LIFE & CULTURE

Did Prince Charles Refuse To Get On One Knee When Proposing To Princess Diana?

'The Crown's' latest season delves into Diana and Charles' complicated romance

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s love story was supposed to be the tale of an epic royal romance, a young prince who had found the perfect partner, a pair who were destined to start a family and eventually become the King and Queen of England. However, their marriage was anything but a fairytale—by all accounts, it was a complicated one riddled with affairs, secrets and unhappiness. 

The couple wed in July of 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, after having only meeting 12 times prior to their engagement. The couple reportedly both expressed doubts before walking down the aisle, and following the release of Netflix’s fourth season of The Crownwhich did a deep dive into the early years of the royal couple’s relationship—there are plenty of new details about the major moments in the Prince and Princess of Wales’ relationship timeline.

The series depicts a distant Prince Charles continue his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles and an isolated and unknowing Princess Diana deal with her mental health and new life. Below, we breakdown exactly what was covered in the royal drama and how it compares to expert accounts, from the first moment the couple met to how Prince Charles eventually proposed. 

Did Princess Diana Really Meet Prince Charles In Her School Play Uniform? 

One of the most anticipated moments fans of The Crown have been eagerly awaiting to see play out on screen was the meeting between Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.

The Prince of Wales was first introduced to the future Princess of Wales during a grouse hunt at Althorp, the Spencer family home, in November 1977. 

The future heir to the throne was there with Diana’s older sister, Sarah Spencer. The couple had a short-lived romance, but Sarah went on to marry Neil McCorquodale, and once reportedly said she wouldn’t marry Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.”

The Crown shows a 16-year-old Diana dressed in her school play uniform for Midsummer Night’s Dream, and while on screen it was a sweet moment between a future man and wife, following their divorce Diana reflected on that first meeting, telling author Andrew Morton her first impression of the royal was: “God what a sad man.”

Charles, meanwhile, recalled that first meeting in a 1981 interview with The Telegraph: “I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun, and bouncy and full of life and everything.”

reveals her sapphire and diamond engagement ring while she and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales pose for photographs in the grounds of Buckingham Palace following the announcement of their engagement
reveals her sapphire and diamond engagement ring while she and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales pose for photographs in the grounds of Buckingham Palace following the announcement of their engagement (Credit: Getty Images)

Was Prince Charles Pressured By His Family To Propose To Diana? 

The couple shocked the world when they separated in 1992 and then ultimately divorced in 1996, but many royal biographers have previously claimed their marriage was doomed from the start—with many stating the relationship was built on a foundation of arrangements and pressures from the royal family, namely Prince Philip. 

Royal biographer Ingrid Seward, author of Prince Philip Revealed: A Man of His Century, explained to Us Weekly that Charles “felt he’d been very pushed into marrying” Diana. 

“He told some of his friends that he felt pressurised into marrying Diana because Philip said, ‘You’ve either got to marry her or let her go. You can’t string a… young girl [along]. She’s only 19. You can’t string her along,'” Seward explained. “And all the press is saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be the next queen.’ You’ve got to take a stand and say that this is not going to work, or you marry her.”

Prince Philip also reportedly wrote his son a letter telling him that his only options were to either “propose to her or release her.”

“He wasn’t in love, he wasn’t ready,” said Charles’ cousin, Pamela Hicks, who read the letter. “[Charles] saw it as a ghastly threat. Psychologically he assumed his father bullied him, so he read it as a bullying letter.” 

The series depicts just that, the royal family pressuring the then 32-year-old Charles to marry Diana, who they called a “triumph” following her first visit to Balmoral. 

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, (1961 - 1997) on the banks of the River Dee in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scotland whilst on their honeymoon.
Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, (1961 – 1997) on the banks of the River Dee in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scotland whilst on their honeymoon. (Credit: Getty Images)

Did Prince Charles Refuse To Get Down On One Knee To Propose? 

One of the most interesting moments to play out on The Crown’s latest season was the detail that Prince Charles refused to get down on one knee during his proposal to Diana. 

In the series, we see Her Majesty, played by Olivia Colman, ask her son if he got down on one knee, to which he responds: “No, I didn’t. I am surprised by the question. I thought in terms of rank, the Prince of Wales only knelt before the Sovereign.”

When asked by other family members if the Queen suggested that course of action, she responds: “It is a proposal of marriage, not a show of strength.” 

It’s hard to know for sure if Prince Charles didn’t or didn’t get down on one knee, but from accounts told by experts and reflections by Princess Diana herself, it would seem the royal didn’t. 

Speaking to Andrew Morton, the writer behind Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words, Diana reflected on her memories from that day. 

He said: “Will you marry me?” and I laughed. I remember thinking, “This is a joke,” and I said: “Yeah, OK,” and laughed. He was deadly serious. He said: “You do realise that one day you will be Queen.” And a voice said to me inside: “You won’t be Queen, but you’ll have a tough role.” So I thought “OK,” so I said: “Yes.” I said: “I love you so much, I love you so much.” He said: “Whatever love means.”

Where Did Prince Charles Propose To Princess Diana? 

There have been many different stories over the years as to where the couple actually got engaged, but many royal biographers have agreed that it was not a romantic occasion—with the Prince of Wales doing so after the couple had met just 12 times, and without presenting an engagement ring

Netflix’s The Crown depicts the couple’s engagement occurring in the nursery of the royal family’s Windsor Castle home, which is what the official records claim. 

However, many have also suggested that the occasion occurred outside Camilla Parke Bowles’ marital home.

Royal biographer Andrew Holden once wrote it happened “beside the cabbage patch in the Parker Bowles’ back garden.”

Penny Junor, who wrote a biography on Camilla titled The Duchess: The Untold Storysays that her home, Bolehyde, “was the home Charles felt happiest in.” 

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