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Queen Recognizes Diana As Threat To The Monarchy

Bernard D. Kaplan Hearst Newspapers

Queen Elizabeth’s decision to urge Prince Charles and his estranged wife to divorce as quickly as possible is an admission of the mounting threat Diana poses to the British throne, according to several analysts here.

The queen sent letters Wednesday to the couple urging them to bring their tumultuous, three-year separation to an end by divorcing.

Analysts said Thursday that the queen and Prime Minister John Major have grown increasingly alarmed by the scope and nature of the 34-year-old princess’s challenge to the royal status quo.

The experts noted that Church of England officials, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, immediately spoke up to emphasize that divorce would not jeopardize Charles’ right to the succession. As king, he would also be head of the established church. Previously, doubts were expressed in church circles that a divorced sovereign would be acceptable.

“The whole official establishment has rallied around (the throne),” declared Felicia Smythson, a writer on royal matters. “The enemy is Diana.”

Charles himself moved Thursday to end speculation that after a divorce, he might wed his longtime friend, Camilla Parker Bowles. He issued a statement saying he “has no intention of remarrying.” While a divorce would not disqualify him from becoming king, a second marriage might.

By intervening to urge a quick divorce, the queen and her advisers hope to reduce Diana’s influence, royal watchers claimed.

“They think an ex-princess of Wales will lose importance and attract less public interest, but they could be wrong,” Smythson said.

She added that the queen’s plan could backfire if the public, with whom Diana is already highly popular, sees official pressure for a divorce as an attempt to “punish” her. Diana has said she doesn’t favor a divorce, despite her embittered relations with Charles, but will agree if that is what he wants.

Leonard Scribener, a British constitutional expert, said that “there is now real fear in ruling circles that Diana is becoming the focus of a movement to undermine the existing monarchy. Major is afraid the opposition Labor Party could become Diana’s champion.”

In a sensational, hourlong interview last month, Diana questioned whether her husband was capable of handling the job of king. Some saw it as a step toward cutting Charles out of the succession in favor of the couple’s son, 13-year-old Prince William.

“If William became the heir to the throne, it would inevitably heighten the role and influence of Diana as the mother of the next king,” Scribener observed. “The royal family would then find it impossible to brush her aside even if she and Charles are divorced.”

“Diana obviously knew what she was doing when she accepted an invitation to speak on a controversial subject along with Labor politicians,” Scribener said. “She is no longer an innocent in these matters. The speech threw down the gauntlet to her opponents and was meant to.”

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