The most recent season of Netflix’s hit historical drama, The Crown, shows Lady Diana Spencer meet, date, and marry Prince Charles, but doesn’t give much explanation as to why the real Diana was interested in marrying Charles. In both the show and real life, Diana was well-liked and came from an aristocratic background. She was also very young and probably would have had many other chances to marry if she had not chosen to marry Charles. Season 4 of The Crown depicts the young couple meeting briefly a handful of times before a lavish, fairytale wedding, but Diana and Charles are rarely affectionate on-screen. At best, they cordially tolerate each other. If The Crown is supposed to be an interpretation of a real-life couple, it stands to question why such a couple got together in the first place, and indeed why they would end up being wed.
The real Charles and Diana started dating when she was 19, after they had an encounter at the home of a mutual friend, Philip de Pass, in the summer of 1980. In a 2017 documentary comprised of private interviews with Diana, Diana: In Her Own Words (which is now available on Netflix), Diana said she expressed her sympathy for Charles at the loss of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten. According to Diana, “[Charles] leapt upon me and started kissing me and I thought, urgh, this is not what people do. And he was all over me for the rest of the evening, following me around like a puppy.”
However, other times that Diana reflected on her early relationship with Prince Charles, she remarked how she grew more impressed with him over time and was very much in love with him when they got engaged. Diana’s engagement to Charles also fulfilled a lifelong wish of hers to become a member of the royal family. In Diana: In Her Own Words, Ray Hunt, a repairman who had done work for Diana’s family, recalls Diana saying to him at her sister’s wedding, “Nothing like this for me. Westminster Abbey or nothing.” In Tina Brown’s book, The Diana Chronicles, Diana reportedly said when she was 16 that she was going to marry Prince Charles someday. She said of Charles, “He’s the one man on the planet who is not allowed to divorce me.”
Diana’s reasoning for wanting to marry into the royal family revealed something of her childhood trauma. Diana’s history is one she has spoken of often, saying that she suffered an unhappy childhood. Her mother left after her parents divorced, and Diana later developed an eating disorder. Diana feared loneliness and craved affection, especially that which she felt could be permanent. Feeling that she would never want for company as a member of the royal family and believing that a royal husband would literally be unable to leave her, she accepted Charles’ proposal, despite her reservations.
Time gave Diana the hindsight to recall several red flags that she had ignored, including Charles’ tendency to disappear for weeks at a time without calling and his continual obsession with Camilla Parker Bowles. But despite all that Diana suffered in her marriage to Charles, Diana reportedly said to Tina Brown that “she would go back to Charles in a heartbeat if he wanted her” [via Telegraph]. Charles and Diana’s complex relationship remains at the forefront for much of The Crown season 4, and the final two seasons of The Crown are expected to show their highly publicized divorce, as well as the tragic death of Diana in 1997. Over two decades later, the beloved Diana, Princess of Wales, continues to captivate and inspire the world with her enigmatic personality and bittersweet love story.