‘The Crown’ and ‘Tampongate’: Yes, King Charles Really Said All That to Camilla
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Of all the embarrassments to King Charles III to be served up in the new series of The Crown, it’s hard to think of a more humiliating episode to be replayed than the notorious phone call in which then-Prince Charles, a month after the finalization of his divorce to Princess Diana, was recorded fantasizing to Camilla about coming back in a future life as her tampon.
The transcript was published by The People and the Sunday Mirror newspapers on Jan. 17, 1993, and the tape itself was later posted to a premium rate phone line, which Britons called in their droves to hear the actual phone call. Camilla and her husband Andrew Parker Bowles separated in its wake.
‘The Crown’ Fans Mercilessly Troll Prince Charles and Camilla
The publication of the excruciating conversation was a pivotal moment in the s0-called “War of the Waleses,” the protracted and very public breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage viciously played out in the tabloids. Rarely had such personal royal dirty laundry been aired in such detail in public. Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, had blown the lid on the marriage a few months before. Still to come would be Charles’ confession of adultery on national television, and Diana’s still controversy-causing Panorama interview.
While it was public knowledge that Charles was having a relationship with Camilla, the future king’s musings served to confirm long-standing suspicions that the Windsors were a sexually confused and frustrated bunch—and perhaps had unusual ideas about what constituted sexy pillow talk.
The tape has long been a subject of conspiracy theories. It was allegedly recorded by an amateur radio operator. But obviously a landline phone call in 1989 wouldn’t have floated through the public radio waves. So why was this private royal conversation being transmitted on the airwaves?
And, although, the conversation is clearly happening on Dec. 17, 1989, the day before Camilla’s son’s birthday, which she refers to in the call at one point, the scanner operator excitedly speaks over the recording at one point—to say he is recording it on Dec. 18.
This has led to speculation that the call was recorded on the 17th and then broadcast subsequently by enemies of the couple in the hope that it would be picked up by the armies of ham radio enthusiasts who populate the U.K.
Camilla also says at one point: “I can’t bear a Sunday night without you,” and Dec. 17, 1989, was a Sunday.
The rumors of involvement by Britain’s security services were taken seriously. Diana and Charles both had powerful supporters and detractors in the Establishment.
Britain’s Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who had responsibility for domestic spy service MI5, was drawn into the row, saying: “I am absolutely certain the allegation that this has anything to do with the Security Services is just extremely silly... The only people at the moment who are under strict control on telephone interceptions in this country are the Security Service and the police, which is why it seems to me obvious that the gap in the criminal law should be plugged so that newspapers, commercial rivals and retired bank managers can be stopped more effectively from bugging anybody’s telephone calls, whether they be the mightiest in the land or the poorest.”
Charles refers to being with “Nancy” in the call and it is understood he was calling from the Cheshire home of the dowager Duchess of Westminster while Camilla was at her home, Bolehyde Manor, in the West County.
The transcript was for months sent by fax between individuals, often using company fax machines. It was rumored to have been widely faxed between civil servants and lawmakers at Britain’s House of Commons.
It was then printed in foreign, and finally, domestic publications.
Colin Myler, then editor of the Sunday Mirror, said at the time: “Why should the people of Britain be treated with such hypocrisy and contempt?” He compared the situation to Edward VIII’s affair with Wallis Simpson, saying: “The British people should have had the right to know what was going on then. You have the right to know what is going on now.”
Here is the transcript in full. The recording starts as Charles is already talking.
CHARLES: He was a bit anxious actually.
CAMILLA: Was he?
CHARLES: He thought he might have gone a bit far.
CAMILLA: Ah well.
CHARLES: Anyway you know that’s the sort of thing one has to beware of. And sort of feel one’s way along with—if you know what I mean.
CAMILLA: Mmm. You’re awfully good at feeling your way along.
CHARLES: Oh stop! I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out...
CHARLES: Particularly in and out.
CAMILLA: Oh, that’s just what I need at the moment.
CHARLES: Is it?
At this point the scanner enthusiast who recorded the phone conversation just before Christmas 1989 speaks over the couple to record the date, December 18.
CAMILLA: I know it would revive me. I can’t bear a Sunday night without you.
CHARLES: Oh, God.
CAMILLA: It’s like that programme Start The Week. I can’t start the week without you.
CHARLES: I fill up your tank!
CAMILLA: Yes, you do.
CHARLES: Then you can cope.
CAMILLA: Then I’m all right.
CHARLES: What about me? The trouble is I need you several times a week.
CAMILLA: Mmm, so do I. I need you all the week. All the time.
CHARLES: Oh, God. I’ll just live inside your trousers or something. It would be much easier!
CAMILLA (laughing): What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? (Both laugh). Oh, you’re going to come back as a pair of knickers.
