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

Their marriage produced sons Prince William and Harry

Charles and Diana waving to crowds from a carriage
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Those wondering when Charles and Diana separated and the timeline of their divorce might be surprised to learn how long they remained married post-split.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding 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 monarch. As the years went on, marital woes were aired publicly - first via the Andrew Morton Diana book, then the Diana Panorama interview, with Charles also taking part in a sit-down interview with Jonathan Dimbleby to explain the state of his marriage following Camillagate. We take a look back at their relationship, sharing key details on when Charles and Diana separated and divorced...

When did Charles and Diana separate?

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

Major stated that there were 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."

A collage from left to right: Prince Charles, John Major, Princess Diana

(Image credit: Future / Getty)

He added that Charles and Diana would "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. Meanwhile, Diana would remain at Kensington Palace in London.

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 and his current wife), whilst Diana allegedly had flings with James Hewitt and James Gilbey.

One of Princess Diana's most famous quotes is about Charles and Camilla's affair. She told Martin Bashir in her Panorama interview: "There were 3 of us in the marriage, so that made it a bit crowded."

External pressures such as press scrutiny could be another factor in their separation. 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", and speculation had been brewing that the pair were on the rocks for some years.

In 1987, Diana doesn't join Charles on the family's annual summer trip to Balmoral, and following this the royal couple were plagued by rumours that their marriage was struggling.

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.

The late Queen Elizabeth II gave her permission for the two to finally divorce after 4 years of living separately. She wrote to the couple telling them to end their marriage, and details of the letters were reported by The Sun newspaper. The late Queen wrote, "I have consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the prime minister and, of course, with Charles, and we have decided that the best course for you is divorce."

Copies of the Sun newspaper covering Charles and Diana's divorce on the front pages

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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."

It's reported that Diana's divorce settlement 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 and Diana was allowed to continue living at Kensington Palace.

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".

Paul Burrell, who is the former butler of Princess Diana revealed in his autobiography that Prince William, who was just 14 years old at the time, vowed to give Diana her title back when he takes the throne.

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

Charles and Diana separation and divorce timeline

  • 1987: British tabloid begin to speculate that there is marriage trouble between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, after they failed to attend Lady Amanda Ellingworth's wedding and started spending time in separate locations.
  • 1992: Andrew Morton published Diana: Her True Story—in Her Own Words, which revealed Diana's unhappiness in her marriage. Later that year, it's announced that Charles and Diana have made the decision to separate.
  • 1993: Private calls between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are leaked, in which they said "I love you" several times.
  • 1994: In an interview with ITN, Prince Charles admits to having cheated on Diana. Later that year, his biography claims that Prince Philip had forced him into a loveless marriage.
  • 1995: Princess Diana gives the infamous BBC Panorama interview, in which she confesses to having cheated on Prince Charles, as well as admitting to having suffered bulimia and engaged in self-harm.
  • 1996: Diana announces she has agreed to Charles' request for a divorce and in August the same year the divorce is finalised.

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 knew each other for several years before their marriage, however. They first met in 1977 at a family hunt, when Charles was 29 and Diana was 16. The royal couple announced their engagement in February 1981 - after reportedly meeting just 13 times in person - 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' heir and second in line to the throne - was born on 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 opened up on her post-natal depression, bulimia struggle and several attempted suicide attempts - one when she was pregnant with William.

She reportedly threw herself down a flight of stairs at Sandringham when she was four months pregnant "trying to get my husband's attention, for him to listen to me". She added that while she was bruised around the stomach she "knew I wasn’t going to lose the baby."

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.