February 29, 1996 in Nation/World

Split Decision Di Agrees To Divorce And A Princely Sum

New York Daily News
 

Princess Diana on Wednesday pulled the plug on her one-time fairy tale marriage to Prince Charles - and pulled a royal fast one by alerting the press before she told Queen Elizabeth.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering will end a marriage oggled by the world - from the vows through the ensuing 14-year scandalous, gilded soap opera of sex, lies and audiotapes.

As Charles, the heir to the British throne kept mum, Diana, 34, declared it was the “saddest day of her life.”

But the British tabloids were crediting the crafty princess - who apparently exits with her title, palace, wealth and children - with a “massive victory” over the decidedly unamused folks at Buckingham Palace.

The announcement of the split seemed to take the Royal Family by surprise - no doubt because the news was publicly released as Diana was phoning the Queen, who had been pushing for a divorce.

Keeping a stiff upper lip, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said dryly: “The queen was most interested to hear that the princess of Wales had agreed to a divorce.”

The queen’s spokeswoman said the “details are still to be discussed” - including a substantial monetary settlement and the sensitive matter of Diana’s title.

According to Diana’s spin doctors, the princess informed Charles, 47, of her decision on Wednesday during a reportedly amicable meeting at St. James’s Palace, the prince’s swank London digs.

“The Princess of Wales will retain the title and be known as Diana, Princess of Wales,” her spokeswoman insisted. “The princess will continue to be involved in all decisions relating to the children and will remain at Kensington Palace.”

Diana, though, agreed to drop use of the title “her royal highness” - a gift from the Queen.

Diana’s lawyer, Anthony Julius, said, “It was an exceedingly difficult decision and one that the princess has taken with immense sadness and regret.

“It’s not a total settlement,” he added. “It’s quite open-ended, and only when the details are agreed on will a divorce occur.”

A date for the divorce of the star-crossed couple - who separated in December, 1992 - was not immediately set.

Speculation about the financial terms has centered on a possible $22 million payout to Diana, which would ensure her $750,000 annually. But Charles won’t be able to come up with that kind of money - unless his mum helps out.

His annual income from the vast Duchy of Cornwall estates is estimated at about $5 million, with more than half going to expenses. Diana owns $30 million in jewels, but it wasn’t clear if they belong to her or to the crown.

The surprise at Buckingham Palace provided fodder for blaring headlines.

“What a Farce” shouted The Mirror, which called the breakup “the divorce from hell.”

“Right to the end, the separation of Charles and Diana has been a total mess,” the paper sniffed in an editorial. “Now they can’t even work out whether or not they are getting a divorce.”

The more staid Times praised Diana’s decision and said she “deserves to lead a dignified and useful life.”

Apparently the couple’s children, William - the 13-year-old heir to the throne, after Charles - and Harry, 11, knew of Diana’s decision before their dad or grandma.

According to The Sun, a London tabloid, Diana traveled to Eton on Tuesday to break the news to William. On the way, she pulled into a parking lot and spent a half-hour on her mobile phone with Harry, who is at boarding school, the paper said.

Diana did not address whether she intends to marry again, though it wasn’t immediately known how that might affect her position. Charles has said he has no intention of remarrying - even though his longtime paramour, Camilla Parker Bowles, divorced last year. The law says he can assume the throne as long as he doesn’t marry a Catholic.

The royal breakup ends a marriage that captivated millions when the spectacular ceremony was televised live around the globe to 500 million people on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

They quickly produced “the heir and the spare” - Princes William and Harry. But by the mid-‘80s the marriage was showing signs of strain.

Diana’s unhappiness burst into the open with the June, 1992 publication of the book, “Diana: Her True Story,” in which author Andrew Morton revealed her bouts with bulimia, alleged suicide attempts and jealousy over Charles’ ongoing relationship with Bowles.

MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE SETTLEMENT What Princess Diana takes away from her marriage: Her title as princess. Or so Diana says. Buckingham Palace says they’ll talk about it. Her home at Kensington Palace, Diana says. Buckingham Palace says they’ll talk about it. Her role as mother of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Prince Harry. A lot of money, but they’ll have to talk about that too. Her public appearances as informal ambassador for Britain. Prime Minister John Major has already said that would continue. Her celebrity. Buckingham Palace can’t do anything about it. Adoring swarms of photographers, TV cameras, tabloid reporters and royal enthusiasts. No chance they’ll leave her alone.

Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE SETTLEMENT What Princess Diana takes away from her marriage: Her title as princess. Or so Diana says. Buckingham Palace says they’ll talk about it. Her home at Kensington Palace, Diana says. Buckingham Palace says they’ll talk about it. Her role as mother of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Prince Harry. A lot of money, but they’ll have to talk about that too. Her public appearances as informal ambassador for Britain. Prime Minister John Major has already said that would continue. Her celebrity. Buckingham Palace can’t do anything about it. Adoring swarms of photographers, TV cameras, tabloid reporters and royal enthusiasts. No chance they’ll leave her alone.


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