The Royal Separation: Joint coronation 'would make farce of ceremony': The separation finds some echoes from history. Steve Boggan and David Keys report

WHEN the Prime Minister announced yesterday that the Princess of Wales could one day become Queen, historians are likely to have pondered the events of 19 July 1821, the day George IV was crowned King.

That was the last time an estranged wife tried to claim her crown at a coronation, and it ended farcically with the pathetic figure of Princess Caroline banging her fists on the locked doors of Westminster Abbey.

John Major's assertion that there was nothing to prevent the Princess of Wales from becoming Queen was correct; there is no statutory impediment. As the future Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Prince of Wales must be seen to obey canon law which still does not recognise divorce.

Therefore, if the couple do not divorce, they remain married in the eyes of the Church. If he becomes King, she becomes Queen. The Church appeared to change its attitude somewhat yesterday, when the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, issued a statement on behalf of himself and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, saying marital status would not affect the Prince's position; he can divorce if he wishes. But not all historians and constitutional experts agreed.

The Rev Edward Norman of Christ Church College in Canterbury, Kent, an author of several books on church and state, said: 'If there were a divorce, the King, who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, or heir who broke the canon law of the Church of England would feel obliged to abdicate.'

Buckingham Palace said yesterday that there would be no question of divorce or of the Princess of Wales being left out in the cold should Charles be crowned King. During little more than three weeks of horse-trading over the terms of the separation, it is understood it has been agreed that the Princess of Wales will be at the Prince's side at any coronation.

However, some observers raised questions about the possibility of such an arrangement in the long term. If there is anything less than harmony between the estranged couple, marching into Westminster Abbey together may be difficult.

'The sovereign is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the coronation is a religious ceremony,' said Vernon Bogdanor, reader in government at Oxford University. 'Would it be appropriate in those circumstances to take those vows when you are formally separated?

'That is not a matter of statute, it is a matter of convention and feeling. One cannot give a precise answer to that question; there is no other precedent.'

On the question of divorce, Mr Bogdanor said: 'There is no statute that says the King cannot get divorced. However, again the King is Supreme Governor of the Church of England; could you contemplate a divorced Archbishop of Canterbury? I think you would have to say you couldn't - so can you have a divorced King? It is a difficult question.'

The prospect of a joint coronation of an estranged royal couple 'would make a farce of the coronation service, which is the most sacred and historic symbol of English monarchy', said Dr Pauline Croft, an authority on 17th-century England at Royal Holloway University of London. 'The coronation has always been so precious in English history. I would find a coronation service in which both were crowned disquieting, given that all the world knows they are living separate lives. Such an event would inevitably bring the monarchy into disrepute.'

Although there was much public disquiet over the announcement, the couple's problems are nothing new in the monarchy. In the 12th century, King Henry II had his wife placed under house arrest for plotting against the crown, and in the 14th century Edward II was on such poor terms with his wife that she actually deposed him.

Henry VIII had a succession of marital problems and solved them by divorce and execution. James I and his wife, Anne of Denmark, became estranged after family rows and the King's penchant for taking male lovers. And Charles II openly cavorted with mistresses in front of his wife, Catherine of Braganza (Portugal). But the court was so debauched that the royal couple's situation was acknowledged as the social norm.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam