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Anxious to Dispel Those Nasty Rumors, Charles and Di Take Their Case to the Telly

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He finds it irritating when people suggest that he get a real job. She is stung when Fleet Street complains that she spends all her time shopping. (Indeed, if that were so, how would she ever get her hair done?) Piqued by such criticism and by noisome rumors, idle and otherwise, the world’s most scrutinized couple, the Prince and Princess of Wales, tried to clear the air last week with an unprecedented 45-minute riposte on British TV. The kid-gloves inquisition, titled Talking Personally and taped in the royal couple’s Kensington Palace drawing room after the little Princes William and Harry had happily hammered away at a grand piano, proved to be the most mesmerizing Sunday evening TV event in Britain since The Forsyte Saga 18 years ago.

The interview, Di and Charles’ first since a televised prewedding chat more than four years ago, was by no means a mere royal lark. It was part of a major counteroffensive by Buckingham Palace image makers. They are working overtime to squelch persistent and embarrassing rumors about the two, who will be visiting the U.S. for five days starting next week. Disarming it was, though the show had all the spontaneity of a 45-minute campaign commercial. The avuncular questioner was Sir Alastair Burnet, the Walter Cronkite of British TV news, who tiptoed around potentially touchy subjects with exquisite discretion. Much of the conversation had been rehearsed, and Diana had received coaching from no less an eminence than Oscar-winning director Sir Richard Attenborough. Lest something went wrong, the Palace reserved for itself the power of final approval, and Mike Wallace was not invited.

In fact the Royals came off marvelously. Diana, 24, dressed in an understated blue-and-white dress and giggling girlishly at times, seemed flawlessly cast as doting mother, affectionate helpmeet and conscientious do-gooder. Fleet Street couldn’t have been happier. “She appeared to be egoless, genuinely interested in things other than herself…” raved the Daily Mail. As for Charles, 36, he was amusing and thoughtful, called his wife “darling” and gave no indication, as some people had feared, that he had somehow misplaced the royal marbles. The Palace had pulled off a coup.

Here’s what Charles and Di had to say to their critics:

ITEM: Spoilsports say the Princess spends more money on clothes than some countries shell out each year for national defense.

Said Diana: “My clothes are not my priority. I enjoy bright colors and my husband likes to see me look smart, presentable. But fashion isn’t my big thing…and I do think there’s too much emphasis on my clothes.”

She and Charles agreed that in matters of fashion, the Prince proposes but she disposes.

Said Diana: “I ask him if this looks right or that looks right, but the chances of turning up in what he says are absolutely nil.”

Said Charles: “She asks me…’Which one do I wear?’ I say, ‘Well, why don’t you wear that one?’ ”

Diana: “I go in the other one.”

Charles: “Why do you ask me?”

Diana: “I don’t know.”

Though the Princess handpicks her designers, she can’t always wear what she’d like, she admitted. “You’d be amazed what one has to worry about, from the obvious things like the wind—because there’s a gale wherever we go—and the wind is my enemy, there’s no doubt about that. And you’ve got to put your arm up to get some flowers, so you can’t have something too revealing, and you can’t have hems too short because you bend over and there’s six children looking up your skirt.”

ITEM: Rumor has it Diana has become a domineering wife.

Said Diana: “I don’t think I am. I’m a perfectionist with myself, but not necessarily with everyone else….Obviously you feel very wounded [by such stories]. You think, ‘Oh, gosh, I don’t want to go out and do my engagement this morning. Nobody wants to see me. Help. Panic’ But you’ve got to push yourself out and remember [that] some people hopefully won’t believe everything they read about you. There is far too much about me in the newspapers. It horrifies me when there’s something more important, like what goes on in hospices or there’s been a bomb or something.”

ITEM: With middle age approaching on little cat’s feet, Charles is said to have gone slightly softheaded, dabbling now and then in the occult.

Said Charles: “I’ve been riveted by the way this has developed because I’ve seen articles saying I play with Ouija boards. I don’t even know what they are. I’ve never seen one. I spend my entire time apparently trying to get in touch with Lord Mountbatten and all sorts of things. The answer is, I don’t, nor would I necessarily want to…. What I find so annoying is that it should be reduced to this level of absurdity. I’m not interested in the occult or dabbling in black magic or any of these kinds of things….”

ITEM: Figure watchers, perhaps resentful that Diana hasn’t blossomed into a matronly mum, say it’s obvious the poor girl is anorexic.

Said Diana: “I’m never on what’s called a diet. Maybe I’m so scrawny because I take so much exercise.”

ITEM: Diana, it has been whispered, brazenly sleeps with a Walkman.

Said Diana: “I’m a great believer in having music wherever I go, whether it’s a headset or a radio or a record player. I tend to listen to an enormous amount of classical music, whether it’s Grieg, Rachmaninoff or Schumann.”

ITEM: Diana is trying to change the image—maybe even the substance—of her henpecked hubby.

Observed Diana: “Not at all.” Pause. “Obviously there are one or two things, maybe the odd tie or something.”

Whispered Charles, rolling his eyes: “Shoes.”

Diana: “Shoes. But nothing dramatic.”

ITEM: Palace watchers say Diana is less than chummy with her sharp-tongued sister-in-law, Princess Anne.

Said Diana: “We’ve always hit it off very well and I just think she’s marvelous. The story arose obviously because she wasn’t chosen as a godmother for Harry. Had our child been a girl, the possibility was there, but Harry arrived so we went to a man [as a godfather]. She works 10 times harder than me and deserves every bit of credit coming her way.” [Editor’s note: Three women were, in fact, selected as Harry’s godmothers.]

ITEM: Meat-eating Britons have heard strange things about the princely diet. Real princes don’t eat just veggies, they say.

Said Charles: “I’m not a complete vegetarian, but I think I started to examine the things I ate slightly more carefully than I had done before….I actually now don’t eat as much meat as I used to. I eat more fish.”

Added Diana: “Anyway, fish is cheaper.”

ITEM: Malcontents mutter that Charles should stop mousing around the palace and find a little honest employment.

Said Charles: “I frequently read things saying, ‘Why doesn’t he get a proper job?’…I personally believe that the whole way of one’s life is part of a job….The important thing is to serve this country, its people and the Commonwealth….People expect a great deal of us, I think. I’m always conscious—I’m sure you are too, darling—of not wanting to let people down.

ITEM: Behind closed doors—and thick walls—Charles and Diana are said to indulge in the occasional marital scrap.

Said Charles: “I suspect most husbands and wives find they often have arguments.”

Said Diana: “But we don’t.”

Charles: “Well, we occasionally do.”

Diana: “No, we don’t.”

Stay tuned.