Relaunch for the queen of hearts

Royal divorce: Princess's rival court pre-empts Palace as future of young princes is uncertain
Click to follow
The Independent Online

"The Princess of Wales willretain the title and be known as Diana Princess of Wales." Really?

Last night's unilateral declaration by Diana and Buckingham Palace's politely questioning response is the latest example of open conflict between the United Kingdom's two rival Royal courts. The Princess of Wales may be a subject of Her Majesty, but she takes her orders from no one. The Palace, however, is unnerved, and Her Majesty unruffled. There is no change to her authority.

The rival courts' warfare went semi-public in 1992 when helped along by Andrew Morton's book, Diana: Her True Story. The Queen v Diana was still being conducted in chambers behind closed doors.

Diana may have been silent following the Jonathan Dimbleby interview, in which Charles admitted Royal adultery, but she was laying plans for what constitutional experts now regard as the formal launch of the House of Diana - last year's Panorama interview. Neither the Queen nor Buckingham Palace knew anything. And last night they appeared to know even less.

Although the Princess's own publicity machine initially fazed Buckingham Palace, the Sovereign's authority was reasserted quickly.

"No" said the Palace, everything had not been sorted. "No", titles had not been agreed. "No" settlement had been given the Royal seal of approval.

According to constitutional experts, Diana's first foray into bypassing of the Palace's authority - the secret deal with Panorama - challenged the Sovereign's powers, laid down in the 1701 Act of Settlement.

Since she gave Panorama the mother-of-all exclusives, Diana has laid the foundations of her own court's business affairs. Buckingham Palace need not be consulted on matters public because Diana has her own media adviser, independent of the Palace. Sources, no longer discreet, say she clearly no longer keeps Royal officials informed of her movements, let alone her court strategy.

Now, as lawyers begin to thrash out the details of the multi-million pound settlement - a matter no experienced Hollywood divorce attorney would relish - the director of Burke's Peerage, Harold Brooks-Baker, said we should not be worried abour "her chosen" title.

"The Princess has agreed to be styled Diana, Princess of Wales, following the divorce. This will mean that should the Prince of Wales re-marry at a future date, his wife would still be known as The Princess of Wales."

Dr John Barnes, of the London School of Economics, last night said that the fact Diana had taken her own decisions, without first checking with the Queenthrough her Buckingham Palace office, meant we had: "Returned to the days of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and George III."

Theirs was a classic Royal confrontation between the opposition politicians, comprising the Tories and dissident Whigs, who courted the future king in his own rival court against George's own court.

"Diana, by going on television, has now set up her own rival show to the Queen," said Dr Barnes. The Princess was "no longer playing the game the firm's way", he added.

After the interview, constitutional experts were awaiting the next move. It came last night. The Princess's court said everything was agreed. There would be a divorce. The Palace, the official Royal court, effectively issued what in PR circles would be called hold-on-a-minute response.

"The Queen was most interested to hear that the Princess of Wales had agreed to the divorce... All the details on these matters, including titles, remain to be discussed and settled. This will take time."

And it will take time. It will take time to decide if the Princess of Wales can determine her future and the future of her sons without first checking with the Queen.

If it became clear that the future king was being brought up under the authority of his mother's court, and not the Queen's, the Act of Succession, which stipulates that it is the Monarch's role to be responsible for the future sovereign, then the Princess of Wales did more yesterday than just pre-empt the Palace. She relaunched herself. Again.