Princess Diana Initially Didn't Want a Divorce from Prince Charles

In 1996, after being separated for four years, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales officially divorced.

Just a few years earlier, on December 9, 1992, Prime Minister John Major had declared: "It is announced from Buckingham Palace that, with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate. The Royal Highnesses have no plans to divorce, and their constitutional positions are unaffected."

The key phrase here is "no plans to divorce"—Princess Diana, reportedly did not want a divorce. In between the formal separation and the divorce, Prince Charles gave an interview to Jonathan Dimbleby in which he admitted he was unfaithful to Diana after their marriage broke down. Princess Diana, too, gave an explosive interview wherein she also admitted to adultery—and to her struggles with post-partum depression, self-harm, and bulimia.

In the 1995 Panorama interview, Diana famously said, "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," referring to Camilla Parker Bowles. On the subject of divorce, interviewer Martin Bashir asks her, "Would it be your wish to divorce?" Diana responds, "No, it's not my wish."

Yet, by February 1996, Diana had agreed to a divorce. "It was an exceptionally difficult decision and one which the Princess of Wales has taken with immense sadness and regret," Diana's lawyer, Anthony Julius, said in an interview with BBC News following the news of their divorce.

What changed?

In late 1995, Queen Elizabeth encouraged her son and Diana to divorce. "After considering the present situation, the Queen wrote to both the Prince and Princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, that an early divorce is desirable. The Prince of Wales also takes this view and has made this known to the Princess of Wales since the letter," Buckingham Palace said in a statement on December 21, 1995. "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will continue to do all they can to help and support the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most particularly their children, in this difficult period."

On February 29, 1996, Diana confirmed that she agreed to a divorce. "The Princess of Wales will retain the title and be known as Diana, Princess of Wales," a spokeswoman for Diana said in a statement. Per the terms of the divorce agreement, Diana kept her apartments at Kensington Palace and the two split custody of their children, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana formally divorced on August 28, 1996.

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