Wales V. Wales

IF IT WAS THE START OF A NEW LIFE for the Princess of Wales, the omens were hardly auspicious. With the Windsors seething over her impulsive Feb. 28 announcement that she had agreed to a divorce from Prince Charles, she went into seclusion—even skipping a high-profile gala for the British Red Cross. Branded a shameless manipulator by her husband’s friends (who were outraged that she presented divorce terms as a fait accompli), Diana lashed back through the Daily Mail, saying, “I have given [the Palace] everything they wanted and they are still not satisfied.” Infuriated, the Queen entered the fray on March 1, announcing through an aide that she “hoped these [negotiations] can be completed both privately and amicably.”

When Di (who resumed her official engagements last week) emerged from Kensington Palace on March 3, it was to compare bitter notes with her sister-in-law, the disgraced Duchess of York. While Fergie’s daughters Beatrice, 7, and Eugenie, 5, romped outside her rented house in Surrey, the outcasts reportedly agreed to share intelligence about their battles with the Palace. (The financially challenged Fergie, 36, may soon need that support: Last month the Queen reportedly wrote Prince Andrew to urge that he, too, proceed with a divorce.)

But if Diana’s rush to announce her decision was a tactical disaster that stalled negotiations and, says a veteran journalist who covers the Windsors, “left both sides at complete loggerheads,” she seemed to have no regrets. “She’s very depressed,” he adds, “but she doesn’t think she made a mistake.”

Whether that confidence will last is another matter. Aided by spokeswoman Jane Atkinson (a newcomer who, as royal watcher Brian Hoey puts it, “failed the baptism of fire” by following Di’s command to release her statement before consulting the Palace), Diana, 34, must continue to defend a story that courtiers say is largely fictional. Last week she maintained her claim that, in the Feb. 28 meeting from which she banned all witnesses, she and Charles agreed that she would be known as Diana, Princess of Wales; still participate in decisions about Princes William, 13, and Harry, 11; and remain at Kensington Palace. She also insists that, in exchange, she agreed to relinquish the title Her Royal Highness. (That assertion, in particular, has riled the Queen, whose press secretary retorted, “It is wrong to say that the Queen or the Prince asked her [to sacrifice HRH].”)

Di also must face allegations that she bargained with Charles in bad faith. Last week the Daily Mirror reported that Charles, 47, had agreed to her request to say nothing about their discussions. One hour after that meeting, of course, Atkinson told the world.

One of the few to defend Diana was Frances Shand Kydd, her twice-divorced mother. To the Daily Express she said, “There are always those who are quick to judge…. Diana needs compassion and peace to come to terms with a very sad situation.”

For his’ part, Charles seemed relieved. On March 1 he left for a weekend in Klosters, Switzerland, accompanied by friends Charles and Patti Palmer Tomkinson. “He’s on a high,” says Hoey. “By the end of the year, he’ll be a single man.”

For now, the Waleses will leave the battles to their solicitors, who could joust for months if the latest impasse is not resolved. By most accounts, Anthony Julius, Di’s lawyer, found that his clout had diminished when negotiations resumed. As lawyer Fenton Bresler put it in the Daily Express, “By admitting to the whole world that…she is agreeing to a divorce, Diana has thrown away [Julius’s] trump card.”

The princess’s position may also be weakened by a man from whom she once sought solace. Ex-Guardsman James Hewitt, who, by Di’s admission, was her lover for five years, reportedly is asking $1 million for a videotaped interview by Anna Pasternak (author of Princess in Love, the bodice-ripper that chronicled the affair) in which he offers explicit details of their assignations. And while networks in America and Britain refused to reveal whether they would broadcast such stuff, it seemed only a matter of time before Hewitt would be back in the headlines, dragging the unhappy Di with him.



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