Diana takes cash and lets a title go Royals: The divorce proceedings of Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana begin Monday, but the terms of estrangement have already been set.

July 13, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- She'll still be rich and famous, but she'll no longer be called Her Royal Highness.

Princess Diana took the money, the apartment and the access to her kids but gave up her royal title in a divorce deal with Prince Charles that was announced yesterday.

Formal divorce proceedings begin Monday, with the 15-year marriage due to officially end by Aug. 28, without either having to appear in court.

The announcement was made by the couple's lawyers: Farrer and Co. on behalf of Charles, and Mishcon de Reya on behalf of Diana.

It seems that in the end, the Windsors gave the blushing virgin bride turned tabloid topic nearly everything she wanted -- except for royal respect.

They also left themselves with a potentially gigantic etiquette problem that could stretch well into the next century.

Even though the royals say Diana will still be "regarded" as part of the family by Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, just what they will do with this 35-year-old woman, the mother of a future king, remains uncertain.

Will the world's most famous woman curtsy to her sons and her ex-husband as non-royals are expected to do to royal highnesses? Where will she be placed in the seating chart at royal events?

L For the record, she will be called Diana, Princess of Wales.

"The British monarchy is in danger of being considered untraditional and mean in its decision to strip Diana from the designation which is rightfully hers," said Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of "Burke's Peerage," the guide to Britain's aristocracy.

4 "This is without precedent in history," he said.

The last major royal slight occurred after the 1936 abdication crisis, when Edward VIII gave up the throne for the woman he loved, Baltimore divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson. When the couple married, Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was denied the HRH designation.

"Diana must now be the most despised member of the royal family of all time," Brooks-Baker says. "Mrs. Warfield Simpson takes second place."

Being a semi-detached member of the royal family does have its rewards, though.

Financial terms of the royal divorce weren't announced, but it's believed that Diana will receive a one-time buyout of up to $23.25 million. Royal-watchers say that Charles will probably need a handout from his mother to fund the deal.

Diana also gets to keep her apartment at Kensington Palace, where other royals also live.

Diana's office will move from St. James's Palace, where Prince Charles lives, to Kensington Palace, but the blow should be more than offset by Charles' providing annual office funding, said to be up to $600,000.

The couple will share access to the children, Prince William, 14, and Prince Harry, 11, who is third in the line of succession to the English throne after his father and older brother.

It's believed that "gagging" clauses will bar the couple from commenting on the deal. The lawyers said the agreement included a "confidentiality clause."

What does the 47-year-old Charles get out of all this? Plenty. First, there's freedom from a marriage he considered all but over in 1986. The divorce won't affect his right to be king or Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Britain's state religion.

Previously, Charles has said he would not remarry, for to do so might imperil his ability to head the state church. Diana cited Charles' long-time girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, as the third party in the marriage.

The Sun, one of London's most aggressive tabloids, reported yesterday that Charles called Parker Bowles and announced, "I'm free at last."

With yesterday's announcement, the final days of the royal marriage -- and divorce -- are upon Britain.

It has been quite a royal ride, from the highs of the royal wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral in July 1981 to the lows of tit-for-tat, tell-all television interviews in which Charles and Diana both admitted adultery.

The public image of both has undergone remarkable transformation. When Lady Diana Spencer first appeared on the world stage, she was an attractive, bashful 19-year-old with a soft voice and penetrating blue eyes.

Few realized that behind the demure facade was a complex character. She married her prince and bore him an heir and a spare. Yet she had a catalog of emotional problems, deliberately injuring herself while also battling bulimia, an eating disorder.

Her marriage may have crumbled in the 1980s, reaching a nadir with a 1992 separation announcement, but from the rubble emerged a new Di, a sort of superwoman in designer frocks. She worked out in the gym, raised money for charity and battled her husband for the hearts and minds of Britons.

Yet she would be tarnished by revelations of her affair with a cavalry officer, James Hewitt, and her friendships with a string of married men. Rugby star Will Carling saw his marriage fall apart when it was revealed he had been friendly with the princess.

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