Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s divorce came as a shock to some, but the events leading up to the split were really the most scandalous of all.
Secret tensions between the couple remained behind closed doors for years following their 1981 lavish, fairy tale wedding, but by the time they split in the 1990s, everything was out in the open. According to PEOPLE, at the height of their constant media attention, Parliament had to call a meeting with editors of newspapers at Westminister to debate what should be considered public and private matters.
In 1992, a tell-all about Diana, “Diana: Her True Story,” hit shelves and detailed the princess’s internal struggles with her own happiness, bulimia and past suicide attempts. At the time, the public was unaware that it was Diana who leaked the interviews to author Andrew Morton, through her friend James Colthurst. The admissions were shocking, but her charity partner Vivienne Parry said, “It made her real.”
“It rocked the royal family,” royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith said of Morton’s tell-all.
At the same time, private calls between Prince Charles and his lover Camilla Parker-Bowles and calls between Diana and then-lover James Gilbey were leaked to the press. Later that year, Parliament announced the couple’s separation.
In 1994, Charles sat down for an interview that shed a dark light on his marriage to Diana. He admitted to being unfaithful and said their union was “irretrievably broken down.”
Diana later sat down for a tell-all interview in 1995 in which she spoke candidly of feelings of isolation in the royal family, as well as her own affairs and Charles’ infidelity. She famously described the union as “three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” referring to Charles’ relationship with now-wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
One month later, the queen encouraged the couple to divorce in a letter. The divorce was granted in 1996, one year before Diana’s death.