We start our new series with the story of a girl, a prince and the society that convinced them they liked each other. Digressions include camels, Beyoncé and the idiosyncrasies of British place names. We're sorry to say that this episode has detailed descriptions of disordered eating.
Here's a link to the photos and clips we discuss in this episode: https://rottenindenmark.org/2020/09/28/princess-diana-part-1-the-courtship/
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Sarah's other show, Why Are Dads
Mike's other show, Maintenance Phase
Sarah: Do you think it's like a politically meaningful act to get stuff wrong about the British Royal family, the same as with football?
Welcome to You’re Wrong About, where we tell you the story behind why your mom cried that day.
Mike: Awwww. That's nice. I think I cried that day, too. Everybody cried that day. That day sucked.
Sarah: Well I was eight or nine, so I didn't fully get it. I was like, “Who's this lady?”
Mike: I'm basically a boomer, so I was in my mid-thirties. I am Michael Hobbes. I am a reporter for the Huffington Post.
Sarah: I'm Sarah Marshall. I'm working on a book about the Satanic Panic.
Mike: And if you want to support the show and hear cute bonus episodes, we are on Patreon. And there's lots of other ways to support the show, including buying cute t-shirts.
Sarah: And you can also not support the show. Because just existing in the world, and breathing air, and doing the things you do is pretty great. We're happy you're doing that.
Mike: Just come hang out. And today we are beginning our series on Princess Diana. I have like 31 meta comments about this before we start. If you don't stop me, I'm going to talk for like two hours before we actually say anything.
Sarah: Well, we can do that. I mean, you seem like… I feel like if I stick a fork in you, you're just going to be like the juiciest and raddiest you’ve ever been.
Mike: Please, please fork me if I go too far down paths. I went back and forth about whether or not to do this episode, and I want to talk about it.
Sarah: Okay. Where do you want to start?
Mike: So, okay. I started researching for this like two weeks ago, and I was reading one of the two biographies of her that we're going to dive into this episode. And I kept thinking there's like so much going on in the world, everything is on fire, literally this time. And here I am reading about basically a love triangle of the three most privileged human beings on planet earth.
Sarah: That’s why I want to hear about it. Because on one level, it doesn't matter at all. Right? Because it's like, it's human life, there's sadness here, there's trauma, all of that, it's all real. And yet on another level it's like, Oh my God, none of this matters. These people are having decisive, dramatic moments of their lives at polo matches, you know?
Sarah: This is a perennial theme in the kind of entertainment humans seek out. And I, for one, and going to sit here in my smokey city, listening to you tell me about British Royals for the rest of my life if I can figure out how to do it.
Mike: Well this was my journey. I was like, I put down the books, I think I even texted you. I was like, I don't know about this Princess Diana series. And then I sort of kept coming back to them.
Sarah: Because you were like, ”But I want to know”.
Sarah: And tell me about the hors d'oeuvres.
Mike: I sort of long to care about frivolous bullshit right now. And it felt really good to be reading about something so low stakes, like it just felt good. And so I sort of felt like maybe there's other people that are feeling like this. Like I was watching a makeup tutorial the other day, and the person just said very matter of factly, “So I'm not okay”. That is exactly how I feel. And I spend all of my days now reading about fucking Q Anon memes and sex trafficking of children. And it's actually really nice to read about Royal gossip from twenty-five years ago.
Sarah: I'm just really hoping to be talking about outfits by now. But I feel like what we're getting at is the idea of how can we reconcile our daily lives with the fact that we're living through an extinction event. So I feel like the question of how is a human being supposed to be able to reconcile themselves to that reality, to accept that information, and to try and do something about it. I feel like that has to be very individual because we haven't really done this before. And I have spent a lot of time during this pandemic learning about, and thinking about, and telling other people about drama between YouTubers who are like half my age. And why is that? I don't know, but it's what I do.
Mike: The weird thing too, is that this is not a standard that I hold other people to. Like when I see other political journalists tweeting about a Marvel movie or something, I'm not like, “Oh, how frivolous”. I'm like, good for them.
Sarah: I tweet about heavyweights all day long.
Mike: So anyway, all of that, like ignore me. I'm probably going to cut most of this out. But these are my reasons and like my sort of guilt for doing a couple like self-care Princess Diana episodes.
Sarah: I would encourage you to keep as much of this in as you can stand. Because I feel like this is cathartic for anybody working through the same feelings, which is all of us. And people will agree or disagree with our ultimate conclusions in this. But like, this is what we're going through. Like, this is an unprecedented experience. Like I, for one, am a fan of precedented experience, but does anyone listen to me? No, they do not.
Mike: You tried Sarah; you've been trying for years. Keep it precedented guys.
Sarah: I just think of this show as something that I try and do the best I can with every week based on my interests. And I, for one, am excited about this episode. I want to learn about Princess Diana.
Mike: Thank you for being nicer to me than I am.
Sarah: That's pretty easy. I could murder you and I would be nicer to you than you are.
Mike: I warned you that I was going to have a lot of insufferable prefaces for this episode.
Sarah: But the point is, you know, none of us know how to live in circumstances like these, and we're all doing our best. And I, for one, would like to hear about Princess Diana this morning.
Mike: I know, I'm sorry.
Sarah: So for the love of God, tell me.
Mike: So now that we’ve established that we’re not okay, we're going to proceed. I mean, let's talk about Princess Diana. I know that you have read some books about her, right?
Sarah: I really haven't. I listened to the beginning of Tina Brown's Princess Diana book. I listened to the audio book one evening while craft shopping, so I've heard the amount of Diana's life that you can learn about as you drive to a suburban craft store in Pennsylvania and then back to your house. I told you, I got as far as her winning the best kept hamster award. And then I have my own memories from childhood, but I don't know very much.
Mike: So neither did I when I was going into this. These episodes are going to be based on two biographies. Andrew Morton's biography of Diana, which he called Diana: In Her Own Words, is the only biography of her with which she participated.
So he did extensive interviews with her. There are transcripts of the interviews in the book itself. He's now updated it, after her death, but it originally came out in 1991. We're going to get to this, but when the book comes out, the book itself is a huge event in her eventual divorce. It's kind of like a salvo in the war between her and the Royal family. And she initially claims that she didn't participate in the book. There's all this weird subterfuge that goes on to get her on tape. There's also, there's weird things in British libel laws where Morton had to say that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles had a special friendship. He couldn't actually say that they were having an affair because British libel laws are crazy.
Sarah: A special friendship. Wow. Like your mom has with her therapist.
Mike: But anyway, so I started reading this book and it's very detailed. It's got sort of all the timelines in place. He interviews her brother, he interviews her mom. There's, you know, it's very well-researched. But it's also, it's one of the least insightful books I have ever read. It's just like a recitation of events.
Sarah: It's like your kid comes home from school and it's like, “And then, and then, and then…”
Mike: and then for more insight and color, I've been trying to add like other essays by people. And especially Tina Brown's book, The Diana Chronicles, which comes out in 2007, which draws on Andrew Morton's. She refers to Andrew Morton's biography extensively. She refers to a bunch of other biographies, but she's actually insightful about how the Royal family works, how the British upper crust works. So it's nice to have that through somebody's lens who like basically just describes all this Royal family stuff and all the manners as just fundamentally dumb and bad.
Sarah: Yeah. I feel like Tina Brown might agree with my theory that [inaudible] should all wear Tommy Bahama shirts because ideally, they should wear something that inspires people to feel slightly less reverence for them.
Mike: Yeah. So, okay. I want to read you this sentence from Tina Brown’s, The Diana Chronicles, it’s the perfect summation of the point of view that she is going into this story with. It's long, but bear with me. Tina Brown says, “There was no other rival for her heart but 28-year-old Charles Philip Arthur George, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. Or Arthur, as he likes to be called, when he climaxes.”
Sarah: That really snuck up on me.
Mike: She stuck it. I mean, I think it's like the perfect blending of all of this Royal title bullshit. Like she knows this stuff, but then it's like, oops - he's also just a dude who likes fucking.
So those are our two main sources. I'm going to try to bring in things from various other sources. I am 100% sure that I'm going to miss stuff, so apologies in advance. But let's do our best and dive in. I mean all of our UK listeners will I'm sure know this, but I feel like a lot of our American listeners don't know that, like this whole thing about Diana being the people's princess, that's much more about her personality than her actual upbringing. She was raised, like her father, it's very Jane Austin. Her father is like a noble guy who doesn't have much money. And her mother is from a family that has a lot of money, but they're not noble. So her mother's name is Frances. Her father's name is John. He is eventually the Earl something, not the Earl of something because “Earl of” is like a lower rank than Earl. So eventually he's Earl Spencer, not Earl of.
Sarah: See, this is exactly the thing we were referring to 90 seconds ago.
Mike: Yes. There's also, again, Andrew Morton is just like so deferential to this stuff. He just mentions that the family's fortune, her father's fortune, comes from sheep trading in the 15th century. No need to interrogate that at all. Just like, oh yeah, if you were rich 500 years ago, you're still rich now. No big deal.
Her mother is 12 years younger than her father, which is the same age gap that there will eventually be between Diana and Prince Charles. This is a lovely quote from Tina Brown, that sort of sets the scene for the world that Diana's mother is inhabiting, and that Diana will eventually be born into. She says, “British upper-class women of the pre-war generation were tough as old boots. Raised in freezing country seats, given a second-class education, always playing second fiddle to their brothers. They cultivated resourcefulness and the ability to live in private worlds. Social activities after marriage revolved around male sporting events. Wives spent their weekends hanging around in the rain at race meets or being left at home all day during shooting parties, at which you were still expected to change for lunch, tea, and dinner. It was the not being noticed that shriveled female sympathies, their aggressive beaky look comes from years of catering to oblivious men.”
