Princess Diana agrees to divorce

 

THE Prince and Princess of Wales yesterday agreed formally to divorce. The decision was taken at a private meeting between Prince Charles and Princess Diana at St James's Palace.

But in a gesture seemingly aimed at wrong footing her enemies" at Buckingham Palace, the princess made the news public without warning her husband. And she claimed in a formal statement to have secured a settlement including a royal title and the right to live at Kensington Palace which has yet to be agreed.

The move, which took Downing Street by surprise, caused astonishment and irritation in royal circles.

Divorce became inevitable in December when Queen Elizabeth wrote to both Prince Charles and Princess Diana urging them to make the marriage split final. The princess made it clear that she would reach a decision in her own time despite the immediate agreement of the prince to divorce.

The estranged couple held a rare face to face meeting aimed at setting in motion divorce proceedings after just over three years of separation.

A statement released to PA News shortly afterwards by the princess's press spokeswoman, Ms Jane Atkinson, said "The Princess of Wales has agreed to Prince Charles's request for a divorce.

"The princess will continue to be involved in all decisions relating to the children and will remain at Kensington Palace with offices in St James's Palace.

"The Princess of Wales will retain the title and be known as Diana, Princess of Wales."

Officials at Buckingham Palace rushed out a response after being informed by the media that the statement had been issued. A spokesman said "The queen was most interested to hear that the Princess of Wales had agreed to the divorce.

"We can confirm that the Prince and Princess of Wales had a private meeting this afternoon at St James's Palace. At this meeting details of the divorce settlement and the princess's future role were not discussed. All the details on these matters, including titles, remain to be discussed and settled. This will take time."

Prince Charles evaded questions about the divorce as he left an early evening engagement at the Queen's Gallery. He looked strained as he ducked into his car, nodding briefly at reporters but made no comment when asked how he felt about the split.

Aides to Prince Charles privately admitted they knew nothing of Princess Diana's plans. One said that although the couple agreed to divorce there was no imminent intention on Prince Charles's side to make an official announcement.

Sources made it clear they viewed her claim to have secured a settlement as a bargaining counter designed to "bounce" the prince into meeting her bottom line demands.

Lawyers will now be called in to thrash out details of the multi million pound settlement in what is likely to be a protracted series of negotiations. The financial arrangements will almost certainly be made from income from the Duchy of Cornwall from which the prince funds both his official and private lives and maintenance commitments to Princess Diana and to Princes William and Harry.

The title to be used by the princess is in the gift of Queen Elizabeth and in the long run she will make the decision as to whether her daughter in law can remain a princess.

Courtiers at Buckingham Palace, who have become increasingly exasperated at Princess Diana's activities, will not appreciate attempts to raise the stakes by forcing the issue in advance of legal talks.

Divorce proceedings and the details of the eventual settlement are expected to take months to sort out. There seemed little doubt last night that Princess Diana, who has a significant private income, would win a substantial settlement to help look after the children and to fund her official duties.