Princess Diana and Prince Charles: Separate Lives

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

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So ardent is the press in its pursuit of new rumors that reporters have become targets of charges that they have crossed the line. Last week Lord McGregor of Durris, the chairman of the British Press Complaints Commission, defended the notion that the royals were public property, but nonetheless called some of the stories "prurient reporting." He added, "The most recent intrusive and speculative treatment by sections of the press (and indeed by broadcasters) of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales is an odious exhibition of journalists dabbling their fingers in the stuff of other people's souls."

William Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council and former editor of the Times of London, also made an unusual, almost romantic appeal for some sympathy for the beleaguered couple. Writing in the Independent, a dead-serious newspaper that makes a point of ignoring the royals when at all possible, he noted, "The Prince of Wales is not a tiresome cad, the Princess of Wales is not a crazy witch."

The author has a persuasive notion about why Charles, who often seems obtuse, is so elusive. He places the responsibility largely on gruff Prince Philip, whose military deportment may have terrified the little boy. Philip thought it took a hard education to make a strong prince, and packed the sensitive Charles off to Gordonstoun in Scotland -- a place that was as much marine boot camp as school. He hated it. Of Diana, Rees-Mogg said that "she knows herself to be a remarkable person, and remarkable people usually need to be admired. It is no good asking a star to accept the role of a glowworm."

Their marriage was doomed from the start, he wrote, because each had slogged through a hard childhood and needed an exceptional amount of emotional support that the other was unable to give. He portrays Diana as the more robust personality of the two, a born leader who will only grow stronger. In the end he fancifully envisioned them both in the 15th century. She would be another Joan of Arc, commanding armies in battle. Charles would be Archbishop Henry Chichele, founder of All Souls College, Oxford. In the 20th century, says the author, "we must be compassionate to them." At the palace, the article was a hit.

But the Windsors still remain uneasy with their St. Joan. After all, she does their job better than they do, and she is fully aware of her power. Many people think she holds the future of the monarchy in her hands, both as the mother of Prince William, the future King, and as the most popular and successful royal now active. If she were to leave, the country would not suddenly turn into a republic, but the burden on the institution would be heavy.

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