It's just such a great example of the kind of insight that Tina Brown has, and Morton doesn't.
Sarah: Yeah, and it’s like very novelistically hyperbolic, too. Because obviously not being noticed isn't always going to make you beaky, but it's true. And it's because you know, an observation about sort of the emotional emptiness that a marriage of manners apparently fosters we’re getting, is relevant to the whole story.
Mike: The primary value of you as a wife is like your ability to produce sons. Basically what eventually poisons and destroys their marriage is that Frances has a girl and then another girl. She finally produces a son in 1960, but the son, it's not clear what happens, but he dies within 10 hours. And she talks later about how she never got to look at him. They take the boy out and they just whisked him off to some other room. And she only finds out what happens when she sees his death certificate. And it just says, “extensive malformation”. So she never knows what his actual condition was, and she never gets to hold him. She never gets any warmth to the son, and it's seen as this great shame of the family, but specifically hers.
After that, they make her go to all these clinics because of course it's the woman's fault that she can't produce a son. She goes to all these fertility doctors. And then on July 1st, 1961, she has another daughter, Diana.
Sarah: So Diana, like our former subject, Anastasia, is one of a series of daughters who everyone is hoping won't be daughters.
Mike: Yes. And it takes them a week to name her because they haven't even considered girls' names for the entire pregnancy, because they think it's like bad luck or whatever. And so she talks about how one of her first and most enduring memories is this idea of like, you should have been a boy. Her existence is wrapped up in the disappointment of her father and the anger and resentment of her mother of like,” I'm doing my best here, man”. Eventually in 1964, Frances does have a son. So this is Diana's younger brother. It's very confusing, is also named Charles. So we might need to Institute some sort of nicknames system to keep them straight throughout the series.
Sarah: Let's call Prince Charles, no…you can't call him “Arthur”, that's too confusing.
Mike: We can't call him his climax name.
Sarah: Let's call him young Charles, Diana's brother. Yeah.
Mike: Again, this “People’s Princess” is kind of a media creation. Like, she grows up in a 10-room house with six full-time staff. The way that Andrew Morton describes it, he says it was a childhood where she wanted for nothing materially, but everything emotionally. All of the social mores, all of the sort of rules around parenting at the time are these weird, strict, distant, formal rules. Famously her brother is seven years old before he eats dinner at the same table with his father.
Mike: They're in this giant echoing house in the middle of fucking nowhere. So they're just like alone for a lot of their childhood. Her older sisters are off at boarding school. She becomes really close to her younger brother, but it's basically just like the two of them in this big, cold, drafty house in the middle of nowhere.
Sarah: This is why it's not an ideal system psychologically to get two people married and then be like, “Great. Now you have kids and keep having them until one of them is a boy.” And then you'll have all these kids and yeah, they whatever.
Mike: I mean, it also seems like this is really getting to her mom that originally, you know, she marries this guy when she's 18. All of her time is taken up with having kids and this preoccupation with producing a male heir. Now that she has a male heir, she's also, you know, she's in her mid-twenties, she's sort of like, “What am I doing here?”
Sarah: And all the other landed, gentry wives speak in a robotic tone.
Mike: Her mother is getting more unhappy. They also start having fights. And so this is in the transcripts of the interviews with Andrew Morton, this is what she says. This is Diana. “I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face. I was hiding behind the door and mummy was crying”. But then weirdly Andrew Morton in his book, because the book is based on these transcripts, he summarizes this as. “Diana clearly remembered witnessing a particularly violent argument between her mother and father.”
So it's weird. I don't know. It's just weird to me to summarize, “I saw him slap her”, as in these like weirdly non-specific terms when she says something specific.
Sarah: A violent argument between mother and father. Who can say whether either of them was writing violence? Both? Did it just exist as a third-party hovering between them?
Mike: This was one of the little things that made me start to distrust his book a little bit. I was like, why wouldn't you just say her dad slapped her mom?
Sarah: It seems like shying away from being direct about that accusation.
Mike: Yeah. So her mother starts spending more time in London. I sort of love this, that Frances at age 28 with four children, is finally like having her twenties. That she starts going to London and going to plays, going to like fancy dinner parties. She finally gets like this cosmopolitan life.
Sarah: Well she gave him a boy and now she gets to go do other stuff.
Mike: And he’s totally uninterested in what she's doing, too. Right? Like, yeah, go, go, go get an apartment in London. Fine, whatever. The way that Frances later puts it, she tells this to Andrew Morton, she says “He had no interest in the heifer who had produced the prize calf”.
So on one of these trips to London, she meets somebody else. She meets a guy named Peter Shand Kidd. He's the heir to like a wallpaper fortune or something. And he's now a sheep farmer in Australia. Like, I don't understand what any of these businesses are. But anyway, he's like a rich dude, he's married, they start conducting an affair.
Sarah: Conducting an affair is like the most business-like way to put that.
Mike: I know. They start fandangling each other. I don't know what to say. They start having sex in his London apartment.
Sarah: But they have an affair. I guess they have an affair.
Mike: So the way that Morton says it is, “Peter, an amusing bon viveur, with an attractive Bohemian streak, seems to possess all the qualities John lacked.
Sarah: A personality, for example.
Mike: “In the exhilaration of their affair, Frances, 11 years his junior, did not notice his bouts of depression and black moods. That would come later.” I'm throwing in foreshadowing to make this more literary. So eventually she leaves him. She takes the kids and move them off to London. And of course, West London, like the posh part of London. Enrolls them in school and they start seeing their dad on weekends, but mostly they're with her mom. And so Charles now says that this was like Diana's first glimpse of like a relatively normal life. Like what most of us would consider, you know, it's like a two-bedroom apartment or something like that. She's taking the tube. She's relatively independent. She doesn't seem to have any live-in staff.
So eventually her dad doesn't like this arrangement. He sues her mom for divorce. He insists the kids move back in with him in the middle of nowhere and go to boarding school nearby.
Sarah: Nearby nowhere.
Mike: Nearby nowhere. And because he's a nobleman and she's not, it's like the divorce is a done deal and he gets custody. It's amazing.
Sarah: Wow. Okay. So it's just like the fancier parent gets the kids.
Mike: also her own mother testifies against her and says that she's an unfit mother, so that didn't help.
Sarah: Oh god. What are Diana's mother’s parents like?
Mike: Diana’s mom's mom is this social striver and she's friends with the Queen Mother. So throughout her childhood, the Royal family is actually like their next-door neighbors. But that means like, I don't know, 20 miles away cause their estates are so big. But like their nearest neighbor is the sort of the summer house of the Royal family. And so her grandmother is constantly sort of working on getting them closer into the Royal family.
Sarah: So they go over to watch their cable.
Mike: They do actually go over there to watch movies and stuff.
Sarah: And water their plants when they're away.
Mike: And there's an apocryphal story that may or may not be true of Prince Charles like dropping into their house when he's like 17 and Diana's like five. And like that's officially the first time they meet, but it's not clear like if that happened or if that's misremembered or whatever. But they're very intertwined with the Royal family already. They're not like close or whatever, but it's not totally unusual for them to get invited to various Royal parties at this estate.
So I am going to show you a family picture. Okay. So I'm sending you a picture of the family when she moves back in with her dad. So this is her dad and all of the kids.
Mike: And she's the one. Yeah.
Sarah: Huh? I would not have recognized her.
Mike: Me neither. Right. 2: She has this like very round face. She's got long, brown hair.
Sarah: She gets like, it's the angle, it's the bangs. It's funny, I guess always assume that she was like a very glamorous little child. She just looks like a regular kid, doesn't she?
Mike: She's six when her mom leaves, and I think she's like seven or eight here. What else strikes you about the photo?
Sarah: She has interestingly very reserved body language. Everyone else has completely facing the camera. She's halfway turned toward it, sitting sideways on the couch.
Mike: I think it's funny how all the kids seem to have these sort of tentative smiles. The kids are like, mm. And then dad is beaming.
Sarah: Yeah. I think there are a lot of family pictures like this, where the dad is like, “Look at my cornucopia of children.” Like he's got his legs sort of like splayed. Also like he's showing the breadbasket and his kids are all sitting like nervously around them.
Mike: That's kind of a metaphor for what happens in the next couple of years where her dad is like, “Everything's going fine. I'm like doing it. I'm like a single dad. Everything's great.” And just has no idea what any of his kids need.
So it's pretty typical in these sort of like Royal, like sad, Royal kid's stories to have like a nanny that they rely on, right? Like this sort of mother-ish figure, somebody who becomes a mothering figure that's like long-time nanny. But for whatever reason, Diana has these nannies that like swap out every six months or so.
Sarah: Is there a college intern program, like in Disney World?
Mike: She is convinced, because they're all like young and pretty I guess, she's convinced that they're all trying to marry her dad. Because that's like something that young, upper crust ladies would do at the time, they would become nannies. And then inevitably they would end up marrying the father of the kids that they're taking care of.
Sarah: That makes sense. You got a lot of access.
Mike: Yes. And also, it seems like her dad is deliberately hiring smoke shows. So I think that he's doing this deliberately. But so she distrusts these nannies. There's all these stories of her pulling pranks on the nannies. Like she'll put a pin cushion on their chair, she'll lock them out of the house. Like, there's this thing of like her terrorizing the nannies and the nannies not liking her all that much, and her not liking them. Like her and her brother were pretty unpleasant.
Sarah: Well, most children are unpleasant, at least from time to time.
Mike: And then her brother, young Charles, describes his dad as like shell shocked. Every once in a while, they would like play cricket on the grounds or whatever, but generally he would just like sit alone in his study or go do these random, weird rich people, social events, and just leave the kids at home with a nanny. Even though he's like trying to be a good dad, he fought for them in court to get custody, he's not like doing anything with them. Like he doesn't seem to have any idea what children actually need at this point in their lives.
