Diana agrees to a divorce Palace says details are being worked out

February 29, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- She claims a title, the royal apartment and the influence over the kids. He, as always, remains first in line to be the king of England.

Yesterday, Princess Diana announced she had agreed to divorce Prince Charles, a move that marked the beginning of the end of the world's most publicized marital breakup.

A final divorce settlement still needs to be worked out. Prince Charles' position as heir apparent to his mother Queen Elizabeth II's throne is not imperiled by the action, according to constitutional experts.

Even though Princess Diana's spokeswoman said part of a deal had been done, a spokesman for Queen Elizabeth said details "remain to be discussed and settled."

Princess Diana's rush-hour announcement caught a lot of people by surprise, even though the Prince and Princess of Wales have been separated for a little over three years and have both admitted to adultery in televised interviews.

"The Princess of Wales has agreed to Princes Charles' request for a divorce," the statement said.

"The Princess will continue to be involved in all decisions relating to the children and will remain at Kensington Palace with offices in St. James's Palace.

"The Princess of Wales will retain the title and be known as Diana, Princess of Wales."

The response of the Queen's spokesman at Buckingham Palace was icy. "The Queen was most interested to hear that the Princess of Wales had agreed to a divorce," the statement said.

"We can confirm that the Prince and Princess of Wales had a private meeting this afternoon at St. James's Palace. At this meeting details of the divorce settlement and the Princess' future role were not discussed. All the details on these matters, including title, remain to be discussed and settled. This will take time."

But a royal divorce is clearly going to happen, sooner rather than later. Had she not granted her consent, Princess Diana, 34, and Prince Charles, 47, would have been forced to remain separated for five years before gaining a divorce under British law. Princess Diana's announcement saves the couple -- and the royal family -- nearly two more years of royal headaches.

In December, after years of marital bickering brought the royal family worldwide derision, Queen Elizabeth acted to end the marriage by sending the couple an ultimatum to get a divorce.

Now, it's up to the lawyers to cut the final deal, which will likely include a financial settlement fit for a queen.

"The negotiations will begin," Princess Diana's lawyer, Anthony Julius, told Britain's Press Association.

Later, Mr. Julius told the British Broadcasting Corp., "It was an exceptionally difficult decision and one which the Princess of Wales has taken with immense sadness and regret."

The marriage between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, dubbed Shy Di by the tabloids, began with a glittering July 1981 wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral. The couple produced two sons, William, 13, second in line to the throne, and Harry, 11.

They also created tabloid headlines and controversy.

Prince Charles apparently never got over a long-ago love affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and admitted he had carried on an adulterous relationship with her. Princess Diana suffered from bulimia, an eating disorder; had an affair; and said royal courtiers were out to get her, problems she aired publicly during a television interview last year.

During the same interview, she questioned the fitness of her husband to be king. She also said she wanted a role as a roving ambassador so that she could be the "queen of people's hearts."

Apparently, the only person in Britain, if not the world, who thought there was any romance left in this marriage was romance writer Dame Barbara Cartland, Princess Diana's step-grandmother. She claimed that Prince Charles was the only man Princess Diana ever loved.

"I am very upset about the whole thing," she told the Press Association. Marital scandals and divorce are nothing new in the royal family.

Edward VIII triggered a constitutional crisis and was forced to abdicate almost 60 years ago when he decided to marry a divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson of Baltimore.

Prince Charles' sister, Princess Anne, and his aunt, Princess Margaret, have been divorced. His younger brother, Prince Andrew, is also separated.

Henry VIII annulled two of his marriages. George I divorced his cousin, Sophia.

"A divorce does not affect the constitutional position of Prince Charles in any way," constitutional expert Lord St. John of Fawsley told the Press Association.

"His right of succession to the throne rests on statute, not on marital status."

If he becomes king, Prince Charles will also become head of the Church of England, which does not recognize remarriage of divorced people. Prince Charles has said he has no remarriage plans.

Lord St. John of Fawsley added, "The position of the Princess of Wales is radically changed by divorce because she will not become queen." He said the title, Diana, Princess of Wales, was "in accordance with normal usage."

But with all things royal, it is Queen Elizabeth who will have the last word. She gives the titles. And she can take them away.

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