London -- The marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York moved a step closer to dissolution yesterday.
"The discussions between lawyers" on the terms of an eventual divorce, the spokesman said, "have now been completed." No )) details were released on the amount or nature of any financial settlement for the duchess, money which the palace spokesman stressed would come from the Queen's private fortune and not the taxpayer.
The Queen's second son, Andrew, and his wife, Sarah, have been living apart for the past 15 months, though not formally separated.
Their split was attended by sensational press reports and pictures, suggesting an intimate relationship between the duchess and a Texas millionaire, Steve Wyatt, who was said to be her financial adviser.
Prince Andrew has remained in the home the couple built near Sunninghill Park in Berkshire, while the duchess moved into a rented house in Surrey.
The announcement of the formal separation follows, and was believed triggered by, growing speculation that the royal couple was on the verge of reconciling.
Last week they were seen in what appeared to be happy circumstances during a visit to their daughter's school. Earlier, the duchess was photographed kissing her husband at a family get-together at Balmoral Castle.
The palace comments dampened any expectations in this direction.
"In recent weeks much has been read into the occasional photographs of the Duke and Duchess of York together on various occasions, leading to unjustified speculation about their future," the palace spokesman said. "Their Royal Highnesses wish to make clear that any speculation about a possible reconciliation is inappropriate."
The spokesman also said the couple remained friends.
The collapse of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York is the fourth marital breakup in Queen Elizabeth II's immediate family.
After the initial split last March, the disintegration of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, seized the attention of the media until in December they announced their own informal separation.
But even before that, last spring, the Queen's daughter, the Princess Royal, Anne, finally divorced Capt. Mark Phillips after a marriage that had lasted 19 years. She then married Commander Tim Laurence.
The Queen's sister, Margaret, had her marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones dissolved in 1978, after 18 years.
There was some speculation yesterday over the future of the Yorks' daughters, Beatrice, 4, and Eugenie, 3, who are almost certain to continue living with their mother. These girls are fifth and sixth in line to the throne and, because their mother is not likely to be spending much time in court circles, they are not
likely to become familiar to that world which they were literally born into.