Diana talks about how both of her parents are kind of competing for her affection, but then they don't know how to compete. So instead of competing on like, “How was your day honey”, or like parent stuff, they compete on buying them things.
So for her seventh birthday, her dad organizes this massive party with hundreds of people and he somehow loans camels from the Bristol Zoo, and has camels at this party. He was like, “Look sweetie, camels”. And she's like, “Can you just give me a fucking hug?” Like, camels are fine, but like, this is not actually what I need as a person.
Sarah: What is it that makes it easier for a human being to obtain camels for their child's event than it is to hug them?
Mike: Don't raise kids like this. I don't get this. I mean, the only explanation we get from Tina Brown is she says, “He wasn't cut out to be a jolly new age dad. his own formal childhood had moored him irrevocably to the detached parenting style of the aristocracy. Diana and Charles always took their meals with the nanny in the nursery while he supped in solitary grandeur in the dining room.
Sarah: That’s so weird. Like, why does he have to eat dinner all by himself?
Mike: They're literally just making rules to make themselves miserable and to make their children.
Sarah: Yeah. It's like Batman on a date with Vicki Vale.
Mike: It's also super chaotic when she goes on weekends to meet her mom, because her mom is it seems like kind of breaking down and is really, really, really mad that she lost the kids in the divorce. Because of course, this is not what she envisioned for this like life of hers.
So apparently, they would go there on like Friday night. And starting on Saturday, her mom would start crying and say, “I don't want to give you back tomorrow”. These kids are like seven and eight years old at this point, and they do not know how to process this at all.
Sarah: Yeah. And neither did the adults. Like the adults in their lives aren't handling anything that's going on emotionally and so it's like all going straight to them
Mike: and she talks about this event that she still remembers years later, when she has to be the bridesmaid at some cousin of a cousin of a whatever wedding. And her mother gives her a green dress, and her father gives her a white dress for the wedding. And they're both like, “Well, honey, you have to wear this.” It's like very divorced kid thing where it's this like pretty basic thing. Like, whatever two people give me a dress, I need to wear one of them. It's really, under normal circumstances it would not be that big of a deal, but it's a front in this larger war and it's the perfect symbolism. Because both of her parents are going to be there and so whatever she wears, they're both going to see who she sort of “supporting”, and like, she's not ready for this much responsibility.
Sarah: Yeah. And also, I guess that like from an early age, her life is consumed by the kind of stuff that her marriage is going to eventually be about. Which is like these little social gestures that everyone cares about and is going to talk about and is going to interpret. And you can't do it right, no matter what you do, because someone will be disappointed.
Mike: That’s really insightful. I mean, she's understanding herself as a symbol. So again, even though her dad is like, “I want my kids back, it's so great”. Almost immediately after moving back in with her dad, he sends her to boarding school. So it's like, I'm going to go to court, get my kids back, and then I'm going to like, fuck them off to some brick building in like Norchester or something. I don't even know. Some of the British place names in this story sound like satire British names. I'm sorry. Thickswitch, I don’t know.
He sends her to this boarding school. Apparently, her parents are the only parents of kids there who are divorced. And she's like acutely aware of this.
Sarah: This is pretty Kramer vs. Kramer, Mike. I mean, it was a different world.
Mike: So at school, Andrew Morton describes her as sort of somewhat of an outcast because of this divorce thing. Although Tina Brown and me are both a little bit skeptical of this description because she's also at school doing a billion activities. She's doing swimming, she's doing something called net ball, she's doing dance, she's in the play. Like she sounds lo- key popular.
Sarah: I don't know. Ultimately with school, I feel like a lot of people describe themselves as unpopular and then someone else can be like, “But you were the Winter Frolic Queen.” Everyone feels unpopular.
Mike: I think that's really what's going on. She tells Morton basically that, “I felt like an outsider.” But then when Tina Brown interviews people that she actually went to school with, they're like, “Ah, no, people liked her”. Like she was kind of weird. She was a little quiet.
Sarah: You can feel like an outsider and still know how to put on the right sweater and like laugh along to the right jokes at the right moments. And so on.
Mike: Tina Brown is also weirdly mean about Diana's intellect. She keeps talking about how she failed a bunch of O levels and how she got low grades on all these standardized tests the British children have to pass.
Sarah: Ok, Tina.
Mike: I know it's like, just relax. Like, it doesn't seem to me like she's all that dumb. It seems like she's bad at taking tests.
Sarah: Whatever. I bet Tina Brown did a great job with all of her tests.
Mike: So I mean, her personality is coming out at this point. I think of her, and I don't know that I have great evidence for this, but I think of her as like a high functioning introvert. She's someone who likes to be alone, needs to be alone. She's really into reading. She's not somebody who's like putting herself out there all the time, but when she does, she's really good at it. So sort of, she can turn on the social charm. When she needs to do it, she can do it. But then she gets exhausted afterwards and then she sort of needs to recharge.
So what you see is in her classmates, they're describing her as like a social butterfly and great, but in sort of bursts. But she's not somebody who's just effortlessly on all the time. She's somebody who like, you can also find her in these much more somber and quiet moods where she just doesn't want to be around people.
It seems like she's very good at social situations when she knows what is expected of her. But in things like when she's not in control of them or when she's sort of a follower rather than a leader, then she gets less comfortable and she sort of fades into the background.
So the other thing that happens at this time is for the first time she starts doing charity work. So this obviously will become extremely relevant later, but there's some sort of field trip at her school where they take the kids to a mental institution. Everyone who was around at this time says that Diana is a natural. She does the thing immediately where she goes down on her hands and knees to get her face on the same level as everybody who's there, like immediately just connects with people.
So one of the nurses who works there says that she hears like laughter booming through the halls for the first time in days. Like as soon as Diana gets there, I mean, it kind of comes back to what you were saying the other day that every kid is gifted, right? That we should think of every child as gifted, but like finding out what their gift is. This is her superpower, that she can connect with anybody and make them feel really comfortable and not look down.
Sarah: Which I can see being a product of her own insecurity, fostering lifestyle. Like if she's an insecure person, then that can give her the gift of like a genuine sense of equality with everyone that she meets.
Mike: Right. So this is what Tina Brown says about Diana's empathy. She says, “Diana made her warmth available to anyone, regardless of race, creed, or nationality. An invisible thread of kindliness drew her to people who expected the least and needed the most. But distinguished historian, Paul Johnson, believes that Diana's empathy was a unique gift. She thought she knew nothing and was very stupid, he told me. Although she didn't know much, she had something that very few people possess. She had extraordinary intuition and could see people who were nice and warmed them and sympathize with them. Very few people compare to what she had.”
This is actually something, I mean, I think that her insecurity about her intellect might be in there, too. A lot of people say that like when they meet Diana, within the first couple of minutes, be like, “Oh, you know, I'm too thick to understand all that”. But like, she has this sort of self-deprecating thing that she thinks of herself as kind of dumb, and she thinks that this is the way that she can excel at something.
It's also an interesting thing that she is actually very competitive, and her sisters are good at fucking everything, and her brother's like a super genius. Like he ends up going to Oxford or Cambridge or one of those. And this is like something that she's good at. Everything else that she does, like dancing, piano, whatever, it's like, “Oh, your sister is better at this, but you're pretty good”. Right. Everything else in her life she's second best at. And so being nice to people and connecting with people, it doesn't just give her a sense of self-esteem, but it's also, it's like the one thing that she has that she is the best at.
And so Tina Brown concludes this saying, “When Diana did leave her own world for the hospital ward or the homeless shelter, it was never Royal condescension in her last interview before her death. She told Lamont, ‘I'm much closer to the people at the bottom than the people at the top’. It never occurred to Diana or anyone else at the time, that this empathy could be as powerful a force as intellect.”
Sarah: It also seems like the people at the top suck, and of course she's drawn elsewhere.
Mike: That's another way of putting it.
Sarah: It does seem that like the manners and conventions of the society sort of incentivize sucky behavior in a very interesting way.
Mike: Tagline: Yes. So the last thing that happens before she meets Prince Charles and we get into the courtship, is she gets a stepmom. Her name is Raine Legge. I don't know.
Sarah: How is it spelled?
Mike: L E G G E.
Sarah: I mean, yeah. British names are pronounced some way that they decided on 700 years ago. So like, we have no chance.
Mike: Yes, all British words.
Sarah: Just call her “Raine Leggs”. We know that that's wrong, and we're agreeing that we know it's wrong. And if we try and say something that sounds right, it'll be wrong also.
Mike: Yes. So her dad meets Raine Leggs, who is sort of like a tragic figure. People think of her as like really tacky and just sort of off a little bit. Like one of the details in Tina Brown's book is that they're having a pool party it's a bunch of kids, it's like 11 in the morning, everybody's playing around, they're in their swimming suits and they've got like sock’em boppers or whatever. And Raine Leggs shows up in a ball gown. Like a Morticia Adams ball gown. It's like, it's just, everything is a little bit off about her. She's like too formal and too informal at the same time. But Diana's father seems to be wild about her.
Sarah: He's like, “I'm a posh old man, and this is an overly poshy lady.”
Mike: One of the details from Andrew Morton's book, he says, “Christmas at Althorp with Raine Spencer in charge was a bizarre comedy. She presided over the present opening like an officious timekeeper. The children were only allowed to open the present she indicated, and only after she had looked at her watch to give the go ahead to tear the paper off.”
Sarah: What? That's so weird.
Mike: But it's like, there's so many weird little things like this, where it's like she's applying these rules, but the rules don't make any sense.
Sarah: Like she understands that being fancy is like having rules about arbitrary stuff. So she just like does that.
