Did Princess Anne have an affair with Andrew Parker-Bowles? True story behind the Crown season 3 plot

Last weekend saw the latest instalment of The Crown land on Netflix, as Season 3 of the royal melodrama came to the streaming service.

Following on from the events of the first two series, which covered Queen Elizabeth's life from 1947 and 1964, the third series covers the lives of the royal family and the events that took place between 1964 and 1977.

(Photo: Netflix)

(Photo: Netflix)

Viewers have already been witness to a lot of drama in Season 3, from Princess Margaret (her marriage and subsequent divorce from Lord Snowdon), Prince Charles and the Queen herself as a result of her close friendship with Lord Henry Porchester, who she affectionately called Porchie.

But Season 3's ninth episode - 'Imbroglio' - brings another potential royal scandal to the fore.

What happens in the episode?

According to Google, an imbroglio is "an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation."

(Photo: Netflix)

(Photo: Netflix)

So that title is apt then, for an episode which delves into Prince Charles’s and Princess Anne’s respective romances with Camilla Shand and Andrew Parker Bowles.

It's also an instalment of the royal drama that alludes to a potential 'love triangle' between some high ranking members of the family.

In the episode, Charles meets Shand (the two would of course marry years later in 2005) in the early 1970s, at which point she has already been dating future husband Andrew Parker Bowles on and off for about five years.

That's complication enough, but the waters get muddied further still by the fact that Andrew had also dated Princess Anne, Charles' younger sister.

(Photo: Netflix)

(Photo: Netflix)

According to the show, Camilla and Anne’s relationships with Andrew overlapped, a love triangle of sorts which would ruffle the feathers of any stiff upper lipped royalist.

How much of that really happened?

Not a lot, according to royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, who told Vanity Fair that one major historical accuracy takes some of the duplicitous intrigue away from the angle in real life.

“Anne and Andrew started dating in June 1970," she said, and Charles did not meet Camilla until “the summer of 1972 - long after Andrew and Anne’s romance was over."

While Charles fell "madly in love" with Camilla, to her "it was a fling - he was the Prince of Wales. Meanwhile, Andrew was off in Ireland and Cyprus for six months."

Anne and Andrew's initial romance was brief said Smith (the author of 2017’s Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life), and "they could never marry because he was a Catholic."

Towards the end of the episode, we see Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, the queen mother, and Princess Anne all sitting down to work out just what is going on.

When Anne explains that Camilla is in love with Andrew and not Charles, the queen mother demands a meeting with Camilla's and Andrew’s parents.

But Camilla and Andrew quickly marry, which handily takes Camilla out of the royal equation.

Again, this turn of events might not be exactly how it happened.

“Interfering like that is something the queen would never do,” said Smith. “It was highly unlikely that she even knew about Charles and Camilla.

"It was generally known that Camilla was in love with Andrew Parker Bowles and wanted to marry him. But no one took the romance between Charles and Camilla seriously.

"The idea that the queen and the queen mother would conspire like that is laughable.”

The only people who were plotting were Camilla’s and Andrew’s fathers, according to Smith, who “were tired of Andrew’s foot-dragging."

They got together and published an engagement announcement in The Times: "Once that happened Andrew was forced into proposing. But it wasn’t because of anyone in the royal family."

So there's no truth to it at all?

There could be: Tina Brown’s 2007 biography The Diana Chronicles would suggest there is some truth to The Crown's version of events.

Andrew - described in the book as a "royal groupie" - "adored" women, and "one of his earlier diversions was a torrid affair with Princess Anne, who, in her stern way, has always enjoyed a roll in the hay."

“There was a romantic re-enactment of ‘La Ronde’ on the dance floor at Annabel’s one night in 1971 when it was clear that Princess Anne was in love with Andrew Parker Bowles.

"Camilla was in love with him too, and Charles was in love with Camilla."

The Monarchy is an exclusive institution, and so the real goings-on in that time period might never be known.

The Crown Season 3 is available to stream on Netflix now