On This Day: Charles and Diana's 'broken' marriage officially over as divorce made official

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Unhappy couple: Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1992. (Getty)
Unhappy couple: Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1992. (Getty)

Their marriage, forever played out in the public eye, was tumultuous and ravaged by controversy - and exactly a quarter of a century ago, Prince Charles and Princess Diana's separation became official.

On 28 Aug, 1996, the Royal couple's highly-publicised divorce was finalised as London's High Court announced the dissolution of their 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. 

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. 

The couple, pictured here in South Korea in 1992, had agreed to a divorce four months before it became official. (Getty)
The couple, pictured here in South Korea in 1992, had agreed to a divorce four months before it became official. (Getty)
Happier times: The Royal couple dancing in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985. (Getty)
Happier times: The Royal couple dancing in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985. (Getty)

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.

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.

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. 

Princess Diana and Prince Charles in November 1992. (Getty)
Princess Diana and Prince Charles in November 1992. (Getty)
The couple would go on to give individual explosive TV interviews each giving their side of their marital story. (Getty)
The couple would go on to give individual explosive TV interviews each giving their side of their marital story. (Getty)

Although the interview featured footage filmed over the course of a year and a half, it was Charles's admission of infidelity which made the most headlines.

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.

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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. 

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

The Prince of Wales in conversation with Jonathan Dimbleby in his garden at Highgrove prior to his BBC interview in 1994. (Getty)
The Prince of Wales in conversation with Jonathan Dimbleby in his garden at Highgrove prior to his BBC interview in 1994. (Getty)
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama in 1995. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama in 1995. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

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 almost 15 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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