Mike: But so the most bananas detail of this is that Diana’s his father starts seeing her, they meet her once, and then they get married without telling the children. Diana finds out from the newspapers, her brother, young Charles, finds out from the Principal of his school. The Principal’s like, “Hey, good luck on getting your new stepmom there. And he's like, step what? And then they have a big party, like a wedding party with a thousand people to celebrate the wedding, and they don't invite the kids. They just stay home with the nannies. It's so weird.
Sarah: This all seems based on a belief that children are like just little hunks of semi-autonomous gristle, that don't really notice what's happening to them. “Pip, pip, this is your new mummy now.” That’s how British people talk.
Mike: So in the sort of the sad outcome of this is that they're livid at their father, but they also take a lot of their anger out on Raine herself. And so Diana loathes Raine Legges.
Sarah: Also like, yeah. How can you expect a child to not conflate the injustice she rightfully feels about how this woman was introduced into her life with her feelings for the woman herself, right? Like, you are screwing your wife by bringing her into your children's lives this way.
Mike: Oh yeah. He just isn't thinking anything through, he's never putting his children's emotional experiences in his calculation.
Sarah: Do you think in his brain there's just like a Shetland pony munching hay?
Mike: So the other thing that Raine Legges does that everybody hates, is Diana's grandfather dies and so her father becomes Earl Spencer, and they have to move into this like ridiculous castle-ish house. But of course, because her dad's family doesn't actually have that much money and living in one of these like Beauty and the Beast castle's costs thousands of dollars a year for various things of upkeep. So they all of a sudden take on all these expenses.
Sarah: Can you offset the cost by letting people film miniseries there?
Mike: Literally this is what they do. They actually, they open up part of the house to tours.
Sarah: Hmm. It must be very weird though, to like live in a house where like you have your living quarters, and then people are like looking at art and other parts of it.
Mike: Also, the kids deeply resent this. Because all of a sudden, they have this new stepmom with red fingernails, and apparently, she starts doing all this interior decorating stuff. Like she puts in wall-to-wall carpet over top of like their old floor. Which actually legitimately sounds bad. But also if you're going to have people treading all over your house, like hundreds of people a day, it's probably not a terrible idea to put in some carpet.
Sarah: Right. It's because it's a complicated issue. But I presume they're coming there partly to see the floors. So I don't know, I can't help her,
Mike: In her defense, in her interviews with Andrew Morton, Diana does show some understanding of Raine. She says, “She used to join us, accidentally find us in places and come and sit down and pour us with presence. And we all hated her so much because we thought she was going to take daddy away from us. But actually she was suffering from the same thing.”
So Diana has like some understanding of like this is what it does to people to grow up in this environment. But now finally, we get to her meeting Charles. There's like three meetings stories. There's the first one when like he's 17 and she's five or whatever, that one doesn't really count. There's one when she's 16 and he is dating her sister. Are you aware of this?
Sarah: I'm aware that he dated her sister at one time.
Mike: Yeah. This is super fucked up. Her older sister, Sarah, had been dating the Duke of Westminster, whatever that is. And they had just broken up. This is in 1977, and she gets a really bad eating disorder. She gets anorexia after this. This is extremely fucked up. This is from Andrew Morton's book, “Her family, worried about her health, used every method possible to encourage her to eat. For example, she would be allowed to speak with Prince Charles on the phone if she put on two pounds of weight.”
Sarah: Oh no, oh boy.
Mike: They're controlling her love life and her fucking weight at the same time.
Sarah: Yeah. And of course your family exerting even more control over your life is going to encourage you to just act normal.
Mike: So eventually she starts seeing a doctor. It's coincidentally the same doctor that Diana will later see for bulimia. But she's dating Prince Charles as all of this is going on, and we are now going to watch a clip.
So the first time Diana and Charles meet, it’s on a hunting excursion and this is Charles and Diana talking about how they met, on the eve of their wedding. This is a couple of days before they get married. So three, two, one, go.
*video clip plays*
“Can you take us back to when you first met? If you remember, can you remember?”
“Yes, yes, I certainly can. It was 1977. Charles came to stay as a friend of my sister Sarah, for a shoot. We met in a plowed field.”
“And what did you think then? What was your instant impression, both of you? What did you think about Lady Diana?”
“Well I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. And I mean great fun and bouncy and full of life and everything. I don’t know what you thought of me.”
“Did it cross either of your minds that in three years’ time you would be announcing your engagement to marry?”
“Not at all.”
Mike: “What was your first impression?”
Sarah: It's so awkward and she looks so young.
Mike: I know. She's 19.
Sarah: Oh, when they got married she was 19?
Mike: She's 19 and he's 32.
Sarah: Yeah. And they just, I mean, it's just so awkward.
Mike: It’s so awkward. I know. That's why I skipped the first three minutes because it's like painful to watch. What did he seem like?
Sarah: I don't know. I think they both have the quality of like a 12-year-old golden retriever who's being petted really roughly by a bunch of toddlers at Thanksgiving. It's just like, this has to happen, it's like neither of them are happy to be having this conversation. Like these aren't engaging questions. You can't answer them honestly. You can see that they're caught in this web of manners and like having to… it's all very PR-y and it's just weird because they're like, they're talking about their relationship as if they're discussing trade negotiations.
Mike: So Hilary Mantel has a really good essay about this. And she says something about the Royal family that I think is really insightful. She says, “I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current Royal family doesn't have the difficulty in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and Royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill adapted to any modern environment. But aren't they interesting? Aren't they nice to look at/ Some people find them endearing, some pity them for their precarious situation, everybody stares at them. And however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it's still a cage.”
Sarah: Yeah. And like, what happens when you try and liberate a Panda like Megan Markle.
Mike: So they meet at this time and then nothing really happens. And they meet like for real three years later. So this is like, this is kind of a weird, fluky thing.
Sarah: Ok. So it's like weird for them to be doing this interview because the interviewer is like, “Did you know when you first met her that” … alright, I’ll stop doing the voice. “Did you know when you first met that you would be getting engaged?” And it's like, if you thought that you knew that when you met anyone, that would be pretty intense, right?
Mike: I mean, it seems like at the very most, he thought that she was hot. It doesn't seem like they really connected as people or like chatted very much as people, because they're in a large group.
Sarah: Yeah. He just describes her as like jolly and amusing, full of fun. Yeah. It's like a corgi.
Mike: I mean, he goes to her house that night or sometime shortly after for some dinner things, something, something, and then apparently they end up chatting a little bit and then he asks Diana to like, show him the galleries upstairs. I think this is how like rich people flirt with each other. And then apparently her sister sees this going on and she's like, “Absolutely not. I will show you the galleries.” And then totally cock blocks her and then walks upstairs with Charles. And that's like the last that they interact for like three more years.
Later, she tells Andrew Morton that, “When I first met him on that hunting trip, I thought what a sad man.” Tina Brown says that Diana actually has a crush on him when she meets him at this time, that this is sort of the spark of this crush and like a very deliberate effort to get with him. Those are like the two theories. Either she thought he was like a sad man, or I need to sort of get things in order to get with this guy.
Sarah: I have no idea why I would suggest that these things are mutually exclusive.
Mike: So basically they meet that's about it. There's nothing seems momentous or all that interesting about it at the time. It's just like, my sister is dating this dude, met him, chatted a bit, peace out. Eventually the relationship with her sister explodes when Sarah starts talking to the press.
Sarah: Explodes in a good way or a bad way?
Mike: In a bad way. So apparently, she's on some skiing holiday. These people are always on fucking skiing holidays. She ends up talking to two journalists in like a very open way. I guess they're just like eating French fries together at lunch and she's just like chatting. She talks about her own drinking; she talks about other guys that she's dated. She says, “Oh, I would never consider marrying him. I would never marry somebody that I don't know that well. Whether he's the King of England or some street sweeper, it doesn't matter. I don't want to marry somebody I don't know that well.” And she is thinking about this in the days afterwards. And like, “Ah, I might have told those people more than I should have.” This is before the article comes out. So she calls Prince Charles to warn him. She's like, “Hey, I just wanna let you know. I talked to some journalists. I might've said some stuff.” And so this is what Tina Brown says in her book, “Cutting people off is one of the things the Royal family does best. They love calibrating their responses from cordial forthcomingness to subtle freezing withdrawal if you overstep the mark. When Sarah told Prince Charles that she had given an interview to the press about their relationship, there was a pause and he replied with deadly coldness, “You've just done something extremely stupid.” Within hours the drawbridge was up at Windsor Castle.”
Sarah: This is like when I watched British mysteries with my mom, I can tell when there's this posh guy who's clearly the murderer. And when he confesses to the murder, he's going to say it's because she laughed at him. That's just so intense. I don't know. I like the current American legally enforced model better, where like to my knowledge, if you want to be friends with Beyonce, you have to sign an NDA. And that's just how it is. Be clear about it up front and then we don't have to have scenes later.
Mike: So Diana moves on with her life. She's in Swiss boarding school for some period of time, but she ends up dropping out when she's 16. And so then she moves to London. She moves into her mom's apartment with two girlfriends that she knows from school.
This is what Andrew Morton says about this period, “She had no paper qualifications, no special skills, and only a vague notion that she wanted to work with children. While Diana seemed destined for a life of unskilled low paid jobs, she was not that much out of the ordinary for girls of her class and background. Aristocratic families traditionally invested more thought and effort into educating boys than girls. There was a tacit assumption that after rounding off their formal education with a cookery or arts course, daughters would join their well-bred friends on the marriage market.”
Sarah: Of course.
Mike: So as many other people of her social class do, she ends up doing odd jobs. She signs up for a temp employment agency. She ends up working as a waitress. She starts nannying for this random kid of like an American British couple. Her sister hires her to clean her apartment, which is like a fucked up older sister thing to do. She pays her one pound an hour. I sort of liked this description; this is from Andrew Morton's book. He says, “Her London life was sedate, almost mundane. She didn't smoke and never drank, preferring to spend her free time reading, watching television, visiting friends, or going out for supper in modern bistros. ‘Disco Di’ has only ever existed in the minds of headline writers. In reality, Diana was a loner by inclination and habit.”
