LEADING ARTICLE : Farewell Fergie

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The Independent Online
The manner of their leaving one another becomes them. The cool and practical tone in which the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of York was announced demonstrated something their marriage has lacked.

The Duchess has at last behaved with a modicum of dignity -a quality that was so sadly lacking in much of her behaviour. By relinquishing the title of Her Royal Highness she acknowledges that Sarah Ferguson and "royalty" never quite went together. She can no longer use HRH as a key to unlock book deals and see her on to the top table at charitable fund-raising events.

The couple's timing was probably apt, too, getting residual nastiness out of the way to allow the Queen to celebrate her 70th birthday in the knowledge that no further family bombshell is about to burst. This week at least. This is probably the high point for the royal divorce lawyers. There are now only the three royal divorces running in parallel, Sarah and Andrew, Marina Ogilvy and her husband and Charles and Diana.

The Yorks' divorce is a formality. Since their separation they appear to have behaved towards one another with greater calm and affection than they managed in the last years of their troubled marriage.

In itself their divorce affects neither the general condition of the Royal Family nor the Queen's desperate need to steer it into calmer water. It may help the House of Windsor slowly engineer a recovery in its fortunes. The decks having been cleared a little. Perhaps the Princess of Wales may take note of her sister-in-law's capacity both to reach a settlement with her former husband and then to announce it with some style. But that far trickier divorce still lies ahead.

As for the Duke, so strangely absent from the public gaze in recent months, we can only wish him well, noting that he has a role to play in restoring his family to public favour. The key to that is to follow Princess Anne's model of quiet, dutiful public service at low cost and minimum embarrassment to the taxpayer.

That is the message the royals must take from the sorry time they have had in the Nineties. Significantly, it seems to have reached Prince Charles, who is recruiting a team of fund-raisers for his Prince's Trust with the aim of making it the main inner-city charity in the country. That would be a further step on the road back to good reputation, but it will be a long march.