If things had gone a little differently, the royal family might be unrecognizable as we know it today. You see, before Princess Diana and even before Queen Camilla, King Charles III allegedly had a serious romance with another high-class blonde. This was Lady Dale Tryon, who went by the nickname “Kanga” due to her Australian background. She had it all: looks, riches, talent, and by all accounts a genuine understanding of the future King’s personality. But unfortunately her life would turn out to be every bit as tragic as Diana’s, if not more so.
This article was originally published on WHerMoments
Dale first met Charles in 1966 when he was schooled while in Australia. It seems they clicked right from the beginning. And from there the connection between the pair would seemingly last a lifetime, even though both ended up married to other people.
It’s clear that Camilla is the only woman for Charles now, one he fought for years to be able to wed. Yet he did once apparently refer to Dale as “the only woman who ever really understood me.” Now that sounds pretty serious!
But unfortunately Dale had a pretty rough life right from the start. She was born with spina bifida, and even though it was a relatively minor case of the disorder, it prevented her from walking until she was nine years old. She seemed to overcome this at first, though. She married a British aristocrat and friend of Charles — Anthony Tryon — in 1973.
When his father died he became Lord Tryon: that gave her a title, too. She had the sort of power and wealth of which most people could have only dreamt, but it didn’t make her happy.
The media has long reported that Charles gave Dale the nickname “Kanga,” but actually that wasn’t the case. When newspaper The Australian published an inaccurate article about Dale after her untimely death, her own brother wrote to the paper to correct the misconceptions, and said that in actual fact, it had been Anthony who gave her the nickname.
He also pointedly said that Dale very much wanted to be married to Anthony and it wasn’t any sort of arrangement to get her out of the way, such as what allegedly happened with Camilla.
So the story goes, the royal family were desperate that Charles should not marry Camilla, even though he loved her. Camilla was deemed an unsuitable bride, too “experienced” for Charles apparently.
Allegedly, Charles was sent away with the Navy at first, separating him from Camilla, and then the royals pushed Camilla towards Andrew Parker Bowles and Charles towards the much younger — but seemingly perfect — Diana Spencer. Of course, that relationship ended disastrously, but no-one could have known that back then.
Diana always knew her husband was in love with Camilla, and that Charles was marrying her because it was expected rather than of his own volition. During their post-engagement interview in 1981 the interviewer asked if the couple were really in love.
It had been a bit of a personal question, though the reporter could never have guessed the response: Charles answered with “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Diana had not expected Charles to be quite so brazen about it; according to her, it was downright traumatic.
Dale’s marriage wasn’t as bad: not at first, anyway. She and Anthony ended up having four children together: Zoe, Charles, and twins Edward and Victoria. Wait, was her second child named after the future King? That would appear to be the case, yes. Charles is actually godfather to his namesake.
That indicates that Dale and Charles had maintained a close relationship despite not being an official couple. And it seems that Diana had known about this — just as she knew about Charles’ love for Camilla — and she wasn’t happy.
Diana tried to have both Camilla and Dale excluded from the wedding, but no matter what, people wanted to talk about them.
After the 1981 wedding, the magazine Australian Women’s Weekly wrote an article about her, and it began, “Lady Tryon, the warm Australian wife of banker Lord Tryon, is one of Prince Charles' two best women friends, the other being Camilla Parker Bowles.” Since Diana knew full well about Camilla’s real relationship with Charles, we can assume she was suspicious of Dale as well.
And the magazine did indeed ask Dale herself about Charles. She answered with what the interviewer called a “prepared speech” and said, “I’m afraid I can’t talk about that, because after all privacy is one of the most precious things in the world — and particularly to someone who has so little of it.”
That was a very fair answer. But in the same interview, other people shed some light on what it was that made her so attractive to Charles.
One of the main reasons, it seemed, was her discretion: royals always greatly admired that quality. Dale’s friend Annabelle Kinkead-Weekes told the magazine, “Dale is 100 percent trustworthy.
