When officials at Buckingham Palace solemnly announced the formal separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales last week, they pleaded for “a degree of privacy and understanding” for the mismatched couple. But there was no privacy and precious little understanding from the press, politicians or the general public. Instead of lowering the deafening volume of speculation surrounding their marriage, the announcement had exactly the opposite effect. And rather than calming fears about the future of the Royal Family, it raised new issues. Even declared monarchists worried openly at the prospect of Prince Charles and Diana sniping away at each other from separate palaces and rival courts. “Constitutionally, this is going to be a nightmare,” said Conservative MP Jeremy Hayes in a remark that reflected the widespread fears. “We do not want a monarchy with two warring houses.”
Two issues led the list of concerns raised by the separation: Can Prince Charles ever serve as head of the Church of England if and when he becomes king? And could Diana ever be crowned queen? Officially, Buckingham Palace, the British government and top church leaders maintained that the separation does not change Charles’s position as heir to the throne, or alter Diana’s position as his future queen. But other
politicians, royal watchers and even many churchmen maintained that the marital split, in fact, changes everything. The separation, they predicted, is only the first step towards a divorce, which some royal watchers say could be announced as soon as next year. That would make it almost impossible for Charles to serve as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, one of the monarch’s many roles, because the church frowns on divorce and will not remarry divorced people.
More troublesome to the Royal Family is the future of Diana, by far their most glamorous figure. She will continue to live at Kensington Palace in west London, while Charles will divide his time between Highgrove, his estate in Gloucestershire, and an apartment in Clarence House, the Queen Mother’s residence located a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. The couple will maintain separate staffs and make only rare joint appearances. But even if they do not divorce, the prospect of Diana becoming queen while living separately from her king is unthinkable for Britons accustomed to a family which, in Elizabeth’s reign, has projected itself as a model of domestic life—however unsuccessfully. The tabloid The Sun declared: “It would be a living lie, an insulting sham and a pretence that would fool no one.” Most Britons seemed to agree. A poll
for the Daily Mail found that 82 per cent believe that Diana can never be queen.
The poll had another remarkable finding. More than half of those questioned—54 per cent—predicted that Charles himself will never succeed his mother on the throne. Should he and Diana divorce, the prince’s public standing could be so fatally damaged that he might surrender his right to the throne and let it pass directly to his eldest son, 10-year-old Prince William. Such a scenario, seemingly outlandish just a few weeks ago, was suddenly on the lips of even traditionalist Tory MPS, who 9 mused publicly about “skip| ping a generation” and let=> ting Charles’s son eventually I follow his grandmother, who is now 66, onto the throne as ° King William V.
But events may overtake even that possibility: for the first time in living memory, outright republicans are finding an attentive new audience for their views among those Britons exasperated by the Royal Family’s string of scandals. As a result of “the pushing of the self-destruct button by the monarchy,” Labour MP Dennis Skinner told the House of Commons, “the reigning Queen could be the last.”
In the short run, though, last week’s announcement looked like a personal victory for Diana. After enduring 11 years of unhappy marriage, she ended up with an arrangement that preserves her position. “The Princess of Wales has everything she could possibly want while staying inside the Royal Family,” said author Andrew Morton, whose sensational biography of the princess, Diana-. Her True Story, blew the lid off the Waleses’ marriage last summer. “She still has custody of her children; she still has her royal position; she still has her royal duties. And now she’s managed to ease out the man in her life, Prince Charles, who over the years has given her so much pain.” As well, reports suggested that Diana will receive a substantial share of Charles’s income: as much as $2 million.
The separation overshadowed an event that the Royal Family had hoped would mark a more positive end to what the Queen described last month as its “horrible year.” In a Church of Scotland ceremony, in the tiny Scottish village of Crathie, Princess Anne wed Royal Navy Cmdr. Timothy Laurence. It was her second marriage, and followed last April's divorce from Capt. Mark Phillips. But what most interested the media was whether Diana would attend the family service. In the end she did not, further underlining the deep divisions that have shattered Britain’s Royal Family.
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