Sarah: Maybe she was listening to disco alone. I'm glad she had a nice little introvert life for a minute there.
Mike: The only other sort of noteworthy thing now is, she takes a cooking course. Again, this was like something that upper crust kids did. And this pissed me off. Andrew Morton in his book says, “Often the glutton in Diana got the better of her, and she was frequently told off for dipping her fingers into pans filled with gooey sauces. She completed the course, a few pounds heavier, and clutching a diploma for her efforts.” It's like, fuck you. This is somebody who struggled with bulimia for years. Like, don't talk about the glutton in Diana.
Sarah: And also, it's just like, it's normal for your weight to fluctuate. And it's normal to taste stuff in a cooking class.
Mike: Yes. Everybody relaxed.
Sarah: Yeah. And it's just like, it's seizing on an excuse to stigmatize someone for the very thing that they tortured themselves about while they were alive, in which is a made-up problem. So like, yeah. It's a confusing choice. And what seems to have been like a very kind biography or at least one that was trying to be.
Mike: Right. Because everything else in the book is so generous to her, and weight is the only issue where it's like, oh no, I can still be kind of shitty to her about this. It's like the only place where like his tabloid journalist pass gets the better of him. But anyway, now that I'm all worked up.
Sarah: Like Dixie Carter in Designing Women, it's wonderful. It's like pull-starting an ATV. You're just like, Oh, it's coming. Yeah.
Mike: The other thing that happens at this time is she starts teaching ballet. She gets a job at a dance studio. According to Andrew Morton, she gets in a skiing accident, something, tendons, something, something, and she can't do it anymore. According to Tina Brown, she faked the injury and she just stops showing up to the job one day.
Sarah: Oh my goodness.
Mike: Either way. I mean, she's 18 years old. This is something that 18-year-olds do. So she gets this big old apartment that her parents buy for her. She moves in with two of her friends, and she describes this as the happiest she will ever be. She's a bachelorette, she's living with these buddies. She's part of this sort of thing called like the ‘Sloan Rangers’. Have you ever heard of this?
Sarah: Were they vigilantes?
Mike: Unfortunately not. Sloan Square is a really posh part of London. And ‘Sloan Rangers’ is, it's basically referring to like rich kids hanging out. It's kind of like how we talked about hipsters in the early 2000’s. It just sort of became this archetype. Just like wayward, random, rich kids cavorting around these rich neighborhoods, going to night clubs, going to pubs, driving around in their cars.
Sarah: This reminds me of our preppy murder episode.
Mike: Yes. Extremely preppy murder. Yes. There's also this lovely anecdote. This was from Andrew Morton's book, “Diana kept a low profile in the apartment. She put herself in charge of cleanup duty and was known to rise before the meal was finished to clear the table, rather than endure the sight of dirty dishes. The photographer, Dmitri Kasterine, went to dinner there on the invitation of one of the flat mates. And halfway through Diana wandered in from a date. And even though she hadn't joined us for dinner, went straight to the sink and started doing all the washing up. She was totally undistinguished. Diana also loved to take on the washing and ironing of shirts for friends.”
Sarah: Wow, she was so weird. She was shy and cleaned things.
Mike: She gets a job as a kindergarten teacher. There are rumors about her dating. Apparently, there's some unauthorized biographies that talk about her having sex with all these boys. But from all the credible accounts, it sounds like she basically just friend-zoned a bunch of dudes. She would go out on like dates-ish, but a lot of the guys that she went on dates with described, “I wanted to be more than friends, but she very clearly didn't want to. So we'd go out on like three dates and then we’d just sort of settled back into being friends.” These were all people that she sort of knew from her social set. There's a lot of talk later about whether or not she is a virgin when she gets together with Charles. Which is hella gross to talk about, but also weirdly important to this story.
Mike: I know. So according to Tina Brown, all evidence is that she was in fact a virgin when she met Prince Charles. This is not something I would ordinarily mention, but this is like a big subplot we're going to get into in a few minutes.
Sarah: Everyone cares about it in this story. So we have to talk about it.
Mike: Yes. So, okay. Now we are going to depart from Diana. She's living her bachelorette life. She's a Sloan ranger. She's doing dishes. We're going to zoom out from London and we're going to zoom into, well, a different part of London where Prince Charles is. So tell me what you know about Prince Charles. We're going to do like a little Prince Charles interlude.
Sarah: Oh boy. Okay. Prince Charles is the son of Queen Elizabeth and that guy.
Sarah: He is in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles, I believe before he marries Diana. And I don't know, I don't really know what his personality is. I guess I know about like his marital history and that he's kind of the villain in the Diana story, along with the media. I don't know. I know that he's never come off well in a single story I've heard about him. But yeah, but I feel like I don't really know that much.
Mike: So, I mean, he has kind of a similar upbringing to Diana, but everything is supercharged. So the wealth obviously is supercharged. The sense of duty and rules is also supercharged, and the loneliness and the weird formal relationship with his parents is supercharged.
So this is an extra from Andrew Morton's book, “Queen Elizabeth II, consumed by her duty to the nation, was formal and frequently absent as a mother or deep in her red boxes. The endless flow of government dispatches concerning affairs of state. Acceding to the throne when she was only 25 was an impossible burden for a young married woman, whose first child, Charles, was three at the time. She is faded to be defined forever as a mother by the way a photograph of her returning from her Royal tour of the Commonwealth in 1954 and shaking her five-year-old son gravely by the hand.”
Sarah: Oh no. Oh no. Five-year-olds weren't meant to shake hands. This is just not good.
Mike: It seems like his mother is like this very distant figure. It doesn't seem like she's cruel, but she's just aloof.
Sarah: Yeah. You don't have to be cruel to give someone a complicated childhood.
Mike: Yes. And then his father is like this military guy who like, wants to raise him with these like weird masculine military values. Like he's raised by this very harsh Germanic family.
Sarah: Does he like insist on cold quarters for the children? Like that seems like a very fancy British person thing for everyone to be cold all the time.
Mike: There was an essay in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik about this in 2017, where he says, “Prince Charles’s mother, who he would later describe as ‘not indifferent as much as detached’, worried that he was a slow developer. His father, Prince Philip, thought him weedy, affect, and spoiled. He was too physically uncoordinated to be any good at team sports, too scared of horses to enjoy riding lessons, and too sensitive not to despair, when at the age of eight, he was sent away to boarding school.”
Sarah: He needs a well for boys, like we talked about in our Marie Antoinette episode. And he needs a Wells for boys’ mom.
Mike: He’s sent to this, it seems like a terrible boarding school where - this is very strange to me - he's bullied at school quite frequently. Because anyone who tries to be nice to him, all the other kids will call them a suck up. So nobody wants to be his friend at school because then they're going to get accused of like, “Oh, you want to be friends with a King?”
Sarah: And then he met a lovable Cockney newsboy, who was like, “Why don’t we switch places for a week, Gov’na?” And then he knew the only true friendship of his life, in my fan fiction.
Mike: Unfortunately not. Although he does find, this is very telling to me that like all the kids dislike him, but the adults like him, right. Because he's going to be the King and they all want to get close to him.
So this is from Tina Brown's book, “That he survived this misery was largely due to the various dispensations he was afforded as a VIP pupil. He was allowed to spend weekends at the nearby home of family friends, where he could cry his eyes out away from the jeers of other boys. In his final year, he was made head boy and given his own room in the apartment of his art master. He had taken up the cello by this point. And although he was, by his own admission, hopeless, the art master arranged for him to give recitals at the weekend house parties of local Scottish aristocrats.”
So it's like this weird upbringing where it's like, he's totally alienated from other kids his age, but he’s constantly hanging out with these aristocrat adults.
Sarah: Playing cello for the Duke of what the fuck.
Mike: Duke what the fuck. It's actually worse if there's an “of”.
Sarah: Oh yeah, right. Sorry.
Mike: The two things that seem to characterize Prince Charles to me, is this like very weird, regimented upbringing that makes me feel very sorry for him. But also the fact that he is so spoiled and so detached, he is among the most clueless humans on everything. Like he has never had a friend in his life who was not acutely aware of the fact that he was the Prince and would be King someday. And so he is the center of every interaction he has ever had.
So this is another excerpt from the Gopnik article, “The man we encounter here is a ninny, a Windsor, a tantrum throwing dilettante. Hopelessly thin-skinned, naive, and resentful. He is a preening snob, keenly sensitive to violations of protocol, intolerant of opinions contrary to his own, and horribly misled about the extent of his own talents. He is a [inaudible] circular thinker, more of an intellectual striver than a genuine intellectual, who extols Indian slums for their sustainable way of life. And preaches against the corrupting allure of sophistication while himself living in unfathomable luxury. He reportedly travels with a white leather toilet seat, and rages on the rare occasions when he has to fly first class rather than any private jet.”
Sarah: That's such a tacky item, too. Come on.
Mike: I know. I imagine him just like carrying it with him as he gets on the plane. Like those people that have neck pillows.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Under his arm. Yeah. Under his little blazered arm.
Mike: So of course he is like Britain's most eligible bachelor, right? Like the Royal family needs him to marry somebody.
Sarah: Need him to marry someone super fertile, one assumes. And who has the maximum number of reproductive years.
Mike: Fallopian tubes, all eight fallopian tubes or something. So it also, it sounds deeply weird to date him because he doesn't know how to have normal interactions with people. So all the people that have dated him before, and they've all given interviews by now, they say the entire dating process is like, “Why don't you come and watch me play polo or like, “Why don't you come with me on like my yachting excursion”. It's like all built around him.