CHARLES: Or, God forbid, a Tampax. Just my luck! (Laughs)
CAMILLA: You are a complete idiot! (Laughs) Oh, what a wonderful idea.
CHARLES: My luck to be chucked down a lavatory and go on and on forever swirling round on the top, never going down.
CAMILLA (laughing): Oh darling!
CHARLES: Until the next one comes through.
CAMILLA: Oh, perhaps you could just come back as a box.
CHARLES: What sort of box?
CAMILLA: A box of Tampax, so you could just keep going.
CHARLES: That’s true.
CAMILLA: Repeating yourself... (laughing). Oh, darling, oh I just want you now.
CHARLES: Do you?
CHARLES: So do I.
CAMILLA: Desperately, desperately, desperately. Oh, I thought of you so much at Yaraby.
CHARLES: Did you?
CAMILLA: Simply mean we couldn’t be there together.
CHARLES: Desperate. If you could be here—I long to ask Nancy sometimes.
CAMILLA: Why don’t you?
CHARLES: I daren’t.
CAMILLA: Because I think she’s so in love with you.
CAMILLA: She’d do anything you asked.
CHARLES: She’d tell all sorts of people.
CAMILLA: No, she wouldn’t because she’d be much too frightened of what you might say to her. I think you’ve got—I’m afraid it’s a terrible thing to say—but I think, you know, those sort of people do feel very strongly about you. You’ve got such a great hold over her.
CAMILLA: And you’re... I think, as usual, you’re underestimating yourself.
CHARLES: But she might be terribly jealous or something.
CAMILLA: Oh! (Laughs) Now that is a point! I wonder. She might be, I suppose.
CHARLES: You never know, do you?
CAMILLA: No. The little green-eyed monster might be lurking inside her. No. But, I mean, the thing is you’re so good when people are so flattered to be taken into your confidence. But I don’t know they’d betray you. You know, real friends.
CAMILLA: I don’t. (Pause) Gone to sleep?
CHARLES: No, I’m here.
CAMILLA: Darling, listen, I talked to David tonight again. It might not be any good.
CHARLES: Oh, no!
CAMILLA: I’ll tell you why. He’s got these children of one of those Crawley girls and their nanny staying. He’s going. I’m going to ring him again tomorrow. He’s going to try and put them off till Friday. But I thought as an alternative, perhaps I might ring up Charlie.
CAMILLA: And see if we could do it there. I know he is back on Thursday.
CHARLES: It’s quite a lot further away.
CAMILLA: Oh, is it?
CHARLES: Well, I’m just trying to think. Coming from Newmarket.
CAMILLA: Coming from Newmarket to me at that time of night, you could probably do it in two and three quarters. It takes me three.
CHARLES: What to go to, um, Bowood?
CHARLES: To go to Bowood?
CAMILLA: To go to Bowood would be the same as me really, wouldn’t it?
CHARLES: I mean to say, you would suggest going to Bowood, uh?
CAMILLA: No, not at all.
CHARLES: Which Charlie then?
CAMILLA: What Charlie do you think I was talking about?
CHARLES: I didn’t know, because I thought you meant...
CAMILLA: I’ve got lots...
CHARLES: Somebody else.
CAMILLA: I’ve got lots of friends called Charlie.
CHARLES: The other one, Patty’s.
CAMILLA: Oh! Oh, there! Oh that is further away. They’re not...
CHARLES: They’ve gone...
CAMILLA: I don’t know, it’s just, you know, just a thought I had. If it fell through, the other place.
CHARLES: Oh, right. What do you do? Go on the M25 then down the M4 is it?
CAMILLA: Yes, you go, um, and sort of Royston or M11, at that time of night.
CHARLES: Yes. Well, that’ll be just after, it will be after shooting anyway.
CAMILLA: So it would be, um, you’d miss the worst of the traffic. Because I’ll, er... You see the problem is I’ve got to be in London tomorrow night.
CAMILLA: And Tuesday night A’s coming home.
CAMILLA: Would you believe it? Because, I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s shooting down here or something. But, darling, you wouldn’t be able to ring me anyway, would you?
CHARLES: I might just. I mean, tomorrow night I could have done.
CAMILLA: Oh darling, I can’t bear it. How could you have done tomorrow night?
CHARLES: Because I’ll be (yawns) working on the next speech.
CAMILLA: Oh no, what’s the next one?
CHARLES: A Business In The Community one, rebuilding communities.
CAMILLA: Oh no, when’s that for?
CHARLES: A rather important one for Wednesday.
CAMILLA: Well at least I’ll be behind you.
CHARLES: I know.
CAMILLA: Can I have a copy of the one you’ve just done?
CAMILLA: Can I? Um, I would like it.
CHARLES: OK, I’ll try and organise it.
CHARLES: But I, oh God, when am I going to speak to you?
CAMILLA: I can’t bear it. Um...
