Update, October 20: Netflix has acquiesced and will put Tampongate in The Crown’s fifth season, according to actor Dominic West, who plays Prince Charles and should know. Victory!
History, as the old saying goes, is written by the victors. But who wins when the stories we’re told are mere fragments of the truth, slivers of fact that prevent us from seeing the full picture of where we came from and how we ended up here? These are the questions I’ve been mulling over ever since I learned that The Crown, Netflix’s historical drama about Britain’s royal family, will not be including anything about “Tampongate.”
Tampongate (a.k.a. Camillagate) was a scandal that unfolded in 1993, when the transcript of a phone call between Prince Charles and his then-mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was published in the press. The racy, six-minute phone call reportedly took place in 1989, when Charles was still married to Princess Diana, and Camilla was still married to Andrew Parker Bowles, and it included an overwhelmingly horny exchange about Charles yearning to be a feminine hygiene product. Per a transcript in the Mirror:
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.
Does the tampon metaphor totally work here? Not completely. First of all, you really shouldn’t flush tampons down the toilet, especially in Buckingham Palace, which I imagine has old, fragile pipes. And yet the sentiment is lovely in its own way. Charles is conveying his desire to be consumed by his lover, to shed his physical form in order to fully inhabit the body and soul of the woman he adores. Isn’t that kind of sweet? Well, too bad. You won’t be seeing any of it in The Crown, because Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles in the series, doesn’t want his parents to feel uncomfortable.
“When they offered me the role, one of my first questions was — I say questions, I think it was pretty much a statement — ‘We are not doing the tampon phone call,’” O’Connor said.
He explained that, before The Crown, he had done a lot of indie projects where he played “slightly dodgy characters,” “and that this was “my one chance for my parents to see something with no shame and there’s no way I was going to scuttle that by talking about tampons on Netflix.”
The news probably comes as a relief to the real-life Prince Charles, who was reportedly deeply worried about how he and Diana’s relationship would be portrayed in upcoming seasons of the show. But can the series really be considered a faithful representation of history if it doesn’t include this searing glimpse into the psyche of the Prince of Wales? I don’t think so, personally.