Sarah: So he's like, I assume that you're interested in watching me ride a horse.
Mike: Exactly. Or like literally there's some former girlfriend of his who has complained to the newspapers that their first date was like six hours of her watching him fish. There's various different accounts of sort of how much of a bachelor he was at this time. Tina Brown says that there were so many women that his great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, had a slush fund where he would pay like hush money to women to slink quietly into the night.
Although according to a biography of him that came out in 2017, this was mostly the Royal family concocting this for the press, to make it seem like he was just like playboy and he was like playing the field. When actually he was kind of diffident and awkward and wasn't that interested in all of these conquests. So apparently one of the ways that he gets around this is he sleeps with a lot of married women.
Mike: The British tabloids are at once so salacious, but also so naive. They wouldn't hassle married women that he was seen publicly with because they're like, “Oh, they must just be friends because she's married.”
Sarah: Oh my God. Really?
Mike: Yeah. Apparently. And also all of them, the speculation about his love life is leading up to like, who's going to be the future queen. If somebody's already married, they're not going to be the future queen because either they have to divorce their partner or they're just friends.
Sarah: That's interesting.
Mike: So the first girl that it appears he ever gets like truly, madly smitten with is Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Sarah: Oh my goodness. That's amazing.
Mike: What do you, what do you know about her?
Sarah: Oh, I just know that they're the same age. And I feel like it was understood by the British public during Charles and Diana's marriage that he was really in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles, but they couldn't be together, they couldn't get married. And then when they finally did get married a few years ago, it was just like, well, finally. It was like a love match facing off against manners and heir-making requirements. And this is really kind of what started the whole story that like, they can't be together for some reason.
Mike: Yeah. So Camilla is two years older than him. This is a description of her from a guardian article that I found, “She was the oldest child of Major Bruce Shand, a wine merchant, and Rosalind Cubit, whose family wants developed most of London's Belgravia. She attended Dumbrells School, Sussex and Queensgate in South Kensington, where she is remembered for climbing onto the roof for cigarettes. She emerged with one O level, and a talent for fencing. She has never needed to work because of a £500,000 inheritance from the Cubit family. Noah, as she was known, was a regular tomboy with an extrovert personality. She was the focus of attention, not because she was dazzlingly beautiful, but because she was so bright and bubbly. She wasn't going to be a movie star, but she was always very smart and very well turned out.”
Everyone who describes Camilla Parker-Bowles feels the need to talk about her looks. I think she looks fine. I mean, I guess compared to Diana, like we all look like shit. But every description of her they have to mention that she's not ‘conventionally attractive’ in some way, but like she's perfectly lovely.
Sarah: You know, the phrase ‘conventionally attractive’ is one that every time I use it, I feel weird. And I feel like what we're naming more specifically with that is like, marketably attractive. Like here's a form of attractiveness that has reliably earned money in the last 50 years in America or Britain, basically. I guess it doesn't even mean that like most people do or don't find something sexually appealing, or whatever we're trying to describe, because it means that it sells Pepsi.
Mike: And also Charles likes her. Like everyone is lovely to people who find them lovely. Like it's a completely subjective distinction and it's clear that Charles really likes her.
Sarah: I’ve had a crush on Walter Matthau for like longer than I care to admit. It's fine. Everyone has their feelings.
Mike: Camilla has like sort of a rushed, sloppy, irritated, and alive kind of quality. This is from Tina Brown's book, “Camilla was English countryside through and through. She never cared about clothes or makeup or shopping. She came from the grubby knickers school of British grooming, with static flying Headrow hair and fingernails used to rooting around in the vegetable garden. She pulled her appearance together only when she rode to hounds, showing off her whip cracking mastery of the sport in tight jodhpurs, frothing white stock, and elegant black net snood.” I don't know what any of those were.
Sarah: The woman had jodhpurs. She doesn't need anything else.
Mike: Marie Helvin, the Hawaiian model who dated Camilla's brother, remembers Camilla's earthy appeal at country weekends. “She used to come in in these big muddy boots with her hair all blown around and good skin. And she just looked great somehow.” So clearly there's like a real magnetism there.
Sarah: Oh yeah. And it's also worth pointing out that I think the classiest thing you can do is be kind of a hot mess express. Because by communicating that you don't care, you're indicating that you have the privilege to not need to care. And that is always like the fanciest possible thing you can do.
Mike: And also, apparently one of the things that he likes about her is that she's not really deferential to him. She's not like in awe of him the way that like everybody else is.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Okay. Of course. He's like, “Oh, Camilla, call me Charlie again.”
Mike: So the myth of their romance is that they met in 1972, when she saw him at a polo match. And you just know that this is fake, but the story is that she walks up to him and introduces herself with the line, “Hello, my great-grandmother was the mistress of your great grandfather. How about it?” Which is like a really fucking good line. But I feel like people do not walk up to each other and say good lines.
Sarah: Do you feel like it's been sweetened in the retelling? Like maybe it was like kind of a good line when she said it.
Mike: I feel like most people when they meet, they're like, “How's your day been?” Or like, “I think it's going to rain.” Or like, “You know, we say boring things to each other. Right? Who is that shrimp?”
Mike: Yeah. But so apparently, they had actually met a year or 18 months earlier at the home of a common friend named Lucia Santa Cruz. They sat next to each other. She was like not sucking up to him and he liked her, and they laughed at the same stuff. And so they started talking on the phone. So by the time this polo match, whatever zinger story happens, they've already been in each other's orbit for a while. The problem though, and I think this is probably why she's less deferential to him at the time, she is totally smitten with this guy, Andrew Parker-Bowles, who's a Navy military guy. They've been having an on and off thing for six years at this point. So I think when she meets Charles, she's not like, “Oh, I want to get Charles to marry me.” She's like, “I like this Andrew guy. There's like this doofus sitting next to me and I'm just going to like crack jokes with him.”
Sarah: Right. So of course he's attracted to her because she doesn't like him very much.
Mike: But so in 1972, after this polo meeting in some way or another, Andrew is out of the picture. Camilla and Charles finally decided like, okay, let's give this a go. And they start dating. So they date for, they have six months together as sort of officially dating. At the end of this period he has to go off and like live on a war ship for eight months. This is like something that he does as part of his Royal duties. And there's always a question of like, why didn't he just marry her in the first place? They dated for six months. They're wild about each other at this point, apparently. But they didn't get married, he fucked off on this Navy thing.
Sarah: How old is he at this point? How old are they?
Mike: She is 23 and he is 21 when they meet.
Sarah: Well, yeah. I guess that's young to get married.
Mike: Yeah. There's also his great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and the sort of the entire Royal family doesn't want him to marry her because she's not a virgin.
Sarah: How did they know that?
Mike: I mean, everybody knows everything. I mean, you know, she's been dating this Andrew guy for a while,
Sarah: That’s so weird. That’s ugh…
Mike: it’s bad. According to Tina Brown's book, Camilla, they described her as like a learning experience for Charles. You're having fun, but like, ultimately, she's not marriage material. So they block that. He fucks off to his Navy thing for eight months and then while he's gone, she marries Andrew Parker-Bowles. And the way that this comes about - this is bananas - her parents had been very frustrated with this whole thing. Because she's getting older, she's on again, off again with Andrew guy. Are they going to pull the trigger on this thing or what?
Sarah: She's 23, she's got to act fast.
Mike: So their strategy is, they put an engagement announcement in the newspaper saying Andrew proposed to Camilla.
Sarah: No! Oh, that's terrible. Well, that's a great way to ensure a happy marriage.
Mike: Right. Right. And then apparently Andrew sees this and it's like, I guess I’ve got to marry her now. It's done. It's a done deal. Yeah. So it's a bold strategy. It's a risky strategy, but it works.
Sarah: That's exactly like the Peep Show episode where Mark marries Sophie out of embarrassment.
Mike: And also okay, there's sort of this like star crossed lovers’ story of Charles and Camilla that like, they were desperately in love with each other, but circumstances pushed them apart.
Tina Brown and other people over the years have pointed out that Camilla is wildly smitten with Andrew. She's not waiting for Charles to get back. This is what Tina Brown says, “My own view is that the love of Camilla's life was not Prince Charles, but the man she married first, Andrew Parker-Bowles. He seems to have been, and still is, one of those men who have the gift of bringing out the delicious worst in every woman he meets.”
Sarah: Nice. I'd marry him too.
Mike: I mean, the whole thing is he is sleeping with other people for their entire courtship. I mean, almost immediately after he marries Camilla, he starts cheating on her. So it seems that when Charles finds out that she's engaged to Andrew, he cries for like days. He's completely devastated.
So we fast forward a little bit. One of the odd things about this is that even though they've dated and now she's gotten with Andrew, Camilla and Charles remain quite close. So he's good friends with Andrew. In 1975, Camilla and Andrew have a son and they asked Prince Charles to be the godfather. And so in 1979, Lord Mountbatten, his great uncle, is killed by the IRA. And he was very close to his great uncle. He is totally bereft. He starts calling Camilla for comfort. And it appears that this is when they rekindle their relationship. And there's also this very weird thing. There's some ball or like formal dance that they're at, where it's late in the evening, everybody drinks at these things. Charles and Camilla on the dance floor are just like making out with each other all night. So Andrew apparently is watching this from the balcony, he's watching his wife make out with Prince Charles and he just comments to his friend that she seems fond of him and he seems fond of her. He’s kind of chill about the whole thing.
Sarah: Do you think that at a certain point people are so British that it becomes like absolutely outrageous behavior? You know, just like making comments as your wife basically fucks someone in public.
Mike: But so all of this produces all of this panic among the Royal family. Because Prince Charles is now 32, he's not married, he's making out with this woman who he used to date in public and people are gossiping about it. And there's no other option to become the Queen, right. Because it's obviously not going to be coming.
