THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HAD BEEN expected since December finally came last week: the Princess of Wales has reluctantly agreed to a divorce from the heir to Britain's throne. It signaled an end to a failed marriage as famed as any in history, the unexampled source of sustenance to the tabloid press and a wish-book chronicle that has nourished the fantasies of people on several continents for 15 years. The Establishment lost no time in expressing suitably pious sentiments. Said Lord St. John of Fawsley, a constitution expert and an unquenchable royals commentator: "My main feeling is relief. Insofar as there has been a War of the Waleses, it will enable both of them to remake their own lives."
Nonsense. If anything, the statement demonstrated that the Waleses' war is far from over. The announcement came not from Buckingham Palace but from Princess Diana's press representative, Jane Atkinson. She said that after the divorce, Diana would be known as Diana, Princess of Wales (a common styling for a titled widow or divorcee), she would keep her magisterial apartment in Kensington Palace, and she would continue to be a part of all decisions regarding the couple's sons (the Queen has final control of Prince William's upbringing).
The palace was not amused. Once again the court had been bested as Diana snatched the initiative and presented her side first. "The Queen was most interested to hear that the Princess of Wales had agreed to the divorce," the press office sputtered, presumably in an attempt at sarcasm. Title, domicile and everything else, the spokesman said, was still a matter of negotiation.
Diana's legal team reacted quickly to the snub, threatening to break off negotiations if Charles' private promises were not honored. Diana told her favorite reporter, Richard Kay of the Daily Mail, that she had given the royals everything they wanted, "and they are still not satisfied. Now they are playing Ping-Pong with me." The palace lofted another ping, announcing that the Queen wished that discussions "be conducted privately and amicably."
Not likely. The new bad feeling will complicate the bargaining and give the media yet another bonanza. Charles went about his public duties, but Diana abruptly withdrew from a fund-raising event for the British Red Cross, of which she is patron. Said Atkinson: "She is upset and decidedly sad."
Kay describes the latest chapter in the Waleses' war from Diana's viewpoint. Pressured by his exasperated parents, Charles wrote his wife, implying that she was dragging her feet on the divorce that the Queen had urged upon them in December. Diana proposed a meeting at St. James's Palace. The Waleses were for once alone together. Charles' aides wanted a stenographer present but bowed to Diana's request for privacy. After what she claims is an agreement--though not on the financial settlement--she called the Queen and then Atkinson to make the announcement. She claims that Charles had agreed to the terms that she made public.