November 29, 1982 12:00 PM

Since the beginning of her storybook romance with Prince Charles, the Princess of Wales has made hot copy. A week ago the British tabloids sparked an improbable new furor with reports that the 21-year-old Diana may have been suffering from anorexia nervosa. The evidence was thin. Diana, who’d gained some 24 pounds during her pregnancy, has been concerned about her waistline since Prince William‘s birth five months ago. So when she refused the pork tenderloin served at a luncheon in Cornwall and then rejected the salmon the caterer quickly substituted, the press grew worried. Headlined the Sun, “Charles’ Diet Fear for Di.” The Daily Mirror pointed out that Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah, once suffered from anorexia, dropping from 112 pounds to just 82.

Gossip about Diana’s health was further fueled when, in a serious breach of protocol, the Princess arrived later than the Queen at the Festival of Remembrance, an annual commemoration of the war dead held at London’s Royal Albert Hall this month. The Sun speculated her “craze for slimming” had sparked a fight with Charles and prevented the couple from arriving together. A few days later the palace scotched the anorexia nervosa rumors.

Diana and the Queen are close, but the family sometimes disapproves of the Princess’ unaccustomedly modern notions: Diana was firmly overruled, for instance, when she told her in-laws that she would be taking Prince William with her on a trip to Australia in the spring. And newspapers reported that Di had a row with Charles when the couple were penned up at Balmoral Castle in rainy Scotland. In the end, Charles left his hunting and escorted his wife back to London, where she embarked on an aggressive shopping spree. Later, the Queen Mother is said to have taken Diana aside and had a word with her. The perfectionist Diana evidently rattles her retainers. According to one account, a friend of the family said, “If her shoes are cleaned, she wants them put back precisely in line in the cupboard. She is obsessed that everything around her be perfect.” Surely she deserves her in-laws’ sympathy. As one relative has noted, “She has been under a lot of pressure, and to expect her to smile and look radiant all the time is too much.”

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