So according to Tina Brown, this is when the palace starts looking around for other options. They're like, who are the virgin ones that are from Royal blood that we can sort of start to push into our son's orbit? And so this is when they stumbled upon Diana.
So in Andrew Morton’s book he doesn't really go into any of this background stuff. He just says that like Diana got an invitation to a thing, their country estate, she went to this person's birthday party where the Royal family was. Also, she just starts getting invitations to stuff.
So in July of 1980, she gets an invitation to a weekend party of some sort of Earl of something, something. It's some like Manor house weekend. I guess they do these a lot where it's like, everybody goes and crashes at somebody’s country home for a weekend.
Sarah: And then somebody gets murdered and then Faro finds the murderer.
Mike: Yeah. So she goes to this Manor home in the middle of nowhere. She watches Prince Charles play polo all day because that's like what people do. And then there's like a polo after party. And it's a barbecue, they're all hanging out, and she ends up sitting on a bale of hay next to the Prince.
Sarah: Why would they have a bale of hay?
Mike: I guess it's like in a barn or something. According to Andrew Morton, she sort of ends up sitting next to Prince Charles. According to Tina Brown, she was like angling to get close to Prince Charles the entire time. And that, like, this was her purpose. She had a crush on him. She wanted to get into his good graces. But either way, they ended up chatting on this bale of hay.
Apparently, the thing that Diana does that awakens his feelings for her and like gives him a little crush on her is she's talking about how she saw him at his great uncle's funeral. And so what she says to him is “You looked so sad when you walked up the aisle at Lord Mountbatten's funeral, it was the most tragic thing I've ever seen. My heart bled for you. And I watched, I thought it's wrong. You're lonely. You should be with someone to look after you.”
Sarah: Of course. He's like, I like this, this lady's nice to me. No one knows how to do that here.
Mike: The way that Tina Brown puts it, she says, “Diana was appealing to his deep reservoirs of sympathy for himself.” It’s basically this extremely attractive 19-year-old girl, singing to one of those privileged people on the planet being like, things must be so hard for him.
Sarah: And he's like, “Thank you.”
Mike: “It is hard. I am amazing.”
Sarah: And she’s someone who empathizes with what someone feels to be true, then like, yeah, she can validate that for him. I'm seeing it. I'm getting it.
Mike: So they chat late into the night. Like they really click on this bale of hay. He is so smitten with her that, you know, it's this weekend thing. He's like, “Oh, you know, sorry, I've got to drive back to Buckingham palace on Sunday afternoon, a little bit early, but why don't you come with me? I'll drive you back to London.” And she says, “No, I couldn't possibly, that would be rude to our hosts.” Which is like very canny. Right. Because she's not like, “You've invited me to this thing and I'm going to do it no matter what.” She’s like, “Nah, I got stuff to do.”
Sarah: Yeah. Always leave them wanting more.
Mike: So he invites her to go see Verdi's Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall.
Sarah: Well at least he doesn't invite her to go watch him ride a horse around.
Mike: I know. This is a great break from the other things that he does on dates. It's also, this is one of the weirdest fucking things about their courtship. They only meet 13 times, and most of those times they're not alone with each other. So even at this date where they go to the Royal Albert Hall together, her grandmother comes along as a chaperone. Can you imagine dating somebody and like a lot of the time you spend with them, your grandma is there?
Sarah: No, I cannot.
Mike: The whole thing is we are also another detail that everybody always repeats about is that she does not call him “Charles” until after the engagement. She calls him, “Sir”, for the entire courtship.
Sarah: Oh my God.
Mike: It's so weird.
Mike: Also, he only tells her about their date at the Royal Albert Hall, 20 minutes before the car comes to pick her up. Because again, they're not like talking on the phone about logistics, like, “Oh, what are you doing Wednesday? Oh, that doesn't work for me”. Everything is through like his footmen. So he like writes a formal letter to these staff at Buckingham palace of like, “I wish to see Lady Diana”. And then there's all these logistics that has to take place. So by the time she finds out, she only has 20 minutes to get ready. I mean, it all works out, but like, it just shows how incredibly surreal these things are. But it's like, there's dozens of people involved in just like meet me at the Royal Albert Hall and see music.
Sarah: So how does the date go?
Mike: It goes well, they go to the thing. Verdi is fun. They have supper afterwards at Buckingham Palace. She's quite chill about the whole thing. Like, again, she's been sort of in the orbit of the Royals for most of her life.
Sarah: That's the thing, she does understand his childhood because she knows what it's like to grow up as like a lonely, bored, fancy person.
2: And she knows all the weird, dumb rules about like what you're allowed to talk about, which fork to use, like when to use a napkin, when not to use a napkin, like the things you're allowed to talk about and not allowed. Like she knows this stuff.
So after that date, he then invites her - this to me is a fucking horror movie - he then invites her for a week-long trip on like some Royal Navy British yacht that he's going to be on. This is their second date, it’s a week-long trip on a boat.
Sarah: Oh God.
Mike: This to me, like as an introvert, the idea of I barely know this person, I am going to hang out with them and their work friends that are like 15 years older than me, none of whom I've met, for an entire fucking week.
Sarah: It goes Verdi, dinner, baseball game, camping, one week on a British Royal Naval yacht. That’s the order.
Mike: And then their fucking third date is his country estate, Balmoral, in Scotland. Because it's like the official Royal seat, there's all of these Baroque rules about manners. This is what Andrew Morton says, “The quirks and obscure family traditions which have accrued over the years can intimidate newcomers. ‘Don't sit there’, they chorus at an unfortunate guest, foolish enough to try and sit in a chair in the drawing room, which was last used by Queen Victoria. Those who successfully navigate this social minefield are accepted into the Royal family.”
Mike: “Those who fail vanish from Royal favor as quickly as the Highland mists coming.”
This is how Tina Brown describes the same thing, “Guests are expected to perform a Keystone Cops routine of constant costume changes. From informal breakfast attire to sport, including for going out with the guns, to another change into afternoon wear for tea. And then it all comes off again in favor of something long and dressy for dinner.”
Sarah: How about I wear leggings to all of your stupid stuff?
Mike: She says, “The irony of this is that this is the Royal family at their most relaxed. It's the most uninhibitedly carefree that ever get to be.” I am from the West coast. There's like three things a week that I can't go to in sweatpants.
Sarah: If I can't wear a fleece pull over to it, then I don't want to go.
Mike: Yes, exactly. And so it's a weird courtship because they're not like hanging out with each other.
Sarah: It's a series of tests.
Mike: It's a series of social tests. Yeah. This weekend at Balmoral is also in another piece of foreshadowing. The first time they have to avoid the paparazzi, she goes on a walk with him on the riverbank or whatever, and they see journalists with cameras sort of in the distance. And so she very smartly dashes behind a tree so that they can't see her because all they can see at this point is sort of like a head of blonde hair. They don't know who this is. And so she turns around so that all they can see is the back of her head. And she uses her makeup mirror to look at them in the distance and manages to walk away without them getting a shot of her face.
Sarah: That’s brilliant.
Mike: Very brilliant.
Sarah: So like how much of a deep conversation are you having with your date under those circumstances?
Mike: I know. But so even though the paparazzi can't identify her at that time, they whatever ask around, rumors, leaks, whatever, they find out within days who she is. And this is when, I mean, this is the rest of her life. Like they immediately start hounding her. And so this has bananas, they start following her around, all this sort of this stuff that you expect. Like they start weeding outside of her house, tabloid journalists rent an apartment across the street from her apartment. So they come in through her kitchen window.
Sarah: Oh my God.
Mike: So there's actual photos. You can still find them of her doing dishes at the sink. It's so gross. So she's living under circumstances of constant 24-hour press scrutiny for months. And she's only seeing Charles like once or twice a month during this period. Right? Like they're not hanging out all the time. So it's just her life being completely turned upside down, and him basically being clueless about how much this is affecting her.
So I'm going to send you another photo. This photo is iconic. If you are British, you have seen this photo 10 billion times.
Sarah: I know of this picture. Yeah. So she's got two kids. She's holding a little kid on her hip and she's holding the hand of another little kid, and she's looking out kind of shyly and reservedly from underneath her hair. And on top she's wearing a sweater vest, and on bottom he's wearing a beautiful white sun dress that is completely see-through when the light is shining behind her as it is. And so you can totally see the outline of her legs, which I presume she's not aware of.
Mike: Yes. So this is her at her kindergarten job. At the time, there are so many paparazzi hounding the kindergarten that she comes out and says, “Look, if I give you a photo, will you go away for the rest of the day?” And they agree. And so they go into the yard. She's got these little kindergarteners, these adorable kindergarteners with her, and she doesn't realize that the sun is behind her. And so they take this photo, which is now iconic, where her legs look amazing. Like everything looks amazing. And so of course, this is like a massive tabloid story. Like this, this picture is iconic, right?
Sarah: Breaking news: Woman has legs.
Mike: This is also in the parade of red flags that this courtship is. Apparently when Prince Charles finds out, he says, “I knew your legs were good, but I didn't realize they were that spectacular… And did you really have to show them to everybody?”
Sarah: So you assume that she was like, “I think I'll show everyone my legs today. Do the old see-through legs trick., I will.” I mean, I do understand that there's a level at which he truly doesn't know what it's like to not grow up with this level of scrutiny. But like, it's weird. it sucks. It feels like no one wants to acknowledge that it's terrible and that they're asking her to like sign on to this terrible way of life. So the answer is to be like, it's not terrible. You're terrible.
Mike: Yeah. There's also, I like wanted to throw the book across the room. Apparently, there's a point where they're chatting on the phone and he fucking talks to her about how Camilla is struggling because there's three photographers outside of her house. He's like, “Oh, you know, it's been a really rough week on Camilla. She's got three photographers.” And apparently Diana thinks, but doesn't say, “There are 32 at my house.”
