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Last Tango in Buenos Aires?

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FOR SOMEONE WHO HAD JUST FINISHED spilling her most intimate secrets to the world on prime-time TV, it was a tougher-than-usual test of professionalism and poise. On Nov. 23, Princess Diana embarked on a four-day goodwill trip to Argentina and was greeted by more than 360 journalists as she threw herself into the role of high-heeled humanitarian. At first, many Argentines seemed indifferent to her—or worse. A woman who lost a son in the 1982 Falklands War shouted, “Royal whore!” as Diana arrived at the Angel Roffo Oncology Institute. But she won them over as she toured the country, charming President Carlos Menem at his residence in Olivos, making a dazzling appearance at a gala in Buenos Aires and flying to Patagonia for whale-watching and afternoon tea in a Welsh-settled village. By Sunday the pace had taken its toll. “You must be tired,” a fan told the beleaguered Di. But the princess wasn’t budging. “I am stronger than I look, you know,” she replied.

In the months ahead, Diana—who said she has no regrets about her BBC interview, which drew more than 42 million viewers (19.2 million in the U.S.)—will need all the strength she can muster. Although Palace aides indicated they would meet with Di to discuss establishing her as a kind of Minister of Good Works, “her duties will be peripheral,” says a veteran royal watcher. “The Queen is disgusted with her and wishes she’d just go away. They’ll have to sort something out for practical reasons. But if she goes abroad again, it will be on behalf of charities. Otherwise, it would be seen as setting her up as a rival to the court.” Yet insiders say that the effort to find a place for her will continue. “The Queen has bent over backwards by inviting her to Sandringham for Christmas,” says royals author Brian Hoey. “They want to get her back on their side.”

For his part, Charles, 47, is under increasing pressure to obtain a divorce, which Diana, 34, said she doesn’t want. Last week, London’s Sunday Times reported that Charles won’t make his move until 1997—when he can divorce her without her agreement—and that aides are discussing a scenario involving a marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles, 48, who could become Queen Consort. But other sources contend that a divorce could come at any time and that neither Charles nor Camilla, who ended her 21-year marriage in March, is in a hurry to marry. Says Hoey: “She quite likes being the royal mistress.”

For now, the Waleses are mired in the rubble of their various scandals. American publishers are reportedly bidding for 46 love letters that Di sent to Capt. James Hewitt during their five-year affair, which ended in 1991. According to the Sunday Mirror, Hewitt—who lives in Devon on a pension and his share of the take from his as-told-to book, Princess in Love—could reap as much as $4.5 million for the letters. Whether he will dare to violate Di’s privacy again is another matter: Since the copyright on the letters belongs to Diana, Hewitt certainly would risk a lawsuit.

Interviewed by his coauthor, Anna Pasternak, Hewitt, 37, said in a Sunday Times interview, “I would have died for Diana, but instead I’ve died a million times inside.” The disgraced captain claimed that he discussed the relationship with the Daily Express in March 1994 only after Di asked him to squelch rumors about the affair. According to Hewitt, he decided to collaborate on the book to put a “sympathetic” spin on the dalliance when he was approached by a newspaper editor who “told me [he] had incriminating photos of me with Diana” and offered $750,000 for his story.

On Nov. 25, Hewitt’s onetime fiancée Emma Stewardson came forward with more intimate details. Stewardson, 34, told the racy tabloid News of the World that, after a postcoital spat, Hewitt confessed that he was cheating on her with Di. By her report, he noticed that Stewardson had dozed off during lovemaking and “hissed…’Listen, if it’s good enough for the Princess of Wales, it’s good enough for you.’ ”

On Nov. 26, Camilla’s ex-brother-in-law Richard Parker Bowles, 48, entered the fray by attacking Camilla in the Mail on Sunday, saying that she urged Charles to wed “because she thought Diana was…either half-witted or mad”—and, thus, easy to manipulate. A former soldier said by neighbors to be a heavy drinker, Parker Bowles described Camilla as a “wrecker at heart.”

Polls last week, at least, showed that Britons were still siding with Di: 74 percent of the respondents in a Gallup survey said that she was right to bare her soul on TV Knowledgeable journalists, however, argue that if she continues to make sensational revelations about her romantic life, Diana will sacrifice her standing as a good mother—the role that is her trump card. “As they get older,” says one reporter, “William and Harry will question more what has gone on, and they’ll suffer from her admission of infidelity.” When that day comes, Charles and Di may finally realize the true cost of their increasingly dirty war.