Heritage

Prince Charles Called His Marriage to Diana a "Greek Tragedy" in Letters to Nancy Reagan

"It all keeps getting worse and worse," he admitted.
IMAGE GETTY / DON RYPKA
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Princess Diana famously described their marriage as "crowded," but Prince Charles characterized the ill-fated relationship as a "Greek tragedy" in a 1992 letter just made public for the first time. The surprising trove of correspondence reveals the royal's innermost thoughts as he poured his heart out to an equally famous friend: Nancy Reagan.

Bonded by their respective roles in the public eye, the pen pals traded letters for decades until the former First Lady passed away last year. The private notes then became part of the public archive at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in California. Now, the world catches a glimpse of a close friendship — and hears the royal's unfiltered perspective.

"No one can really understand what it all means until it happens to you, which is why it all keeps getting worse and worse," he wrote of Diana on June 21, 1992—just after an unflattering biography accused him of acting cold and callous. "One day I will tell you the whole story. It is a kind of Greek tragedy and would certainly make a very good play!"

The Prince of Wales previously sympathized with Nancy Reagan when her own disparaging book came out the year before. He slammed Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography, telling his friend, "I know exactly the methods these dreadful people employ to create the maximum amount of controversy and conflict by making the wildest allegations so as to make the maximum amount of money."

The former actress first met the royal in 1974, when her husband was Governor of California. The two became close over the years, with Prince Charles officially visiting in 1981 and again four years later with Diana by his side.


"President and Mrs. Reagan really valued their friendship with the royal family, especially the Prince of Wales," Joanne Drake of the Reagan Presidential Foundation told the Daily Mail. "They shared the ups and downs of their lives and always wrote the other with strong words of personal support, especially if the situation had become public."

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In one especially-touching letter, Prince Charles consoled the First Lady after her husband died in 2004. "I so wanted to write to say how much my heart goes out to you," he offered. "I have minded so much for you ever since your husband became ill with that beastly Alzheimer's as I can well imagine how soul-destroying it must be to be unable to do anything to help as the illness gradually drags your loved one into a separate world from which you are barred."

The Prince's poignant concern for his dear friend offers a peek at their long-lasting connection. Even in 1981, he told Ronald Reagan that Nancy's charm made him "a devoted admirer for life!" That sentiment certainly held true for many years—all the way up until her passing at age 94 last March.

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Caroline Picard
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