Major stands up for the monarchy

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The Independent Online
A FORTHRIGHT defence of the enduring nature of the monarchy was delivered by John Major yesterday, amid growing expectations at Westminster that a divorce between the Prince and Princess of Wales was inevitable.

Asked after a speech at the Festival Hall, London, whether Jonathan Dimbleby's authorised biography of the Prince and the surrounding furore had tarnished the monarchy, Mr Major said: 'I think the monarchy has got its roots sunk so deep in the affection of the people of this country that it is very sound and very secure.'

But some MPs, dismayed at the latest public display of a private tragedy - and the effect on the couple's two sons - suggested that the pretence of the marriage should be abandoned.

Even Tory MPs agreed that a divorce would be less damaging to the credibility of the future king than a public relations battle waged through books and newspapers.

Downing Street made clear that the Prime Minister is ready to offer advice to the Queen if it is sought, but dismissed as 'pretty far from the mark' a report that he was poised to advise Prince Charles to divorce the Princess of Wales 'as soon as possible'. The Queen would have to give her approval.

One Cabinet minister predicted yesterday that the revelations in Mr Dimbleby's book, and the huge attendant publicity, would hasten a divorce.

But he could not see divorce being a bar to a new monarch sometime well into the 21st century, when the issue was likely to arise.

The same minister predicted that a full reading of the book would give a rounded picture of the Prince and was likely to lead to the British public warming to the heir to the throne.

Buckingham Palace denied that a rift had opened in the Royal Family when the first proof of Mr Dimbleby's book had been handed over to the Queen's private secretary, Sir Robert Fellowes, three weeks ago, and sources agreed with the minister, insisting that the biography would effectively reveal a monarch-in- waiting.

The Church of England's two most senior figures remained silent. Spokesmen for both the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, said neither would be making any comment.

What MPs think, page 3 Leading article, page 13 Andrew Marr, page 15

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