Sarah: One for every year you’ve been alive, Princy.
Mike: Right. At one point she asks Buckingham palace, she's like, “Can you help me with this? Like, can you do anything for me? Like help me with cars or like help me with decoys for them or something.” And they refuse to help her because she is just some random person. So she talks in the transcripts of the Andrew Morton interviews, how she would, she has to look composed, right? You can't give the paparazzi anything. And so as soon as she would get home, she would just like sit in a corner and cry. Because she just didn't know how to deal with it. She's also, I mean, one of the reasons why they end up together is actually how she gets through this period because, you know, she saw what happened to her sister when her sister talked to the press. So she's very good with the press. She won't give them any insight into her. She'll make it seem as if she's giving them access while keeping anything that would be in any way out of the ordinary, out of the press.
They also, of course, start looking into her background. They interview everybody she's ever dated. The vetting that she goes through is like what we would experience as a presidential candidate now. Like of this 19-year-old girl, everyone who's ever like served her coffee at a coffee shop is getting interviewed by tabloid journalists. And another thing the Royal family really likes is that they don't find anything. All of the men that she's dated have been like, “Yeah, I liked her, but it never went anywhere.”
Sarah: So she passes through the machine.
Mike: Yeah. And so the Royal family is looking at this and is like, the press likes her. She's beautiful. She appears to be a virgin. She doesn't appear to have had a serious relationship with anybody else. There's nothing in her past. They're not getting anything from the tabloids. And so she starts to look like a really good candidate to the Royal family.
Sarah: It’s so fucking weird. I'm also thinking of how, like, mostly, I think of if you like me a Virgin, it's because you're in a horror movie and he needs someone to run an incantation.
Mike: Yeah. Yes. The only sort of hitch is there's at one point a scoop, a rumor, that she was snuck onto the Royal train. Which is exactly what it sounds like. And that she and Charles had some sort of like overnight tryst, which appears to actually be true. Like there was a rumor for years that it was actually Camilla who was snuck into his train, but it appears that it actually was Diana. But it's also, it's the most non-scoop.
Sarah: That she had sex with the man she was eventually going to marry like pretty soon.
Mike: Yeah. She's an adult and she's dating somebody and they're having sex.
Sarah: Stop the presses, that woman that has legs, you know, she had sex also. Sex and legs.
Mike: Amazing is that even though this appears to be true, the Royal family and Diana both vehemently deny it. And the Royal family actually threatens to sue the newspaper that prints it. And they publicly come out with a letter, this is slanderous, how dare you print that we had sex in the Royal train, because they have to preserve this idea that she’s right.
Sarah: You have to maintain the integrity of the vessel.
Mike: Eww, yes. This is Tina Brown, sort of summing up the courtship. See, if you can count how many red flags there are. “She had never had a real boyfriend before, and so had no yardstick with which to compare Charles’s behavior. During their bizarre courtship, she was his willing puppy who came to heal when he whistled. It was no more than he expected as the Prince of Wales. He was used to being the center of attention and the focus of flattery and praise. He aroused her mothering instincts. When she came back from a date with the Prince, she would be full of sympathy for him, uttering phrases like, ‘They work him too hard’, or ‘It's appalling the way they push him around.’ In her eyes he was a sad, lonely man who needed looking after.”
Sarah: It's Jane Eyre in Rochester. It's like this horrible older man who's like, “You are pure and young and I can see your legs.” And you're like, “I think this is going to go well.”
Mike: And at every level it's just like, think this through you guys. Like she's never had a boyfriend before. Her first boyfriend is the fucking Prince of Wales.
Sarah: She has no standards for how she expects to be treated. She's going into something that it's going to be very difficult to get out of.
Mike: Right. And also people mentioned later that he has a history of being infatuated with people and then those infatuations fade. So it does appear that like he likes her at this time.
He's also, by the way, sleeping with Camilla. Both Camilla and Charles have confirmed that they have rekindled their affair by this point. But he seems smitten with Diana as well. Like he seems to actually like her.
Sarah: What's not to like?
Mike: Right. He actually says something like slightly insightful. He's being bothered by the press on some Royal tour or something to India. And they're like, “So, are you thinking about marriage?” And he says, “Well, you know, I can't live with a woman for two years like you possibly could. I've got to get it right the first time. Because if I don't, you'll be the first to criticize me.” So he's like in some way aware of like the gilded cage that he’s in.
Sarah: Do you think that there's any element of just like getting it done with as fast as possible, so people stop bothering you about?
Mike: Oh yeah. I think she's genuinely smitten and he's like, yeah, I really like her, but also like there's all this duty. Like I'm almost 33.
Like the only person actually, who tells Diana to maybe think it through is her mother. She's telling her mother, like, I don't know why you're being hesitant about this, I really love this guy. And her mother asks, “Do you love him, or do you love what he is?” And Diana says, “What's the difference?”
So the last thing before we close for the day is his proposal.
Sarah: I bet it was great. I bet it was so romantic. I bet he took her to an Islanders game and got her on the Jumbotron.
Mike: No, he doesn't even take her anywhere. It is February 6th, 1981. This is how Diana describes it in the transcripts to the Andrew Morton book. She says,
“Next day I went to Windsor and I arrived around five o'clock. He sat me down and said, ‘I've missed you so much.’ But there was never anything tactile about him. It was extraordinary, but I don't have anything to go by because I never had a boyfriend. So he said, ‘Will you marry me?’ And I laughed. I remember thinking this is a joke. And I said, ‘Yeah. Okay.’ And I laughed. He was deadly serious. He said, ‘You do realize that one day you will be Queen’. And I've always said to me inside, ‘You won't be Queen, but you'll have a tough role.’ So I thought, okay, and I said, ‘Yes.’ I said,’ I love you so much. I love you so much.’ And he said, ‘Whatever love means’.”
Sarah: Wow, this is really interesting because they both sat down and told the truth to each other's faces, and then still went ahead and did it.
Mike: And then still went ahead and did it!
Sarah: Which is exactly what people do. A lot of people really do know what their life is going to be like going in, but knowing it is different than living it.
Mike: And then also in another sort of metaphor for what the relationship is about to be, as soon as she says, “Yes’, he like runs upstairs because he has to tell the Queen and get the wheels in motion for a Royal wedding. It's not like, “Oh, let's sit here and cuddle and just like enjoy this for a couple of hours.” It's like, “Thanks”, patter, patter, patter.
Sarah: It seems like there's very little cuddling in this world. And like Diana was maybe a cuddly person and that was one of the tragedies of her life.
Mike: And so she goes home to celebrate. She tells her friends. She is ecstatic by all accounts. She is absolutely ecstatic during this period.
Sarah: Yeah. She seems to feel a lot of real affection for him. Like not just swept off her feet by the fairy tale of it all, but by the fact that like, here's this like visibly screwed up guy in a way that she perhaps understands. And perhaps what she doesn't understand is her ability to affect that.
Mike: I mean, it's your first boyfriend.
Sarah: Everyone has a bad boy, first boyfriend, and you're like, “I'm going to fix you”. That’s just classic, she's just caught her Taylor Swift feeling.
Mike: I know, that's the thing. Like as someone also with like, “I'm going to fix you” type instincts, the only way to learn that you have those instincts is to just have a couple of relationships where it goes badly.
Sarah: That aren’t with the Prince of Wales.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. That's my advice. Don't marry the Prince of Wales. But so one last little nugget of information I'm going to leave you with is, one of the people pushing for them to get married is Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Sarah: That was going to be my guess. Because if Camilla is married, then they can fuck around as much as you want, I would imagine. Because the press is going to be focused on the marriage and the beautiful wife with the outfits on.
Mike: And Camilla it seems like likes Diana, at this point. She's been around, they've met each other at various of these like dinner parties and things. And Camilla will sort of give her advice on Charles, and she basically thinks that Diana's harmless and that like eventually Charles was going to have to get married anyway. So if he's going to get married, you know, we want to be able to continue our affair. So like he might as well marry somebody who seems nice. The word that Tina Brown uses is “gormless”, like somebody who's not really going to figure out what's really going on. She's not going to be suspicious.
This is Tina Brown's wording, “The youngest Spencer girl was such a sweet little thing. She was sure to be quiet, passive and obedient. How could she possibly be any trouble?”
Boom. That's where we're going to leave it.
Sarah: Oh boy, this is ominous.
Mike: I know. I wanted to put something ominous at the end to make people tune into the next episode of frivolity.
Sarah: You know, I know that we're calling this frivolity, and in many ways it is. But also I think that there are human themes in all of these stories and we're trying to find them. So thank you for trying to do that, where he's going to keep trying to do that with this as well as we can.
Mike: I mean, ultimately, this is a story of a love triangle between three deeply flawed people.
Sarah: And then there'll be like, maybe things will calm down when we have kids.
Mike: I know. It's like, maybe I'll just marry into the Royal family and then things will smooth out.
Sarah: Yeah, I bet that'll happen. I'll work on the plane. If someone wants to write a book about the lies we tell ourselves, it should just be called, “I’ll Work on the Plane”. A thing that has never been true. I think it happened for me maybe three times, but I've told myself that confidently like 250 times.
Mike: Mine is, I'll do stretches at home. Never. I've never done stretches at home.
Sarah: But it’s just nice to tell yourself that. It’s a ritual.
Mike: I’m like, yeah, I’ll work on my hammies. So that's where we're going to leave it, Next week we are going to pick up with the Royal wedding. Which is bananas, and we will do our best in a non-visual medium to convey it's bananas-ness.
Sarah: I'm excited. And yeah, let's just, let's continue the story and try and see all these people as clearly as we can.
Mike: And if anybody ever suggests getting a camel for your kid's birthday party, get them a hug instead.