London — Long before Prince Charles was engaged to Princess Diana, he had proposed to another woman who was considered a perfect match — his cousin (not his first cousin) Amanda Knatchbull.
Royal historian and biographer Robert Lacey says in his book Battle Of Brothers: William And Harry – The Inside Story Of A Family In Tumult, which was published last month, that Knatchbull turned down the proposal as she did not want to live with the public scrutiny of a royal.
The rejection stuck with Charles and reinforced his belief that no one should have to deal with the pressure of marrying into the Windsor family. It was not totally a gesture of love when Prince Charles and Princess Diana got engaged. The prince was under pressure from the royal family to get married and Diana was a perfect match at that time.
Lacey says that Charles’ great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, had pressured him to marry Knatchbull, who was his cousin and Lord Mountbatten’s granddaughter. According to Lacey, Charles admitted to being “very fond of her” and a relationship did, eventually, blossom.
“Over the years the two cousins did grow close, developing a mutual respect and friendship that has lasted to the present day. But when the prince finally made his proposal in the summer of 1979 — shortly before Lord Mountbatten’s assassination by the IRA — the independent-minded Amanda politely turned him down.”
And the way she turned Charles down had a big impact on the future king.
Knatchbull had explained, according to Lacey: “The surrender of self to a system” was so absolute when joining the royal family, it involved a loss of independence “far greater than matrimony usually invites.”
According to Charles’ biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, the rejection “served only to confirm (the prince’s) own belief that to marry into the House of Windsor was a sacrifice that no one should be expected to make”.
Charles married Diana in 1981 when he was 32 and she 20. They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. They have two sons — Prince Harry and Prince William. Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 when she was 36 years old.
Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005. He is now 72 and she is 73.
Knatchbull, a social worker, later married novelist and property entrepreneur Charles Vincent Ellingworth in 1987. They are now both 63 and have three sons. /TISG
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