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Low point for royal family as troubles bring back memories of War of the Waleses

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·4-min read

As the bitter fallout from Megxit worsens, the monarchy’s troubles have been labelled the War of the Waleses 2.0.

With the Duchess of Sussex accusing The Firm of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and the Duke of Sussex in her bombshell Oprah interview, and Meghan facing claims of bullying staff, royal relations have plunged to a new low.

The royal family
The royal family ahead of Harry and Meghan’s departure as senior royals (Phil Harris/Daily Mirror/PA)

Less than three years ago, popular royal Harry and his American actress bride – the first mixed race person to marry a senior royal in recent history – were being lauded as the modern face of the monarchy at a star-studded no-expenses spared royal wedding.

Now, the couple, who quit the working monarchy after struggling with intense media interest and their royal roles and following a rift with the Duke of Cambridge, appear to be pitting themselves against the Queen and co.

Buckingham Palace meanwhile has begun an investigation into allegations which surfaced in The Times that Meghan drove out two personal assistants and “humiliated” staff, leaving them in tears, which she denies.

Royal wedding
Harry and Meghan Markle leave St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle after their wedding in 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Royal author Penny Junor said: “It’s just such a mess. I don’t think there are going to be any winners in it.”

She told the PA news agency: “In a way it is another War of the Waleses.

“It is another example of this fractured family. They do seem to have a history of falling out.

“The War of the Waleses was obviously a marriage, but again it’s a member of the family feeling aggrieved and going public.”

The breakdown of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s marriage in the 1990s led to one of the most acrimonious periods in royal history.

The Waleses
The Prince and Princess of Wales on a tour of Australia in 1988 (Ron Bell/PA)

Cracks began to show in their relationship early on as the princess struggled to adjust to her new royal life.

She found the palace courtiers unapproachable, and was overwhelmed by her role as a royal superstar.

Behind the scenes, she developed bulimia. Charles was at a loss as to how to comfort her.

The prince had an affair with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, while Diana had an affair with cavalry officer James Hewitt.

Then in June 1992, Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story – with which the princess secretly collaborated – was published, alleging she was deeply unhappy and trapped in a loveless marriage.

Andrew Morton
Andrew Morton with his controversial book (PA)

It was critical of Charles, portraying him as indifferent to his wife’s despair, and told of how Diana had attempted suicide on several occasions and suffered from bulimia.

Buckingham Palace insisted at the time that Diana had not collaborated with the biography, but it later emerged she had in fact been Morton’s source.

During the royal family’s annual Balmoral holiday that summer, the “Squidgygate” or “Dianagate” conversation was leaked, featuring Diana’s close friend James Gilbey allegedly calling the princess by the pet name Squidgy and telling her repeatedly: “I love you.”

A disastrous tour of Korea by the ill-at-ease prince and princess took place in November 1992.

Charles & Diana unhappy in Seoul
Charles and Diana on their tour to South Korea (Martin Keene/PA)

They were nicknamed The Glums and a month later it was announced they were separating.

In 1993, speculation reached fever pitch about the future of both the heir to the throne Charles and the monarchy.

The Camillagate tape was leaked in which the prince was heard speaking intimately to Camilla.

As the War of the Waleses rumbled on, Charles took part in Jonathan Dimbleby’s documentary Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role, in June 1994.

It was part of a charm offensive to show the human side of the future king for the 25th anniversary of his investiture.

The Dimbleby documentary
Charles in conversation with Jonathan Dimbleby for his documentary (PA)

But he shocked the establishment by admitting to adultery during his marriage on national television, saying he was unfaithful after his marriage had “irretrievably” broken down.

Diana retaliated with her own explosive television appearance on BBC One’s Panorama in November 1995.

Opening up about her post-natal depression and bulimia, she also told of her desire to become a “Queen of people’s hearts”.

But the controversial television appearance was also seen as an attack on Charles and the royals, with Diana speaking about the prince’s affair with Camilla, her own adultery and questioning Charles’s suitability as King.

Diana on Panorama
Diana on Panorama (BBC Screengrab/PA)

On the prince’s affair, she remarked how “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”.

Her appearance prompted the Queen to urge Charles and Diana to divorce, which they finally did in 1996.

Diana was stripped of her HRH style.

She was killed in a car crash on August 31 1997, when she was 36 – and when Princes William and Harry were just 15 and 12.