Prince offers pounds 20m to break royal divorce deadlock

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The Independent Online
Prince Charles ended 10 weeks of acrimonious deadlock last night and offered his estranged wife Princess Diana terms for divorce. Their 15-year marriage could be over within weeks.

Lawyers acting for the Prince handed over the proposals yesterday evening and will now await a reaction from Diana, who had complained to the Queen about what she saw as foot-dragging in Charles's camp over a settlement.

"I can confirm that a response from the Prince was received this evening," said Diana's media adviser Jane Atkinson, who declined to comment further. Diana herself was guest of honour at a London charity ball thrown by former cricketer and budding Pakistani politician Imran Khan.

"We regard the divorce discussions as private, and will not comment," said a spokesman for Charles.

Further negotiations are possible, but last night royal sources thought a decree nisi could be granted "in weeks rather than months". The speed of the settlement largely depends on the Prince's financial offer to end the marriage.

Neither side is commenting about the divorce, following a request from the Queen that negotiations should be confidential. But it seems likely that the Prince will offer a clean-break settlement worth between pounds 15m and pounds 20m, although he would have preferred to pay a "drip-feed" annual allowance.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are thought to be keen for a swift end to the protracted divorce negotiations, closing an unhappy chapter in the history of the House of Windsor.

If the Prince's offer, submitted by the Queen's solicitors, Farrer & Co, to the Princess's lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, is accepted, a decree nisi could be granted before the couple's fifteenth wedding anniversary on 29 July.

A petition from the Prince seeking a divorce by consent, based on a separation of more than two years, is the likeliest outcome, followed by a decree absolute six weeks later.