From the devastating fire at Windsor Castle to Princess Diana's infamous Panorama interview, the new season of The Crown recreates quite a few memorable moments that took place in the royal household between 1992 and 1997.


None, however, are likely as embarrassing to recall as the event involving Prince Charles and his then-mistress Camilla Parker Bowles that became known as 'Tampongate'.

While the publication of Andrew Morton's book Diana: Her True Story in 1992 had first brought Charles and Camilla's affair to light, it was 'Tampongate' (also known as 'Camillagate') that turned their relationship into tabloid fodder around the world, and led to Camilla being vilified in the press.

But what was the true story of Tampongate, and what was the fallout for the royal family?

What was Tampongate or 'Camillagate'?

Cracks in Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage had begun to show as early as 1987, with tabloids in the UK nicknaming the couple "The Glums" because they looked so miserable in each other's presence, but at that time the public was not aware that one reason their marriage was under threat was due to Prince Charles' long-standing affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.

However Diana, as we now know, was very aware that Charles was having an affair with Camilla, and in tapes she recorded for her voice coach when she was learning to improve her public speaking, she spoke of confronting her husband's mistress at a party in 1989.

"The voice inside me had said 'just go for it'," she said in the tapes. "I was terrified of her. I said, 'I know what’s been going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that.'"

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown season 5
Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown season 5 Keith Bernstein/Netflix

It wasn’t until three years later that the affair became public knowledge with the publication of Andrew Morton's book, Diana Her True Story in May 1992, but after that bombshell bestseller, more revelations about Charles, Diana and Camilla came thick and fast.

First, there was the leaked tape recording of a 1989 telephone conversation between Diana and close friend James Gilbey that was dubbed 'Squidgygate' because he called her Squidgy 14 times in it. The phone call had been recorded by a ham radio enthusiast in Oxfordshire named Cyril Reenan, who contacted The Sun once he realised whom he had accidentally recorded chatting.

"We put the cassette in and listened to it almost mesmerised for 20 minutes," said the newspaper's royal correspondent at the time, Stuart Higgins. "The content was so explosive, we knew we had a major, major story."

More like this

While Diana’s chat with Gilbey was occasionally revealing – they blow each other kisses, he calls her 'darling' throughout and she talks about her day ("I was very bad at lunch and I nearly started blubbing"), The Sun initially decided not to publish the story.

Instead, another recording of the same conversation, made by typist Jane Norgrove, found its way to the National Enquirer, and they finally broke the story in August 1992.

Tabloid readers may have thought the Squidgygate tape was scandal enough for the royal couple, but just four months later another taped phone call proved to be even more shocking. And that was 'Tampongate'.

The Crown season 5
The Crown season 5 Netflix

It was a telephone call between Prince Charles and his mistress Camilla, who was married to Andrew Parker Bowles at the time. Reportedly recorded using a scanner on December 18th 1989, the six minute conversation includes the future King telling Camilla: "I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out…" and declaring to her that “your greatest achievement is to love me."

The part of the conversation that remains most memorable, however, was when Charles and Camilla talked about how much they needed each other and he suggested: "I’ll just live inside your trousers or something. It would be much easier!"

To which Camilla replied: "What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? You're going to come back as a pair of knickers!"

It was then that Charles suggested he could be reincarnated as "a Tampax", a comment that may have made Camilla laugh, but likely caused them both huge embarrassment when it was printed on newspaper front pages around the world.

What did it mean for Camilla and Charles?

In his book, Guarding Diana: Protecting The Princess Around The World, Princess Diana’s former protection officer Ken Wharfe wrote of the scandal: "The backlash was savage. Establishment figures normally loyal to the future King and country were appalled, and some questioned the Prince’s suitability to rule."

It was actually Camilla who bore the brunt of much of the public’s hostility towards the couple. She was described as "the most disliked woman in all of Britain" and there were even reports – denied by the Palace – that she had bread rolls thrown at her by customers at her local supermarket.

Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown
Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown Netflix

In 1994, Prince Charles publicly spoke for the first time about Camilla in a TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, confirming he had been in a relationship with her after his marriage had broken down, saying, "Mrs Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine… a friend for a very long time. She will continue to be a friend for a very long time."

While Prime Minister John Major had announced Charles and Diana's "amicable separation" in December 1992, it wasn't until after Diana’s bombshell-filled Panorama interview in November 1995 that the couple formally agreed to divorce. Camilla and her husband Andrew divorced in March 1995.

In the years that followed, Camilla stayed silent about her relationship with Prince Charles. Journalist Mary Braid said: "Silence and discretion are Camilla's trademarks", and she went on to say that "this is a woman who once encountered a journalist breaking into her downstairs loo, and who had the contents of a family album, taken without her consent, splashed all over a newspaper".

Following Diana's death in 1997, Camilla remained in the background, supported by Prince Charles and his advisers, and did not make a public appearance as the prince's partner until 1999, when she was photographed with him when leaving a party at the Ritz hotel in London.

She finally met the Queen in 2000, which was seen as an official mark of approval, and by 2004 was accompanying Prince Charles on many of his official engagements as public perception of the couple softened. They became engaged in February 2005, and Charles and Camilla were married on 9th April 2005.

The Crown seasons 1-5 are available to stream now on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Looking for something else to watch? Visit our TV Guide or Streaming Guide.


The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. or more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.