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Of all the heart-wrenching and fraught moments 19-year-old Diana Spencer had to contend with, surely finding engraved jewellery designed for her fiance’s mistress, just days before her wedding, must have been the most galling.
In series four of The Crown, we’re shown Diana (played by Emma Corrin) - locked away alone in Buckingham Palace, in the onset of her decade-long struggle with bulimia - discovering Charles’ designs for a bracelet that bears the initials F and G. This is obviously not a pre-wedding trinket meant for her - but instead for Charles’ mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
But is the series taking artistic license for this particular sub-plot - after all, wouldn’t the future King and all his aides be more discreet while he was having an affair with a married woman?
It turns out there has been no flight of fantasy in the penmanship of the show, as not only did the real Charles gift Camilla the exact same piece of jewellery with their pet names for each other, but he fobbed off Diana by telling her that it was a farewell gift for an ex-lover. Even more remarkably, Camilla still wears it to this day.
The Crown - or its writer, Peter Morgan - has likely pieced together a couple of different accounts to this scenario that is 100 per cent rooted in fact.
According to Andrew Morton, who wrote Diana’s biography, Diana: Her True Story, using her own words, the Princess had said she visited the office of Michael Colborne, who was Prince Charles’ personal secretary.
She said: “I was still too immature to understand all the messages coming my way. And then someone in his office told me that my husband has had a bracelet made for her. I walked into this man's office one day and I said, 'Ooh, what's in that parcel?' And he said, 'Oh, you shouldn't look at that’.’”
“So I opened it and there was the bracelet.” She found a gold bracelet from Asprey’s, with a lapis pendant engraved with the letters F and G, which were said to stand for Fred and Gladys, Charles and Camilla’s pet names for each other, taken from a sketch from The Goon Show.
In The Crown, Camilla (Emerald Fennell) tells Diana at their awkward lunch together: “[Fred] is my nickname for the Prince of Wales, and he calls me Gladys. It’s harmless nonsense really.” Not to Diana, both semi-fictionalised and in reality.
She told Morton: “I was devastated, and I said, 'Well, he's going to give it to her tonight’. So rage, rage, rage. You know, 'Why can't you be honest with me?' But no, absolutely cut me dead. It was as if he’d made his decision, and if it wasn't going to work, it wasn't going to work.”
According to Penny Junor, author of 'The Duchess: The Untold Story', a biography about Camilla Parker-Bowles, there was a simple explanation for this: “The Prince is an inveterate giver of gifts, especially jewellery, as a way of thanking people; and he intended to see each of the women individually to say goodbye.” It should be noted that Junor is friends with Camilla, so it might have been in her favour to rewrite history. It’s also the line that The Crown chose to use for Charles (played by Josh O’Connor) to defend his ostentatious present.
To add further insult, Charles insisted on hand delivering the sentimental present to Camilla just two days before his July 1981 wedding to Diana. Diana said: “He took the bracelet, lunchtime on Monday. We got married on the Wednesday.”
The wedding went ahead, as did the affair, but Camilla and Charles continued to use jewellery to brand their not-so-covert relationship. In a move that would confirm them as hiding their relationship in plain sight - flaunting it, even - Camilla gave Charles cufflinks emblazoned with two Cs. He wore them on his honeymoon with Diana.
In 2017, video footage of the late Diana talking about her life was broadcast in the Channel 4 documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words.
In it, she said: “On our honeymoon, cufflinks arrive on his wrists. Two C’s entwined like the Chanel ‘C’. Got it. One knew exactly. So I said, ‘Camilla gave you those didn’t she?’ He said,‘Yes, so what’s wrong? They’re a present from a friend.’ And boy, did we have a row. Jealousy, total jealousy. And it was such a good idea the two ‘C’s but it wasn’t that clever.”
Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. Diana died in a car crash in Paris a year later, and then Charles and Camilla went on to marry in April 2005.
Even now, it appears monogrammed jewellery is still a thing for Charles and Camilla. Camilla gifted Kate Middleton with a charm bracelet printed with the letter C and a crown on top as a wedding present in 2011. Presumably, this present wasn’t quite as territorial as the other branded jewellery previously gifted by the pair historically.
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