On This Day: Prince Charles and Princess Diana finalise their divorce

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On this day 25 years ago, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s tumultuous and highly publicised divorce was finalised. On Aug. 28, 1996, London’s High Court announced the dissolution of the Royal couple’s marriage.

Terms of their divorce

Although the pair agreed to a divorce in February of that year, it took months for 47-year-old Charles and 35-year-old Diana to agree on any terms of settlement. 

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer opening the Mountbatten Exhibition at Broadlands.
On Aug. 28, 1996, London’s High Court announced the dissolution of the Royal couple’s marriage. Photo: Getty Images

According to a statement from Buckingham Palace, the 35-year-old Diana would forfeit the title of “Her Royal Highness” but would remain known as Diana, Princess of Wales publicly. 

Although the young princes were attending boarding school, Charles and Diana agreed to share custody of their two sons, a then 14-year-old William and 11-year-old Harry, and agreed to alternate custody of their sons on holidays.

Financially, Diana would receive a lump sum payment of 22.5 million along with $600,000 per year to maintain her private office. 

“With the Queen's permission” Diana retained her apartment at Kensington Palace and was designated space to set up a formal office of her own, which would be responsible for all future costs incurred by the princess.

Unhappily ever after

The spectacle surrounding Charles and Diana’s relationship began in 1981, when the pair were wed in an elaborate, fairytale wedding watched by more than 750 million people around the world.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana holding their two children Prince William and Prince Harry
Although the young princes were attending boarding school, Charles and Diana agreed to share custody of their two sons. Photo: Getty Images

Any pretence of a happy marriage was short lived, as rumours of infidelity and tension between Diana and Charles plagued the couple until their separation. 

In 1986, Charles resumed his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, now known as the Duchess of Cornwall, while Diana was engaged in a romantic entanglement with James Hewitt, a cavalry officer whom the Princess “adored.”

The fate of Charles and Diana’s relationship seemed inevitable in 1992 when biographer Andrew Morton published “Diana: Her True Story.” 

Although it would be revealed years later that Diana had provided audio tapes for the book to Morton, it shared intimate details of the couple’s fraught marriage and painted the Royal Family unfavourably.

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In 1994, Charles agreed to a televised special with Jonathan Dimbleby and the BBC, intended as an up close and personal look at the Prince of Wales. 

Although the interview featured footage filmed over the course of a year and a half and was news outlets zeroed in on the Prince’s admission of infidelity during his marriage.

Princess Diana at a banquet In New Zealand wearing a blue chiffon evening dress.
Diana spoke candidly about suffering from bouts of loneliness as well as bulimia and depression since she married into the Royal family. Photo: Getty Images

When asked if he was faithful during his marriage, Charles replied “Yes,” before adding “Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."

The scandal that followed Charles’s interview paled in comparison to Diana’s infamous and controversial sit-down with Martin Bashir and the BBC a year later.

In the explosive tell-all interview, Diana admitted to being unfaithful while married to Charles and divulged information on the love triangle between the Royal couple and Parker-Bowles.

Diana spoke candidly about suffering from bouts of loneliness as well as bulimia and depression since she married into the Royal family, affirming the claims made in Morton’s biography. 

Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Charles at Windsor Castle
Diana’s interview was reportedly the catalyst for Queen Elizabeth to reach out to Charles, urging him to seek an “early divorce”. Photo: Getty Images

Although Diana evaded questions about a possible divorce, she inferred Charles’s camp had an agenda to make her life “difficult” since their separation.

Diana’s interview was reportedly the catalyst for Queen Elizabeth to reach out to Charles, urging her son and heir to the British throne to seek an “early divorce” from his estranged wife of almost15 years.

The reprieve from an unhappy marriage was short-lived for Diana. On Aug. 31, 1997, a year after her divorce was finalized, the 36-year-old was killed in a motor vehicle accident at the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris along with her partner, Dodie Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul.

Charles and Parker-Bowles went public with their relationship in 1999, and were married in a small civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall in 2005.

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