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As one source close to the family tells it, British reporters very nearly destroyed a budding friendship with Lady Jane Wellesley, 27, the darkly attractive journalist daughter of the present Duke of Wellington. Charles and Lady Jane still see each other occasionally, but marriage now seems unlikely. Another press favorite, a vivacious blonde named Davina Sheffield, 28, was removed from the royal marriage sweepstakes by a former fiance, who ungallantly blabbed that Davina and he had been lovers.
Lady Sarah Spencer, willowy, red-haired and 23, spent a skiing holiday with Charles and other friends last winter at a Swiss chalet. She, however, insists they are only chums. In an interview with Woman's Own magazine she gave a rare close-up view of the bachelor Prince. Charles, she disclosed, makes his own dates (not, as some have said, through third parties). He may pick up the woman in his Aston Martin or invite her to meet him at one of the royal residences.
A weekend at Windsor Castle, Sarah confided, requires a suitcase of clothes riding habit for morning, day dress for lunch, skirt for tea, long dress for dinner. A bit of formality too: she claims she always calls Charles "Sir."
"Charles makes me laugh a lot. I really enjoy being with him," Sarah said, adding firmly that "there is no chance of my marrying him. I'm not in love with him.
And I wouldn't marry anyone I didn't love whether he were the dustman or the King of England." According to Sarah, Charles is a "romantic who falls in love easily."
The Prince once admitted that "I've fallen in love with all sorts of girls." But he also cautioned that "falling madly in love with someone is not necessarily the starting point to getting married. Marriage is a much more important business. It's essentially a question of mutual love and respect for each other."
Charles remains lightheartedly coy about his marital prospects. "If I got married, I wouldn't be able to do the samba like I did the other night," he told reporters on his visit to South America in March. Meanwhile, he has turned increasingly serious about his royal duties since retiring from active duty in the navy last year with the rank of commander.
In South America, he observed, "people think I'm 22 or 23 years old, not very flattering when you think about it." The Prince, points out a defender at the Palace, "had three years at the university, then six years of military service. He came out just in time to be totally involved in the Silver Jubilee Year. He is only now emerging into a role of his own."