from Clarence House to not only attend events that press could accredit for, but also to talk to members of his inner circle and his friends.”
The book also contains fresh evidence about the extent to which the Prince of Wales trusted Jimmy Savile, later unmasked as one of the worst predatory paedophiles the country has ever known, even asking him to read his speeches for him to give him his thoughts.