If I tell her a secret — and lots of people confide in her — it will be as though it were locked up in a steel box and dropped in the Pacific.” Dale was apparently friends with several members of the royal family, not just Charles, but her colleague didn’t reveal their names.
An unnamed friend told the magazine, “She's not strictly speaking a beauty. In fact, her sister was prettier. But Dale made a huge effort and was always so popular. She was a ‘good sport,’ always happy to see people, wanting to join in everything that was going on, and not at all contentious.”
And at school “there was always a crowd of about 20 schoolboys waiting for her.” Yet while she was extremely popular and vivacious, it seems her future hubby Anthony was apparently the opposite.
A person described as an “acquaintance” of Lord Tryon told the magazine, “He lives for his job, his fishing and his shooting.
He wouldn't care if he never gave another dinner party in his life — apart from his business commitments — and he expects any problems to do with the children, the houses or the entertaining to be ironed out without being troubled by them himself." Another person called him, “downright difficult and demanding.” Demanding of his wife, to be exact.
And yet, Dale seemed to flourish for a long while. In 1983 she began establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. She became the British agent for Diane Freis and sold dresses from a shop in Beauchamp Place. The name of her company was, of course, Kanga.
And such was Dale’s success that Diana herself ended up wearing her outfits from time to time, a sign that she perhaps no longer saw the other woman as a threat.
This turn of events drew considerable comment in the 2008 Channel 4 documentary Prince Charles’ Other Mistress, filmed many years after Dale’s death. Royal expert Christopher Wilson said about the unexpected act of fashion diplomacy, “I think Diana, in the end, came to realize that Camilla was the main opposition.
That she was the enemy and on the basis that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, she could see that there was some purpose in having an alliance with Dale.”
Meanwhile, Anthony and Charles seemed to keep their friendship going strong despite rumors that Dale was having an affair with Charles. One ongoing joke about Anthony was, “He laid down his wife for his country,” but the man himself never commented on any of this, preferring to keep his family life private.
At the same time there were also rumors that Dale was playing up how close she was to Charles in order to draw attention to her fashion business.
Dale was very good at what she did. In addition to her impressive career in the fashion business, she also did a lot of work for charity. One of the non-profits she chaired was the mental-health charity SANE, because of her own experiences with mental illness.
Unfortunately, though, in 1993 she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and it took a terrible toll on her. In the end, she would only outlive her one-time rival Diana by a few months.
But it wasn’t the cancer that killed Dale. Unfortunately the treatment for it caused her to turn to substance abuse, and it was this that began her true, tragic downward spiral.
Dale went to a rehab facility called Farm Place in 1996 in an attempt to get herself clean, but while there she suddenly fell from a window and lost the use of her legs for the rest of her life. Her mental health also completely deteriorated. What had happened? She claimed she had been pushed, but had she?
Dale’s brother Derek tried to answer these questions when he wrote to The Australian in 2007. He said, “I believe she suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder that was triggered by her cancer episode and exacerbated by her failed suicide attempt.
I suspect that Dale was given Prozac when she entered Farm Place and, overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts as a result, jumped from the window. Her subsequent claim that she was pushed was her attempt to make sense of something that was entirely uncharacteristic and inexplicable to her.”
Dale’s mental health continued to deteriorate and at one point she was seen chasing Charles in her wheelchair at a polo match.
According to her brother’s letter, “I doubt anyone who knew Dale was unmoved by her situation and that includes Prince Charles,” but it was clear there was little anyone could do to help her at that point. In June 1997 she was detained under the Mental Health Act after the police had received a call about her erratic behavior.
To make matters worse, Dale’s marriage to Lord Tryon had all but ended by then. He hurried down to see her after she had been taken into custody, but reportedly things had been bad for some time and not helped by their constant presence in the newspapers.
Dale had claimed to the press that during a hospital appointment to check if her cancer had come back, Charles had sent flowers to her, but her husband had not even visited.
