When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer became engaged in early 1981, they had only met in person 13 times. And, as the Mirror reports, as fairytale-like as their July 29, 1981 wedding was, their proposal? Not so much. In fact, the outlet reports, Diana “burst into laughter” at Charles’ unromantic proposal.
Diana, then just 19, had no idea when she arrived at Windsor Castle that day that the future king, 32, would propose marriage to her. Upon her arrival, Charles told her he had “missed her so much” before leading her into the nursery of Windsor Castle to pop the question, choosing that particular room “because the nursery is like a home,” according to Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty Magazine, speaking on the documentary Charles and Di: The Truth Behind Their Wedding.
In response to Charles asking for her hand in marriage? Diana “burst out laughing,” Seward said. “I think that was probably just her nerves. She didn’t think it was the most romantic of proposals, but she had the proposal.”
In a later interview, Diana revealed further details about Charles’ proposal, recalling “He said ‘Do you realize that one day you’ll be Queen?’ And I said ‘I love you so much, I love you so much.’ He said ‘Whatever love means.’ He said it then. So, I thought, that was great. I thought he meant it.” (Of course, Charles would repeat that cringeworthy, infamous phrase in a later interview surrounding their engagement.)
Royal biographer Christopher Wilson said that Diana had no clue the proposal was coming. Charles, by this time in his early thirties, was receiving increasing pressure to end his bachelorhood, get married, and produce an heir to the throne.
“Prince Charles didn’t pick her up in his arms and embrace or do any of the things we might do when we propose marriage to the one that we love,” he said. “He rang his mum, simply to say ‘There, I’ve done it now. You’ve asked me to get married to somebody, and I’ve fixed it.’ What he’d done was, he’d finally found a wife.”
Diana herself confirmed this phone call to the Queen in Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story, when she recalled “a voice said to me inside, ‘You won’t be Queen, but you will have a tough role,’” she said. Then, she remembered, “he [Charles] ran upstairs and rang his mother.”
Rachel Burchfield is a freelance writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. She has worked with publications like ELLE, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, and Glamour, and is the editor of What Meghan Wore, a site dedicated to the Duchess of Sussex's fashion, lifestyle, and work.
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