Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s seemingly fairytale beginnings was anything but, and now a new book claims the royal hoped he would learn to love his future wife, Princess Diana, when he decided to propose.
Charles wed Diana in July 1981 in a lavish royal ceremony after a whirlwind courtship that started barely a year earlier. Astonishingly, the couple only had around 12 dates between the summer of 1980 and when he popped the question in February 1981, according to Sally Bedell Smith, the author of the biography, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbably Life.
Diana immediately accepted his proposal and Charles thought that he could make the union work.
“He was obviously anguished, and he said she was someone I could learn to love,” Bedell Smith tells PEOPLE. “He looked to his grandparents, which wasn’t a love match at the outset and thought if they can do it and build a good marriage then I can do it too.”
After a series of girlfriends, a stated wish that he wanted to wed at around age 30 (he was 31 at the time he proposed) and a letter from his father that he interpreted as pressure to make up his mind, Charles decided on Diana.
But Diana didn’t have a real chance to get to know her husband-to-be.
“I was stunned when I combed over the chronology they had only been together 12 times [before their engagement],” Bedell Smith says. “After they got engaged, he went away for six weeks. He was dutifully plunging ahead with his schedule and she wanted him to be around and available and support her.
“There she was in Buckingham Palace, which is more like a big office building than anything and forbidding for a 19-year-old.”
Diana also wasn’t ready though for her new status and the celebrity that would follow.
“I learned how traumatic her childhood was and how scarred she was by her parents’ divorce,” Bedell Smith says. “Her bulimic episodes began when she was a teenager and under stress.
“She couldn’t have accomplished what she did without becoming a princess, but becoming a princess and world celebrity was one of the worst things for her personally.
“I don’t see him as a cynical person, he thought he could learn to love Diana as his grandmother and grandfather learned to love each other and had a great marriage. But because of their fundamental incompatibility and the age gap and her emotional turmoil, it was doomed before they walked down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral.”
She adds that Princess Kate, the wife of Diana’s son Prince William, was better prepared – a lesson possibly learned from the past.
“If she had had Kate’s confidence and solid upbringing and nurturing family and academic success – all the things that have helped Kate integrate so seamlessly,” Bedell Smith says.
11 Tearjerking Quotes About Princess Diana from Prince William and Prince Harry:
“Time makes it easier. I know how you feel. I still miss my mother every day, and it’s 20 years after she died.”– William, to a 14-year-old boy who also lost his mom during a visit to the Keech Hospice in Luton, England, in August 2016
“Everything can be okay, but I really regret not ever talking about it for the first 28 years of my life. I never talked about it.”– Harry, at a barbeque at Kensington Palace in honor of the mental-health initiative Heads Together, in July 2016
“All I want to do is make my mother incredibly proud,” he said. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”– Harry, in his PEOPLE May 2016 cover story ahead of the Invictus Games.
“We wanted to represent exactly what our mother would have wanted. The church service alone isn’t enough. We wanted to have this big concert, full of energy, full of fun and happiness. We know that’s what she would have wanted. On her birthday as well, it’s got to be the best birthday present she’s ever had.” – William, in an interview ahead of the Concert for Diana in 2007
“I don’t have that many memories of my childhood with my Mum. I don’t say ‘Right, I’m going to get involved in that because that’s what my Mum would want me to do,’ though inevitably once I’m doing it I think, ‘Do you know what? She’d probably love this.’ ”– Harry, in his PEOPLE May 2016 cover story ahead of the Invictus Games.
“Never being able to say the word ‘Mummy’ again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it’s now really just a word – hollow and evoking only memories.”– William, in support of the Child Bereavement Charity’s Mother’s Day campaign in 2009.
“William and I can separate life into two parts. There are the years that we were blessed beside us with the physical presence of both our mother and father. And then there are the 10 years since our mother’s death.”– Harry, in a speech given in honor of the 10 year anniversary of his mother’s death.
“Obviously, she’s not going be around to share in all the fun and excitement, so this is my way of keeping her close to it all.”– William, in an interview with ITV News on why he gave his now-wife Princess Kate his mother’s engagement ring.
“She was our guardian, friend and protector. She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated. Behind the media glare, to us, two children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.”– Harry, in a speech given in honor of the 10 year anniversary of his mother’s death.
“What my mother recognized back then—and what I understand now—is that grief is the most painful experience that any child or parent can endure.”– William, at a dinner to mark the 21 anniversary of Child Bereavement Charity in 2015.
“I believe I’ve got a lot of my mother in me, basically, and I think she’d want us to do this, me and my brother.”– Harry, on working with AIDS charities for a documentary in 2004.