Angry at the spectacle of soiled royal linen being washed in public, Queen Elizabeth II has ordered her son Prince Charles and his estranged wife, Princess Diana, to divorce, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday night.
The queen’s command came in separate letters to Charles and Diana earlier this week, a palace spokesman said.
In response, Charles, 47, whose future position as England’s king would not be affected by a divorce, has agreed in writing to formally end his 14-year marriage to Diana.
The response from Diana, 34, separated from Charles for the past three years, is not known. With her consent, a divorce could come within the next few months, according to constitutional specialist Vernon Bogdanor.
“After considering the present situation, the queen wrote to both the prince and princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh (the queen’s husband, Prince Philip), that an early divorce is desirable,” a palace statement said, adding that Elizabeth and Philip “will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period.”
British analysts said Wednesday night that a television interview last month in which Diana admitted to adultery was the catalyst for the queen’s decision to order the divorce.
Last year, Charles admitted adultery with a longtime lover, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, senior prelate of the Church of England which British sovereigns head, and Prime Minister John Major were both consulted and agreed with the queen’s action, the palace said.
In context, the divorce itself appears less an issue than the financial arrangements for Diana and custody of 13-year-old future king Prince William and his 11-year-old brother Prince Harry.
With the marriage irretrievably broken, analysts said, the queen’s concern was for the future of the monarchy and the well-being of her two grandsons.
Diana, whose portrayal of herself as the betrayed victim of palace intrigue has found strong popular support in Britain, is casting about for a future role once she is no longer part of the official royal family.
Once the royal divorce is a matter of record, the key question will become Charles’ future intentions. Will he marry Parker-Bowles?
It would need the queen’s permission, but constitutional experts say there is no legal impediment.