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Charles and Diana Agree on Divorce Terms -

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Edition: U.S. / Global


Charles and Diana Agree on Divorce Terms

Published: July 13, 1996

LONDON, July 12— It began as an old-fashioned fairy tale but soon became just another failed modern marriage, brought down by anger, tears and adultery. And today, 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. Today'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's proposals and by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales's 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's Palace for entertaining," as long as she asks permission first.

Diana will be forced to vacate her offices next to her ex-husband's at St. James's Palace, but will be allotted space at Kensington Palace for new offices. And although she gets to keep all the jewelry she has amassed during her marriage, she will relinquish -- at her own request, Buckingham Palace said -- a host of honorary military titles.

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's right to become King of England, but if he remarries, Church of England officials have said he might jeopardize his position of supreme governor of the church. However, the Prince has said he has no intention of marrying again.

Today's announcement brings to a sorry end a saga that began with hope and romance more than 15 years ago when Charles, then a somewhat awkward 32-year-old bachelor, announced that he planned to marry the shy Diana, then only 20. But afer a lavish wedding that lifted the spirits of a down-in-the-dumps nation and was eagerly watched by tens of millions of television viewers around the world, relations between the couple began to slide into misunderstanding and hatred.

The couple had few common interests: Charles loved horses, his garden and discussions about philosophy, while the Princess adored fancy clothes, listening to pop music on her Walkman, and telephone gossip. Moreover, it seemed that Charles was still involved with another woman -- Camilla Parker Bowles, according to British newspaper reports -- and Diana descended into depression and bulimia, making several half-hearted suicide attempts that were widely seen as cries for help.

After a number of years in which the couple's private unhappiness had become clear even in their public appearances, Andrew Morton, one of a legion of British journalists who specialize in the royal family, published "Diana: Her True Story," which revealed all the sordid details of the royal marriage and managed to shatter whatever myths were left. More revelations of mad, bad and bizarre behavior on both sides followed, and in December 1992 the couple announced that they had agreed to a formal separation.

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