Princess Diana and Prince Charles: Separate Lives

Diana is ready to declare independence, putting in doubt the future of the troubled House of Windsor

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 9)

The most plausible alternative is for the Windsors to skip over their dysfunctional generation. The scenario goes this way. The Queen, whose performance during a 40-year tenure in a demanding job has been irreproachable, values above all the stability of the monarchy. Assuming she has inherited her mother's longevity genes -- the Queen Mother is going strong at 92 -- Elizabeth, now 66, could reign another decade or two. By that time she could skip a generation and name Prince William, now 10, to the throne. There has even been speculation in the tabloids that Prince Charles has already asked his mother to be permitted to step aside, though Buckingham Palace strongly denies this.

The turmoil of '92 began when Sarah Ferguson, or Fergie, the notorious Duchess of York, decided that a cramped, duty-bound life-style was not for her and bolted, leaving a trail of dubious liaisons, outsize bills and scandalous tabloid shots of her cavorting topless with a boyfriend in front of her two children. Then Diana went public with her marriage troubles, allowing her brother and close friends to talk to Andrew Morton, whose best-selling book, Diana: Her True Story, detailed her depression, bulimia, suicide attempts and estrangement from her prince. By royal standards of conduct, in which silence is not only golden but iron too, that was bad enough. Then a tape surfaced purporting to be a conversation between her and a too-close friend, James Gilbey, usually described as a man-about-town, and the tabloids began howling.

For a time it appeared that royal scruple still counted for something. While the women made the scandals, their husbands steadfastly said absolutely nothing. But the cellular phone, easy to pick up by ham operators, should be withdrawn from all in court circles. Two weeks ago, the newspapers got hold of a second tape, this time allegedly of an intimate chat between a lonely Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, a married woman with whom he has been linked since well before his marriage to Diana. Thus began Camillagate. John Casey of the Evening Standard wrote last week that he had learned that part of the tape included a discussion of the transmigration of souls. "In the next life," he quotes Charles as saying, "I should like to come back as your trousers."

Whatever rules of taste and fairness once governed even tabloid coverage of the royals have been consumed by the present feeding frenzy. The family has become fodder for London's fierce circulation wars, now particularly hot between the Daily Mirror and the Sun, two working-class tabs. Competition to move the story forward often means making up whatever elements are missing. On the much anticipated royal reunion trip to South Korea two weeks ago, the couple hit the front pages looking sad and sour, under headlines like TORTURED and THE GLUMS. But palace aides deny this, and the conservative Daily Telegraph came to their support by showing some of the tightly cropped pictures beside the full originals. Many grim shots were taken at a war memorial. Others came when the pair were trying to read a detail map as intricacies of the Korean War fighting were being explained to them. Says a photographer who covered the trip: "What are you going to do when the editor says he wants sad pictures?"

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9