It began as an old-fashioned fairy tale but soon became just another failed modern marriage, brought down by anger, tears and adultery. And Friday, almost 15 years after the wedding between Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, the Prince of Wales, the consummately incompatible couple announced that they had finally reached an agreement on the terms for their divorce.
Under the agreement, announced in a joint statement by Buckingham Palace, representing Charles, and Anthony Julius, Diana’s lawyer, the princess will receive a big lump-sum payment instead of regular alimony checks.
Neither side would release details of the financial settlement, but London newspapers have reported that Diana is getting about $22.5 million in cash, as well as about $600,000 a year earmarked to maintain her private office.
She is to give up her right to be Queen of England and to be called “Her Royal Highness.” Queen Elizabeth II was reported to have been ready to allow Diana to retain the honorific, but Prince Charles was said to be adamant that she give it up.
The removal of the “Royal Highness” title, which separates the royal family from the rest of British nobility, officially obliges Diana to curtsey to others who have it - her ex-husband, for instance, and even her own children.
But the Palace said, rather cryptically, that Princess Diana will continue to be “regarded as a member of the royal family” and “will from time to time receive invitations to state and national public occasions” at the invitation “of the sovereign or the Government.”
Diana and Charles, the heir to the British throne, have been formally separated for over three years and have been trying to reach a divorce agreement since February, but negotiations have bogged down in angry demands and counter-demands.
Friday’s statement, though, dismissed in a paragraph all those months of antagonism, asserting that the settlement was “amicable” and had been “greatly assisted by both the fairness of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ proposals and by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales’ ready acceptance of them.”
The agreement gives Diana and Charles equal access to their children, Prince William, 14, who is set to succeed his father as King of England, and his brother, Prince Harry, 11. The children spend most of the year at boarding school, and have been alternating holidays with each parent, so there seems little likelihood that the children’s lives will be greatly altered.
Diana will also be allowed to keep her apartment at Kensington Palace “with the Queen’s agreement,” will be given access to the jets used by the royal family, and will, Buckingham Palace said, be able “to use the state apartments at St. James Palace for entertaining,” as long as she asks permission first.
It is not clear what would happen if Diana were to remarry, but experts on the royal family believe that she would probably have to relinquish many benefits of the divorce agreement, like her home, the financing of her office and possibly the title “Princess of Wales.”
The divorce will not alter Charles’ right to become King of England.