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Who forced Charles to marry Diana?

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage was one of the most high-profile royal weddings in modern history. Over 750 million people tuned in to watch the lavish ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. However, behind the scenes, the relationship between Charles and Diana was tumultuous from the start. Many have wondered if Charles was truly in love with Diana when they married, or if he was pressured into the marriage by royal expectations.

Charles and Diana’s relationship timeline

Charles and Diana had only met 13 times before getting engaged in 1981. They seemed an unlikely match – Charles was 32 years old and ready to settle down, while Diana was only 19 and extremely naive about royal life. However, Diana came from an aristocratic family and was seen as a suitable bride for the future King of England. After a brief courtship, Charles proposed to Diana in February 1981. Their engagement was officially announced later that month.

Question: Was Charles forced to propose to Diana?

Many believe that while Charles was not necessarily forced to propose, he faced immense royal and social pressure to marry Diana. At 32 years old, Charles was considered very late to marry in royal circles. Queen Elizabeth was reportedly ready for Charles to settle down and produce an heir. Diana seemed like the perfect choice – an aristocratic virgin who could adapt to royal duties. Charles may have felt obliged to follow through for the sake of the monarchy, rather than his own personal desires.

Why was there pressure for Charles to marry?

As the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth, Charles faced several sources of pressure to find a suitable wife and produce heirs to the throne:

Succession worries

With Queen Elizabeth already in her 50s when Charles was 32, there were natural worries about the line of succession. Marrying and starting a family would secure heirs and the monarchy’s future.

Royal tradition

Within the royal family, there was a tradition of marrying young and having children. Charles was considered well past the expected age for marriage.

Public scrutiny

Charles’s bachelor status sparked constant public speculation and pressure in the British tabloids to settle down.

Bachelor reputation

Fairly or not, Charles had a reputation as a bachelor playboy, which did not sit well with traditional royal family values expected of the future King.

Source of Pressure Details
Succession worries Concerns about securing heirs with the Queen already in her 50s
Royal tradition Marrying young and producing heirs was the family norm
Public scrutiny Charles’s single status drew intense tabloid speculation
Bachelor reputation Charles was seen as a playboy, unsuitable for a future King

Why was Diana seen as a suitable choice?

While it may seem mismatched in hindsight, at the time, Lady Diana Spencer seemed like an ideal bride for Prince Charles for several reasons:

Aristocratic background

Diana came from a long line of British nobility as the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer. Her aristocratic roots made her an appropriate match.


Diana’s virginity was considered important to make her a suitable royal bride at the time. Charles was also a virgin.


At only 19, Diana was youthful enough to start a family. Her age contrasted with 32-year-old Charles.


Diana appeared innocent, shy, demure, and eager to please – qualities thought to be ideal in a royal wife.


Young and beautiful, Diana brought immense popularity and media attention to the royal family.

Reason Details
Aristocratic background Daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer
Virginity Seen as important for a royal bride
Age 19 years old – youthful enough to start a family
Personality Shy, demure, eager to please – seen as ideal royal qualities
Popularity Young, beautiful, immensely popular with the public

Was Charles actually forced to marry Diana?

While the pressure was immense, most royal experts agree Charles was not literally forced to propose to or marry Diana. Arranged marriages were no longer the norm by the late 20th century. However, the pile-up of expectations, duty, and pressure from all sides did force Charles into a corner where marrying Diana seemed like his only real option if he wanted to fulfill his royal role.

Views that Charles was forced:

  • Royal protocol dictated heirs must be born of a married union
  • Queen Elizabeth II was impatient for grandchildren
  • Media speculation over Charles’s bachelor status was relentless
  • Diana seemed the perfect royal bride at the time

Views that Charles had a choice:

  • Arranged marriages were outdated – Charles had free will
  • While pressured, Charles could have refused to propose
  • Charles was not literally dragged to the altar against his will

Did Charles express reservations?

According to various biographies, Charles did have some reservations before proposing to Diana, but overall muted his doubts.

Signs of hesitation:

  • After announcing their engagement, Charles famously replied “Whatever in love means” when asked if he was in love with Diana
  • Allegedly told friends he did not feel emotionally ready for marriage
  • Reportedly had last-minute doubts and felt he was being pushed into marriage

Why hesitation was suppressed:

  • Felt overwhelming pressure to conform to expectations
  • Believed he could grow to love Diana once married
  • Thought Diana’s youth could be molded to royal life
  • Swept up in the wedding plans and momentum

How did Diana view the engagement?

By all accounts, the teenage Diana was ecstatic at the engagement and truly in love with Charles.

Signs Diana was eagerly in love:

  • Described the engagement as the happiest day of her life
  • Seemed enthralled by the romance of marrying her prince
  • Appeared blissfully happy in engagement photos
  • Dreamed of the lavish royal wedding since childhood

Due to her youth and naivety about Charles’s character and inner doubts, Diana did not seem to pick up on any reluctance from her fiancé. The signs are she wholly believed it to be a love match.


While not forced in a literal sense, Prince Charles faced immense pressure and expectations from all sides to marry Diana Spencer in 1981. Charles likely felt compelled to propose for the sake of duty and living up to his royal role as the next in line to the throne. However, signs indicate he harbored inner doubts about the marriage from the start. Tragically, Diana was an eager and innocent young bride who believed wholly in the fairytale. The mismatch in motives and expectations was apparent from the beginning and ultimately contributed to the painful unraveling of their marriage.