There didn’t seem to be a lot of sympathy for Dale from some quarters, either: serious mental-health problems weren’t understood very well back then. Lord Tryon’s mother was quoted by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph as saying, “We are broken-hearted and I am appalled for my grandchildren's sake,” after Dale was detained.
Another anonymous person told the same newspaper, “Lord Tryon is a very nice, decent person. It is unfair that he has been made to appear the cause of her anguish.”
Anthony spoke to the press about his intention to divorce Dale, and The Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying, “The whole thing is a complete tragedy. She has had a breakdown or something like that. The divorce decision has been caused by months of odd behavior. She has flipped before.”
He went on, “I do not understand the workings of the human mind. She has said in the past I am going to murder her." It was a terrible tragedy all round.
Dale was deemed well enough to give an interview in August 1997 after 28 days of having been detained at Salisbury Hospital. She spoke to Chris Hutchins from newspaper the Sunday Mirror and repeated her claim about being pushed from the window. She also said, “I’m not an alcoholic.
How could I bring up four children, run two businesses, as well as my house in the country, and drive over 100 miles two or three times a week and be an alcoholic?”
She insisted that the interviewer felt the back of her skull, which she claimed had been damaged by a blunt object. Not only that, but she claimed that whoever might have pushed her had also stolen a box of letters that contained messages from not only Charles, but the rest of the royal family as well.
She said, “I didn't even know it had been stolen until I read about it in the papers,” but Hutchins didn’t press her about this.
Hutchins wrote in the article, “Friends of the Tryons say she still adores the prince and believes that he feels the same way about her.” And Dale herself said, “Camilla has only ever been a mistress, she still is, and she always will be,” which didn’t exactly hint at harmony between them.
The interviewer asked Dale why she hadn’t been invited to Camilla’s 50th birthday, and she answered, “She and I are not friends, so I wouldn’t expect to be invited.”
But she seemed to be fine with the idea of Charles marrying Camilla sometime in the future. She told the newspaper, “It’s up to the Prince of Wales to decide what he wants to do with his life. He’s doing an awful lot for everyone else, for the country.
I think it’s time for him to make decisions that perhaps bring him happiness. As for Camilla, I get on with my life and leave her to get on with hers.”
But what about Diana, who had been bitterly separated from Charles by then? Dale seemed to bear no ill-will towards her. She simply said, “I was thrilled and happy that [Charles] had found a wife and when they had children. I gave Diana my full and complete support.
We had lunch together at San Lorenzo — and I became great friends with her.” Hutchins noted, “A source close to the princess says that during Kanga's illness, Diana has sent her warm and loving messages.”
Dale also used the interview to defend herself over the polo-match incident. She said, “I went to that polo match because I worked for Inspire, which is the charity that raises money for the spinal unit at Salisbury District Hospital. I would have gone even if the prince was not playing. I love horse events and watching polo, but I was going for Inspire more than any other reason.”
She also claimed that she hadn’t gone near Charles, because “there have been enough pictures of us at polo matches, so I did my utmost to make sure there wasn't another.”
At the end of the interview, Hutchins asked Dale how she was feeling and she had said, “Very happy, very well, adoring seeing my children and being able to go back to work.” She seemed to have big plans for the future, including publishing a book that she’d started while in the psychiatric unit.
Hutchins concluded his piece with, “I could not help but wonder whether Prince Charles will throw a Highgrove party when Kanga celebrates her 50th birthday next January. If anyone in his circle deserves it, she does.”
But Dale never lived to see 50. In the months after that interview she ended up traveling to India to seek help from a homeopathic doctor there, one who had been recommended to her by none other than Charles himself.
Her brother Derek believes it was there that she caught the infection that led to her death, but she had also been suffering from complications from bed sores at the time. On November 15, 1997, she passed away with her family by her side.
