LEADING ARTICLE: There is life after royal marriage

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The Independent Online
Charles and Diana have both now had their say in public. We have listened to, watched and sympathised with their marital difficulties. And, to be honest, their story has been both fascinating and saddening, as other people's problems often are. But now they must draw a line under their public warfare. Theirs is a marriage that has broken down irretrievably. They should divorce.

The Princess of Wales's interview for Panorama made clear that their relationship fell apart a long time ago. Infidelity, counsellors know, is usually enough to destroy a marriage for ever. But the royal couple went further, conspiring in their broadcasts and, privately, through their friends, to undermine one another.

In her interview, the Princess said that she did not want a divorce, citing the risks posed to her two children. She is probably also worried about her own status. But her underlying message seemed to be that, though she did not wish to be held responsible for the final breach, she would accept it, provided she was properly looked after. The Princess of Wales does not expect to be Queen. Nor did she raise the possibility of a reconciliation. Logically, nearly three years after separation, divorce should be the next step.

The delay in settling this matter seems to be caused partly by a sensitivity to public opinion. But now that we have all been made privy to the inner secrets of their relationship, the Prince and Princess can forget these scruples.

The other problem is the role that each would perform after a final split. The Princess wants to continue as a public figure, working as an ambassador for Britain. She should be encouraged to play this part. Buckingham Palace must accept, more gracefully than in the past, that the Princess will probably always be more popular than her former husband.

The other issue is the succession. There is no good reason why divorce should stop Prince Charles becoming King. He has his faults, but there is every sign that, after a lifetime of grooming, he will be a competent head of state, certainly better than anyone else eligible to replace the Queen. The suggestion that Prince William should take over instead is ridiculous. Even if he were a young adult, the young prince would be too immature.

If Prince Charles chooses to remarry, the constitutional impediments could be set aside. The Church of England, which has managed to accommodate women priests and the remarriage of divorced clergy, could alter its rules to allow a second marriage for its Supreme Governor and Defender of the Faith. The way would be open for Charles to be King, even if he had remarried.

Amid the trauma of broken relationships, it is often hard to see how warring couples can get out of the terrible mess. But the Prince and Princess of Wales have a rosy future apart. They, and their children, might even be happier. There is life after marriage, even a royal one.