Princess Diana and Prince Charles underwent one of the most high-profile divorces in British history in 1996. After the Queen ordered them to divorce in 1995, the parents of Prince William and Prince Harry hit headlines worldwide as their divorce proceedings played out. Many wondered how much the Princess of Wales would win in her divorce settlement, but also at stake was whether or not the mother of the future king would be allowed to retain the title Her Royal Highness.
The Princess of Wales secured an enormous £17million settlement – worth over £31million in today’s money – after she told the Queen that unless her terms were met, Charles would have to wait another two years to obtain a non-consenting divorce from her.
The monetary terms “stunned and outraged” Prince Charles, however Diana also orchestrated a series of moves to “fight” the Palace on keeping her title of Her Royal Highness.
According to Tina Brown in her 2007 biography “The Diana Chronicles”, although the People’s Princess was “deeply ambivalent” about keeping the title, she tried on a number of occasions to persuade the Queen to let her retain it.
The title Her Royal Highness, Ms Brown explains, “has no constitutional meaning [but] it does denote a direct family connection to the Crown”.
She added: “Retaining the HRH title would assure her that she would always be included in state occasions and properly acknowledged as the future king’s mother.”
The divorce negotiations were fraught, and Diana “infuriated” the Palace when she released a statement that she had agreed to a divorce following a meeting with Prince Charles in February 1996.
Ms Brown explains: “Diana had asked Prince Charles to say nothing of their meeting, only, without consultation, to then divulge it herself.”
This, she writes, “geared up the Palace for a fight about the title.”
In an attempt to secure the use of the title, Diana proceeded to brief her good friend, Daily Mail editor Richard Kay, that: “The Princess wanted to remain HRH the Princess of Wales, but the other side refused and that had been the sticking point for the last two weeks.”
Her hope was “that it might just pressure the Queen to have a change of heart”.
However, the Palace responded: “The decision to drop the title is the Princess’ and the Princess’ alone. It is wrong [to say] that the Queen or the Prince asked her.”
As the divorce negotiations proceeded, and Diana’s monetary terms were accepted, Ms Brown writes that she made a last-ditch attempt to secure her title.
She writes: “Diana made one last attempt to salvage the HRH on the eve of the decree, appealing to (the Queen’s private secretary) Sir Robert Fellowes.
“On behalf of the sovereign, he declined the request.”
Also, contrary to other reports, Ms Brown says that the Queen would never have agreed to let the Princess of Wales keep the HRH title.
The New York Times reported in 1996, in an account which is widely-accepted, that: “Queen Elizabeth II was reported to have been ready to allow Diana to retain the honorific, but Prince Charles was said to be adamant that she give it up.”
However, Ms Brown states: “The Queen was never going to let Diana keep the title.”
She adds: “It was for the same reason the Queen Mother had been adamant about Wallis Simpson.
“Who knew where Diana’s private life might take her in her second act and what kind of unforeseen difficulties might be caused by some ghastly second husband?”
Wallis Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor when she married King Edward VIII but she was never granted the use of Her Royal Highness.
Diana retained the use of the Princess of Wales, and under the divorce terms was allowed to use the title Princess unless she re-married.
Like Sarah Ferguson, however, she was not allowed to continue use of the HRH title.
Ms Brown writes: “[Diana] brooded on how Fergie’s prospects in the outside world were plummeting now it was clear her royal initials would be confiscated.
“Diana had a dread of descending into her sister-in-law’s world, leveraging her tiara to pay for her highlights. She wanted no part of such horrors.”
The Princess was also was bound to a confidentiality agreement under the terms of the divorce.
In contrast, Sarah Ferguson, who divorced Prince Andrew earlier that same year, did not have a confidentiality clause as part of her divorce settlement.
It meant that the Duchess of York could go on to make media appearances and write about her married life with Andrew, and her autobiographies have gone on to earn an estimated £2.2million.
However, the Duchess of York did not win such a substantial figure as Diana in her divorce settlement.
Although she claimed variously she got “zero”, and then £15,000 a year, the Sunday Telegraph revealed in 2010 the total figure Fergie netted was closer to £3million.
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