LONDON -- Prince Charles offered Princess Diana terms for divorce yesterday, signaling that the final chapter may be looming in the royal divorce of the century. Separated for more than three years, negotiating seriously for 10 weeks, the Prince and Princess of Wales appear bent on getting a deal done quickly.
Lawyers for the prince delivered his divorce proposals to the princess' legal team while she attended a London charity ball as the guest of honor. Former cricket player and budding Pakistani politician Imran Khan was the host.
"I can confirm that a response from the prince was received this evening," Diana's spokeswoman, Jane Atkinson, said.
Terms of the proposed settlement were not announced. But that hasn't stopped the British media from speculating about the package.
Media reports in the past few weeks indicated the 47-year-old heir to the throne was preparing to offer the 35-year-old princess a lump sum of between $23 million and $31 million, and $775,000 a year for office expenses.
The British media have suggested that Charles may pay for the divorce by putting up some of his own cash while tapping the wealth of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Charles derives some $7 million annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall, a commercial estate. But published reports indicate two-thirds of duchy income goes to pay office expenses and taxes.
Access to the children, Prince William, 14, and Prince Harry, 11, is expected to be shared. Diana is expected to continue to live in Kensington Palace.
Diana is expected to maintain the title of Her Royal Highness. It is unclear if she'll be offered the role she covets as a "roving ambassador" for Britain. That would have to be approved by Prime Minister John Major.
Both sides also would be subject to a "gagging clause" and prohibited from writing kiss-and-tell books. The couple married in July 1981 in what was billed as a "fairy tale wedding."
When the deal is sealed, the couple can apply to the divorce court for an interim decree, on the grounds of a two-year separation. A decree absolute to end the marriage would take an additional six weeks.
The divorce would not prevent Charles from becoming king and head of the Church of England. But if he remarried, he might have difficulty remaining as the head of the church.
There are plenty of players in this divorce. Both parties have admitted adultery, Charles with Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana with James Hewitt, a former cavalry officer. Parker Bowles is apparently still in the picture with Charles. But Hewitt has long since sold and told the story of his affair with Diana.
Last December, Queen Elizabeth demanded that Charles and Diana get a divorce.
Charles and Diana are being served by lawyers befitting a royal divorce. Fiona Shackleton, considered Britain's top divorce lawyer, is working for Charles. Antony Julius, a highly regarded advocate working his first divorce case, is representing Diana.
Julius has a notice on his desk that reads: "No offense to Prince Charles or the House of Windsor but I support Di."
Pub Date: 7/05/96