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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But her directness and warmth, so charming to outsiders, may be the qualities that alienated the remote Prince Charles. Prince Andrew may have erred by marrying a lively girl with no visible sense of responsibility, but Charles' downfall was marrying a superstar, a charismatic beauty, perhaps the world's most photogenic woman. Thirteen years his junior and barely out of her teens when they married in 1981, Diana quickly discovered her extraordinary hold on the public. Her residences are London and the limelight. Especially in the past few years, as her two sons have been in school, she has defined her own life and goals with scant reference to his.

More and more Charles prefers the country and working behind the scenes. And, his many supporters say, work he does. He has adopted environmental issues as his principal focus and prides himself on his unique ability to bring together at a quiet conference experts who would not ordinarily meet or sit down for a serious session. Last week the prince flew to Strasbourg, France, to learn more about the workings of the European Community, then to Brussels to address a joint British and European environmental group.

Charles' second front is architecture, and in this field he has won his most popular success. He inherited many of his father's gadfly, curmudgeonly qualities, and when he started railing against the ugliness of London's skyline and new buildings that looked like carbuncles, he struck a chord in the common man. This month he opened his own Institute for Architecture near London's Regent's Park, which will offer courses toward a degree in the field and will serve as a gathering point for conferences.

The prince is often pictured sketching in Scotland or communing with plants at his country house, Highgrove. It is true that he enjoys the pastimes typical of the English upper class: polo, hunting, shooting. But his schedule, much of it off camera, is busy. Last week he also took time to talk at some length with 22 recipients of loans or grants from the Prince's Youth Business Trust, which launches young would-be entrepreneurs, many of them unemployed, in realistic businesses. In this crowd he is perfectly at home, welcoming them by saying that the whole event is blatant advertising for himself and listening to both their problems and their boasts. Some of the photographers who cover his wife diligently sympathize with Charles, but as one of them says, "editors won't print pictures of a man in a suit unless he's a head of state."

In a way that sums up the hard side of Charles' predicament. Without a domain of his own, he tends to be defined by his botched marriage. Says his biographer Anthony Holden: "All the speeches on the rain forests and the buildings pale when you're two-timing the most popular woman in England."

For her part, Diana appears to have expected "a meaningful relationship," to use her generation's argot. Not royal at all. Like his father and many noble males, Charles is mulishly set in his ways, loath to show any feelings, not to speak of the emotional give-and-take involved in an ordinary marriage.

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