CHARLES: Wednesday night?
CAMILLA: Oh, certainly Wednesday night. I’ll be alone, um, Wednesday, you know, the evening. Or Tuesday. While you’re rushing around doing things I’ll be, you know, alone until it reappears.
And early Wednesday morning, I mean, he’ll be leaving at half past eight, quarter past eight. He won’t be here Thursday, pray God. Um, that ambulance strike, it’s a terrible thing to say this, I suppose it won’t have come to an end by Thursday.
CHARLES: It will have done?
CAMILLA: Well, I mean, I hope for everybody’s sake it will have done, but I hope for our sakes it’s still going on.
CAMILLA: Well, because if it stops he’ll come down here on Thursday night.
CHARLES: Oh no.
CAMILLA: Yes, but I don’t think it will stop, do you?
CHARLES: No, neither do I. Just our luck.
CAMILLA: It just would be our luck, I know.
CHARLES: Then it’s bound to.
CAMILLA: No it won’t. You mustn’t think like that. You must think positive.
CHARLES: I’m not very good at that.
CAMILLA: Well I am going to. Because if I don’t, I’d despair. (Pause) Hm - gone to sleep?
CHARLES: No. How maddening.
CAMILLA: I know. Anyway, I mean, he’s doing his best to change it, David. But I just thought, you know, I might just ask Charlie.
CHARLES: Did he say anything?
CAMILLA: No, I haven’t talked to him.
CHARLES: You haven’t?
CAMILLA: Well I talked to him briefly, but you know, I just thought I - I just don’t know whether he’s got any children at home, that’s the worry’’.
CAMILLA: Oh, darling. I think I’ll . . .
CHARLES: Pray, just pray.
CAMILLA: It would be so wonderful to have just one night to set us on our way, wouldn’t it?
CHARLES: Wouldn’t it? To wish you a happy Christmas.
CAMILLA (indistinct): Happy. Oh, don’t let’s think about Christmas. I can’t bear it. (Pause) Going to go to sleep? I think you’d better, don’t you, darling?
CHARLES (sleepy): Yes, darling?
CAMILLA: I think you’ve exhausted yourself by all that hard work. You must go to sleep now. Darling?
CHARLES (sleepy): Yes, darling?
CAMILLA: Will you ring me when you wake up?
CHARLES: Yes I will.
CAMILLA: Before I have these rampaging children around. It’s Tom’s birthday tomorrow. (Pause) You all right?
CHARLES: Mmm. I’m all right.
CAMILLA: Can I talk to you, I hope, before those rampaging children . . .
CHARLES: What time do they come in?
CAMILLA: Well usually Tom never wakes up at all, but as it’s his birthday tomorrow he might just stagger out of bed. It won’t be before half past eight. (Pause) Night, night, my darling.
CHARLES: Darling . . .
CAMILLA: I do love you.
CHARLES (sleepily): Before...
CAMILLA: Before about half past eight.
CHARLES: Try and ring?
CAMILLA: Yeah, if you can. Love you darling.
CHARLES: Night, darling
CAMILLA: I love you.
CHARLES: Love you too. I don’t want to say goodbye.
CAMILLA: Well done for doing that. You’re a clever old thing. An awfully good brain lurking there, isn’t there? Oh, darling, I think you ought to give the brain a rest now. Night night.
CHARLES: Night darling. God bless.
CAMILLA: I do love you and I’m so proud of you.
CHARLES: Oh, I’m so proud of you.
CAMILLA: Don’t be so silly. I’ve never achieved anything.
CHARLES: Yes you have.
CAMILLA: No I haven’t.
CHARLES: You’re great achievement is to love me.
CAMILLA: Oh, darling. Easier than falling off a chair.
CHARLES: You suffer all these indignities and tortures and calumnies.
CAMILLA: Oh, darling, don’t be so silly. I’d suffer anything for you. That’s love. It’s the strength of love. Night, night.
CHARLES: Night, darling. Sounds as though you’re dragging an enormous piece of string behind you, with hundreds of tin pots and cans attached to it. I think it must be your telephone. Night night, before the battery goes. (Blows kiss) Night.
CAMILLA: Love you.
CHARLES: Don’t want to say goodbye.
CAMILLA: Neither do I, but you must get some sleep. Bye.
CHARLES: Bye, darling.
CAMILLA: Love you.
CAMILLA: Hopefully talk to you in the morning.
CAMILLA: Bye. I do love you.
CAMILLA: Love you forever.
CAMILLA: G’bye. Bye my darling.
CAMILLA: Night, night.
CAMILLA: Bye bye.
CAMILLA: Bye. Press the button.
CHARLES: Going to press it.
CHARLES: Adore you. Night.
CAMILLA: (Blows a kiss).
CAMILLA: G’night my darling. Love you.
Charles finally hangs up.
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