Olivia Williams: The Crown’s tampon phone call was ‘the absolute best scene’

The Crown recreated the infamous “Tampongate” phone call between then-Prince Charles and then-Camilla Parker Bowles. It was an okay episode, and I liked that we saw the start of the call, then they skipped ahead three years to when the call was released in the tabloids and that’s when The Crown dramatized the actual phone call, tampons and all. Peter Morgan even included the fact that Camilla was in a moment of domestic bliss with her family and she had to step away to talk to Charles. Just another reminder that Charles and Camilla wrecked two marriages, although obviously, the Parker Bowles marriage was a much different beast altogether. Anyway, Olivia Williams was a fantastic Camilla, just as horsey as can be. Apparently, the tampon phone call was her favorite scene.

Olivia Williams is standing by The Crown’s depiction of “Tampongate.” The British actress, 54, who plays Camilla Parker Bowles in season 5 of the hit Netflix drama, told The Times Saturday that the show’s reimagined conversation between her character and the then-Prince Charles and Camilla is “the absolute best scene.”

“I think the writing and the way this episode is structured is so brilliant,” added Williams about how director May el-Toukhy portrayed Charles’s cheating on the late Princess Diana.

“I would like to make it illegal for anyone to comment upon the inclusion of this conversation who doesn’t actually watch the episode,” she continued. “If you decide because your principles are so high that you’re not going to watch the episode and then you choose to comment, your opinion is of no value. What this episode does is an extraordinary piece of film-making.”

“Tampongate” occurred in January 1993 when a real-life phone conversation between Charles and Camilla was leaked to The Sunday Mirror. During the six-minute chat, Charles told Camilla that he wanted to “live inside” her trousers and then joked that he could be reincarnated as a Tampax tampon. Amid giggles, Camilla — who was married to Andrew Parker Bowles at the time — later added that she “desperately, desperately” yearned for him too.

According to The Sunday Mirror, the transcript was taken from a 1989 conversation between the pair and was originally published by the British tabloid The People with the tell-all headline “Charles and Camilla — the tape.” It remains unclear exactly how the recording reached the newspapers, but The Crown imagines the private call was intercepted by a wandering wiretapper in real time and sold for profit.

[From People]

The Crown played it pretty close to the truth – the recording had been “intercepted” by an amateur radio enthusiast and the recording had been sold to a paper years before it was published. Now, there’s always been a question about who originally recorded the call, because it was widely believed that the amateur enthusiast had merely picked up a recording which was being aired in the hopes that someone would notice, as in… something very fishy was going on.

I agree with Olivia that the episode was well-written and well-directed, but my least favorite part was Peter Morgan basically using “Princess Anne” to largely give Charles a pass on it. I hated how we only really saw Diana’s reaction to the call and not the PUBLIC reacting to the call. And the public was aghast – yes, the publication of the call was an invasion of privacy, but it was still the heir to the throne (and future head of the Church of England) longing to be a tampon for his married mistress.

Photos courtesy of Netflix/The Crown, Cat Morley/Avalon, Avalon.

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13 Responses to “Olivia Williams: The Crown’s tampon phone call was ‘the absolute best scene’”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I did think it was actually very well done, and not in a way that excuses the conversation. It showed how it was an invasion of privacy, it showed how the press sat on it for years (and with the one editor or whoever saying “we need to at least buy it so no one else does”, making people wonder what else the press is sitting on re: the royals), AND it showed how…casual, I guess? Charles and Camilla were in their affair.

    Charles just called up her house and had to make small talk with Andrew while Camilla went to the bedroom even though she was in the middle of playing games with her kids. She knew her role, for Charles, was to leave the family at that moment and talk to him. She couldn’t have said “sorry we’re playing cards, I’ll get back to you.”

    Charles expected her to drop everything for him, that was part of the deal, and that episode showed that she did. I think it did a good of making you feel sympathy for the invasion of privacy while also thinking “well you shouldn’t have been calling up a married woman and having a sexually explicit conversation while you’re married yourself.”

    I do agree that I wish it showed more of the public reaction to the call and how that call has followed him for decades now.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      ITA and TBH what was said was time compared to nowadays. At that time there was still a lot of reverence for the BRF which was why the was such a public outrage as well as the sympathy Diana got.

      Hearing it recreated make me cringe so hard – the whole conversation was just sooo cringe. Given that we know what they look like – the sound of them making sexy talk just made my ears bleed.

      • Betsy says:

        I know that no one likes Charles or Camilla, but I think we can talk about them without implying that one has to achieve a certain level of attractiveness in order to enjoy their sexuality.