The newspapers reported on Dale’s tragic death extensively, as well as the contents of her will. In April 1998 the Sunday Mirror reported that Dale had taken “revenge on her husband” by leaving her children, rather than him, her fortune.
It also noted “there was no bequest to Prince Charles” in the will, although it’s probably safe to say he didn’t need any of the money. Children Zoe, Charles, Edward, and Victoria, who were aged between 18 and 23 at that point, got everything.
Many years later Victoria Tryon did a 2011 interview with the Daily Mail and talked about her mother’s life as she saw it. She had mixed feelings about her overall, it seemed. “I suppose now she would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but in those days less was understood about such conditions,” she said.
“When I was at school there were neverending press reports about mummy, some of them on the front page, calling her mad and all sorts of scandalous things.”
She went on, ”I used to try to hide the newspapers in the common room from all the other girls in case they teased me. It was a horrid, horrid time.” But it turned out she also blamed Dale, not just the paparazzi, for her tough childhood.
She told the paper, “It was embarrassing and it became even more embarrassing because later I learned that mum was actually talking to the papers, which is just not the done thing in such circumstances.”
Victoria also felt that her mother’s issues had affected her education. She said, “One of the things that made life hard was that all the scandals seemed to blow up when I was in the middle of my GCSEs.
I did get ten GCSEs and two A-levels in History of Art and Classical Civilisation, but felt I could have got higher grades if I hadn’t had all that stress. Mum didn’t care. She was utterly selfish when she was going through her manic periods.”
And she also hated the way her mother treated her father. According to Victoria, Anthony had been frequently furious that Dale talked about Charles so much.
“I didn’t want to believe it at the time, but as the years have gone on I have learned more, and I can see that this is what happened,” Victoria said. “There were fights at home behind closed doors between mum and dad. There were bitter, awful arguments: things you didn’t want to hear.”
Victoria believed that her mother and Charles had enjoyed a “close” relationship, but she didn’t know how to describe it otherwise.
She said, “I don’t and won’t search for a specific word or term to define that relationship, even though my mother has been described as an ‘adulteress’ and a ‘mistress.’ Out of loyalty to my father and the family, I don’t think it’s up to me to say. Besides, in a way, I choose not to believe she was those things.”
Yet despite everything, Anthony did actually remain friends with Charles. Victoria said, “He came round to stay at the house in Wiltshire a few times when I was a child and I never thought too much of it. I know my father is still friendly with him and sees him at shoots and other social events several times a year, and there are certainly no hard feelings.”
Then she added the saddening thought, “My father never stopped loving mum. It was us children who persuaded him to divorce her, because we couldn’t stand all the rows any more.”
Victoria unfortunately had only bad memories of her mother’s final days. She said, “The very sad thing is that, although I was there at her deathbed, I hadn’t been speaking to her in the months leading up to it. It sounds callous, but I had to stop talking to her to save myself from going nuts. It was because of her ghastly behavior. She wouldn’t listen to us when we tried to look after her following the accident.
For example, we wanted her to have practical clothes that wouldn’t get caught in the wheels of her wheelchair, but she still wanted to look glamorous in flowing dresses, which would have been dangerous. It was as if our roles had been reversed, and I was the parent and she was the child.”
She remembered, “I was exhausted and at rock-bottom when I made the decision to stop talking with her. I didn’t have the experience of life that I have now. I couldn’t cope. She was horrible to dad, yet he visited her every day in hospital, bringing all her favorite dishes.
In a way, it is only now that I realize the magnitude of what happened and I am finally dealing with it by concentrating on the good side of mum, because it wasn’t all her fault. She was unwell, both mentally and physically.”
Victoria was making peace with the Tryon family past, though. She told the newspaper that her twin brother Edward was about to become a father, and said, “We already know the child is a girl and one of her names will be one of mum’s. This represents a new era and a fresh start for us.”
She went on, ‘We are all excited and nervous. Mum never had a chance to be a grandmother. I only wish she could have been here.”