The Royal Separation: Public offers sympathy but support slips

THE REACTION of the ordinary people on whom the monarchy depends for its continued existence suggests that even where there is personal sympathy, the separation has undermined the institution. Many blamed the media's excessive interest.

Annie Robertson, 24, from Windsor, said: 'I can understand that she wants a life of her own - a happy life with her children. I think she is making the best move. However, if we are going to have a reliable monarchy with credibility, I think it is very important that they should be together.'

Diana Ferguson, landlady of the Three Horse Shoes pub in the village of Powerstock, Dorset, where the Duke and Duchess of York once dined, also expressed personal regret: 'I think it's very sad. There was probably something wrong with the marriage anyway, but I don't think the press helped much because they had no privacy. I'm sure that's what they'll think in the pub. He was a lot older and probably set in his ways and comes across as being a bit awkward, a bit of a cold fish. I think she's lovely, but you still can't tell whether it's her fault or not.'

In the same village, Elaine Marsh, a farmer's wife, said: 'There's no point asking whether another woman could be Queen in her place. A house divided against itself will fall, so you don't need to bother with any of that.'

In nearby West Milton, Geoffrey Lloyd, a retired company director, said: 'I've always raised the Union Jack in my garden on the Queen's birthday, a legacy of all my years in India when we were all very, very royalist. A lot of us think that what's happened is entirely due to the media, I'm afraid. It just went on and on and on, not leaving them alone to get on with it themselves.

'It is, of course, a horrible thing. We're shattered to hear it. We all thought when the marriage took place they were ideally suited and we thought how wonderful it all was and how we should congratulate the Royal Family on its wonderful luck. Now it feels as if something terrible has happened within one's own family.'

Gavin Young, 25, and unemployed, heard the news in his kitchen in Sheffield. 'I think it's great,' he said. 'It's funny, it really appeals to my sense of humour. They get everything on a plate and it serves them right to suffer a bit of misery every now and again.'

Many comments reflected the diminishing role of the 'ideal' two-parent family in people's lives. Two Sheffield schoolgirls, Carolyn Little, 15, and Vicky Parker, 14, said the news was not important to them. Vicky said: 'It will seem weird having a king and queen who are not married.' But Carolyn said that many of her classmates had separated or divorced parents: 'It doesn't seem to have done them any harm.'

Kerry Lloyd, 22, and her brother Dean, 23, shopping in Sheffield, disagreed with the Princess of Wales retaining the right to become Queen. 'If they're going to split, they should split for good and she should do like Fergie's doing,' Dean Lloyd said.

In Coleraine, Co Londonderry, last night a man, aged 25, made it clear that the announcement would have little impact on his life. 'Good luck to them. I hope it all works out for them,' he said. 'I don't really follow it all, but my mother buys all the papers to read about them.'

A man with a briefcase was one of several who took the tabloids to task for allegedly hounding the royals. He said: 'No couple could survive what they've been through. The tabloids have been unbelievable. If they'd been left alone, they mightn't be splitting up now.'

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, addressed the dilemma of the Church in dealing with divorce: 'The Church stands firmly for the ideal that marriage is for keeps. However, it has had to face that we are open to the same hurts and failures as other human groupings. There is no guarantee of God's protection from such a pain.'

The Rev June Osborne, a deacon and future priest in Bow, east London, said: 'The frailty of human marriage in this day and age does not compromise the Church's commitment to the ideal of marriage. People still want this ideal to be presented to them as something to strive for.'

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