When did Charles and Diana separate and divorce? Plus how long they were married for

The marriage produced sons Prince William and Harry

a close up of Charles and Diana with her back to her husband
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

Those wondering when did Charles and Diana separate and divorce might be surprised to learn how long they remained married post-split.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding (opens in new tab) was initially sold as the real-life fairytale, which saw the now King of England chose a non-royal for his wife, in a move that hoped to modernise the monarchy. A popular choice with the public, Diana was young, beautiful, warm and relatable - giving off a caring air and passion for philanthropy. But sadly all was not as it appeared behind the scenes between the Princess and future leader. As the years went on marital woes were aired publicly. First via the Andrew Morton Diana book (opens in new tab), then the Diana Panorama interview (opens in new tab) - with Charles also taking part in a sit-down interview with Jonathan Dimbleby to explain the state of his marriage following Camillagate (opens in new tab).

We take a look back at their relationship, sharing key details on when Charles and Diana separated and divorced, plus how long they were married for - as viewers see their deteriorating marriage unfold in The Crown season 5.

When did Charles and Diana separate?

Charles and Diana's separation was publicly confirmed on December 9, 1992. It was announced by Prime Minister of the time John Major in a statement read aloud in the House of Commons.

Major stated that there was to be "no constitutional implications" following the split - with Charles remaining heir and their two sons, William and Harry, also remaining in the royal line of succession. Diana's role within the Royal Family was also clarified: "There is no reason why the Princess of Wales should not be crowned queen in due course."

former Prime Minister John Major leaving Downing Street - who announced Charles and Diana's separation

Prime Minister John Major

(Image credit: Getty)

He added that "from time to time attend family occasions and national events together" and that at present, Buckingham Palace declared that the prince and princess had "no plans to divorce." The priority for both parties remained the upbringing of their children.

Following the news, it was confirmed that Charles would reside at Highgrove and his Clarence House residence in London. Whilst Diana would remain at Kensington Palace in London.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles sat on chairs looking unhappy on a tour of Canada

Prince Charles and Princess Diana looking glum during a royal tour in Toronto, Canada.

(Image credit: Getty)

Why did Charles and Diana separate?

Extra-marital affairs, a difference in interests and priorities and external pressures are all possible reasons as to why Charles and Diana separated. Charles admitted to an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (now Queen Consort (opens in new tab) and his current wife), whilst Diana allegedly had flings with James Hewitt (opens in new tab) and James Gilbey.

One of Princess Diana's famous quotes (opens in new tab) was about Charles and Camilla's affair - with Diana telling Martin Bashir (opens in new tab) in her Panorama Interview: "There were 3 of us in the marriage, so that made it a bit crowded".

The Crown season 5 - though a dramatisation - suggests that Charles and Diana had different interests and views on things. In episode 1, when the family are on their 'second honeymoon' in Italy, Charles (Dominic West) reels off an itinerary that involves visiting a number of historical sites. Meanwhile Diana (played by Elizabeth Debicki) (opens in new tab) asks if there is time to do some shopping - which Charles strongly mocks. Charles also excuses himself from the boat ride with Diana and their two sons.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on a boat for their second honeymoon in The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

In a later episode, when William begins his first day at Eton, Charles sternly tells Diana off for 'smothering' their son. She instead bites back that she is just being a mother to her child on what is a nervous and important day.

External pressures such as press scrutiny could be another factor in their separation. During Charles and Diana's four-day tour of South Korea in 1992 showed relations between the two were so frosty that reporters at the time dubbed them "the Glums".

When did Charles and Diana divorce?

Charles and Diana officially divorced in August 1996. Following the legal end to their marriage, Diana was ordered to no longer use HRH in her title and became known as Diana, Princess of Wales.

It was the Queen who gave her permission for the two to finally divorce after 4 years of living separately. Her Majesty wrote to the couple to end their marriage - and details of the Queen's letters were reported by The Sun newspaper.

a collage of British newspaper front pages declaring Charles and Diana's divorce

(Image credit: Getty)

After the news broke, an official statement was released confirming the upcoming divorce: 

"After considering the present situation, the Queen wrote to both the Prince and Princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, that an early divorce is desirable," it read. "The Prince of Wales also takes this view and has made this known to the Princess of Wales since the letter.

"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period."

The divorce announcement followed a month on from Diana's Panorama interview. In it, Diana said that she did not want a divorce and was more concerned about the effect it would have upon their two sons. She however concluded that she would follow the wishes of her husband.

It's reported that Diana's divorce settlement (opens in new tab) saw her receive a lump sum of £17 million at the time, plus an additional £400,000 per year. She and Charles opted for equal custody of their two boys. She was also allowed to continue living at Kensington Palace.

Diana

a close up of Princess Diana in the nineties

(Image credit: TIM GRAHAM/Getty Images)

When the divorce was finalised, Buckingham Palace released a statement which stated that despite the legal end of their marriage, Diana would continue to be "regarded as a member of the royal family" and "will from time to time receive invitations to state and national public occasions".

Sadly Princess Diana died (opens in new tab) a year after her divorce came through. The Princess lost her life, aged 36, in a car accident in Paris. Her boyfriend Dodi Fayed (opens in new tab) and driver Henri Paul were also killed in the collision, with Diana's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones (opens in new tab) remaining the only sole survivor.

How long were Charles and Diana married for?

King Charles III and Princess Diana were officially married for 15 years - though they actually separated after 11 years together due to ongoing marital issues.

The couple actually knew each other for even longer - meeting in 1977 at a family hunt. After dating for a few years, Charles popped the question in February 1981 and the two went on to wed 5 months later on July 29, 1981.

During their marriage, the couple welcomed two sons - Prince William and Prince Harry. William - Charles's heir and second in line to the throne (opens in new tab) - was born first in June 21, 1982, just over a year after his parents' wedding. Prince Harry arrived on September 15, 1984.

In the Andrew Morton Diana book Diana: Her True Story, Diana revealed that her marriage to Charles was "the closest we’ve ever, ever been and ever will be” in the build-up to Harry's birth. However, things changed not longer after: "Then, suddenly, as Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage. The whole thing went down the drain."

In the same book, Diana shares in great detail her unhappiness in her marriage behind the scenes. The late Princess open up on her post-natal depression (opens in new tab), bulimia struggle and several attempted suicide attempts - one when she was pregnant with William.

Diana threw herself down a flight of stairs at Sandringham "trying to get my husband's attention, for him to listen to me". Thankfully the foetus was not harmed and Diana suffered mainly bruising.

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