Prince Charles, next in line for the throne after Queen Elizabeth II, did not have an easy time finding a bride, as we’re currently seeing on season 4 of Netflix’s The Crown. That’s not to say that the young prince was unlucky in love — quite the opposite, as we’ve seen him hit it off strikingly not only with his first love, Camilla Parker Bowles (then Camilla Shand — now Duchess Camilla) but even with bride-to-be Princess Diana’s older sister Sarah Spencer. But the issue facing Charles when it came to marriage wasn’t what plagues most young men. He was faced with finding a suitable partner for the throne, someone who would be easily moldable to the royal family’s wins — and frankly, his feelings on the whole thing were considered a secondary matter. We know how that marriage between Charles and Diana played out (or if you don’t, keep watching this season). And we also know that Prince Harry, who watched his parents’ marriage fall apart as a young boy, chose to make the opposite decision from his father when it came to marriage rather than repeating his mistakes.
If you wrote down all the descriptors of a “suitable pick” for Harry, then the prince picked up that list and tore it into shreds when he met Meghan Markle, the California-born actress with a heart of gold who would change the royal family forever. We know Harry’s had serious girlfriends before Meghan, like Cressida Bonas or Chelsy Davy. But Meghan was the relationship that changed everything for him, that changed who he was and what he wanted.
For Prince Charles, those who know him seem to uniformly agree that the love that changed him was Camilla, his now-wife. But for various reasons, she wasn’t considered a suitable addition to the firm — where 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer very much was.
Harry, who is not directly in line for the throne like brother Prince William and father Charles, has never faced quite the same pressures when it came to his personal life, though the pressure that did exist wasn’t trivial. We’ve discussed before the possibility that Harry would have left the royal family whether or not he married the independent-minded Meghan. But would Harry have been quite so determined in his path to marry for love and love alone if he hadn’t witnessed Charles and Diana’s loveless union?
Harry and William were both inevitably shaped by seeing how Charles and Diana’s marriage played out. But Harry in particular seems to have run far in the opposite direction to avoid his father’s mistakes.
Click here to see Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s complete relationship timeline.