    • clarissa says:

      couldn’t agree with you more. the parallels between then and now are uncanny. they never learn

  2. BeanieBean says:

    Interesting how People magazine frames the phone conversation as ‘reimagined’ when the writer says he used the transcript of the call. I think that’s what I recall reading. In any case I love Ms William’s response! You don’t get to comment if you didn’t even watch it! In fact, you should be jailed!

    • Kate says:

      Still reimagined in terms of the visuals and tone of voice, even if the words were taken verbatim from the transcript. I thought they did a good job with the episode.

      • SomeChick says:

        The actual recording was available at the time. You could call a phone number and hear it!!

        I do think they softpedaled it, like just about everything around Chuck, but it’s still pretty terrible.

  3. A says:

    “the recording had been “intercepted” by an amateur radio enthusiast”

    HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH, yeah right. I’ll have to look into it some more, but I vaguely remember reading somewhere that this explanation, that it was picked up by an amateur “radio enthusiast” held absolutely no water at ALL. To this day, there is no definitive answer on how this call was intercepted and recorded. I also vaguely remember that the “amateur radio enthusiast” couldn’t keep his story straight to save his life, but again, I’ll have to go and look at this more thoroughly to be sure.

    And honestly, people shouldn’t, and weren’t, appalled at the fact that the FFK of the UK wanted to be a tampon. There is not a single one of us here who hasn’t said something cringe or embarrassing in a private conversation to somebody, somewhere. What appalled people was the infidelity. What appalled people is that Charles was cheating on Diana, trashing her in the press, calling her crazy, and treating her all around horribly.

    • DK says:

      While I do agree that people *shouldn’t* be appalled by the tampon-talk for its content (rather than its infidelity implications), and that by today’s much franker conversations about sex, bodies, etc., comparing oneself to a tampon is hardly a big deal, I have to disagree that at the time, that wasn’t part of what was appalling to people.

      I absolutely remember people being appalled specifically by the tampon part. Yes, also the whole affair rankled folks, for sure, but in the 90s, people were still hugely icked-out by menstruation; it was not an open topic of conversation; and despite it being a natural monthly occurrence for a huge portion of the population, by and large women were still made to feel that menstruating – and the products they need for menstruation – were taboo topics.

      And so people were absolutely grossed out by Charles’ comment, whether they should have been or not. And it was absolutely made worse by the fact that the future king was describing himself as wanting to be something that was so gross and taboo to so many (again, even though tampons shouldn’t be considered that way, they were, in popular opinion, at the time).

      And yes, of course we’ve all said cringey things and most of us would prefer our naughty texts/pics/etc. never get shared or repeated, but at the time – and I think probably still today even – the fact that his sexy talk was so decidedly un-sexy was also part of what appalled people back then. Like…how can he be SO bad at dirty talk?

      Again, you’re right that these are not the things we *should* judge people for, but at the time, I certainly remember the conversation around this was absolutely people judging him for all that.

  4. Zazzoo says:

    It was very sympathetic. The violation was cringey. Admittedly I haven’t had a nasty phone convo like that since my twenties but nothing wrong with being in teenage love in your 40s. In another context it could be very sweet.

  5. manda says:

    o.m.g! I had NO idea that camilla was being played by Olivia Williams! That wig was amazing!

  6. Jennifer says:

    The whole thing is both hilarious and cringe and makes you feel sorry for THAT conversation being caught, all at once.

  7. AMA1977 says:

    We just watched last night and I had to look away, it was so cringey and awkward and painful. And I felt so bad for Camilla’s family, watching her put them on the back burner to go have that awful, awkward conversation with Stupid Charles. He’s a gigantic, selfish, fussy, peevish, ill-tempered baby and she enables him. Even if the scene didn’t happen exactly as shown (and it almost surely didn’t) she still prioritized his need for her to drop everything and that’s distasteful.

    I did think that the show was too “even-handed” in this episode and on the whole with the Wales’ marriage. Diana had the reasonable expectation that her husband would support her, love her, be a partner, and like spending time with her, and Charles simply wanted a titled incubator. He treated her terribly and had the option at every stage to do better, but didn’t because he didn’t want to. Then he got angry that she didn’t follow the “plan” that nobody told her.

    The information about the Prince’s Trust was positive and I give him a grudging point, then immediately take it back because it’s peanuts compared with what they (the RF) cost. I did enjoy the club/disco scene, and if Charles actually did cut loose with the kids as was shown, I will give him a cookie crumb for that. But on the whole, I don’t know what he’s b!tching about, they could have (should have??) been much, MUCH more brutal. This was restrained. As my husband said, “Chuck, we all saw you lose it about the damn pen a few weeks ago, NOBODY thinks that you’re really a good guy.” 😂🤣