In 1993, a scandal rocked the British monarchy and put the then Prince Charles of Wales and his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, in the eye of the storm. A private call between the two was intercepted by a foreign intelligence service and was subsequently disclosed in the media. This call contained inappropriate statements and was labeled as “Tampongate”.
Although the conversation was recorded on December 17, 1989, it was not released until three years later, leading to speculation that this revelation was leaked as revenge against the British royal family. The scandal resulted in a huge media uproar around the world and was the subject of much controversy.
Tampongate: the phone conversation between Charles and Camilla
The controversial phone call proved that all of Charles’ friends were not only aware of the affair but also complicit. Camilla and Charles spend most of the conversation discussing the logistics of their illicit relationship. They debate which house they will use for their next date.
During the phone conversation, Prince Charles suggested that he wanted to be reincarnated as a tampon to be near Camilla, which resulted in a huge uproar and sparked public outrage.
The most polemic part of the conversation, the one that generated the most headlines and for that reason, the scandal is called ‘Tampongate’ was the following:
- 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.
This episode had a negative impact on the relationship between the British royal family and the press. By the time of Tampongate, the monarchy had already suffered several blows from tabloid headlines, and this controversy only intensified the royal household’s sense of distrust of the press.
According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, a poll published shortly after the release of the phone recording found that 68% of respondents said Charles had tarnished her reputation, and 42% thought 10-year-old Prince William should succeed Elizabeth as the next monarch.
Tampongate remains a significant event in the history of the British monarchy and continues to generate interest in new generations.
Despite the controversy, Charles and Camilla stayed together and finally married in 2005, after long years of waiting. However, the couple continued to face criticism and opposition, with many questioning whether Camilla could ever be queen consort.
King Charles and Queen Camilla
On May 6, 2023, the entire world experienced a historic moment. Under a cloudy sky over Westminster Abbey, in a millennial ceremony 30 years after Tampongate, Charles, 74, and Camilla, 75, were finally crowned as kings of the United Kingdom.
Despite the difficulties Camilla had to face, such as the long shadow of Princess Diana and the strong initial opposition of public opinion and the various controversies of the then Prince Charles, today they have managed to gain the acceptance of much of British society.