Charles Speaks out, and Royalty Bristles Critics See Frank Biography of Prince as a Possible Signature of Abdication

Article excerpt

THE furor wrought by Prince Charles's bare-all authorized biography has throne-watchers convinced that the British monarchy has been endangered by endless revelations about the private lives of the royal family.

The biography by journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, meant to boost the Prince of Wales's sagging image, is embroiling the royal family deeper into controversy. Leading figures in the ruling Conservative Party are urging Prime Minister John Major to advise Queen Elizabeth II that the Prince of Wales and his estranged wife, Diana, should seek an early divorce.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor, vice chairman of the ruling Conservative Party's constitutional affairs committee, said the "drip-drip effect" of books giving details of the royal family's problems was damaging the Prince of Wales personally and the royal family collectively. A divorce would "serve the public interest," he said.

Most consitutional lawyers, however, agree that there is nothing to to prevent a divorced Charles from becoming King.

Major on Oct. 17 called the monarchy "a fundamental part of our existence in this country," and firmly ruled out suggesting to the Queen that Charles and Diana formally end their marriage. Under the system of constitutional monarchy, the monarch would find it difficult to resist a course of action recommended by the prime minister.

But concern over the rocky relationship between the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana have increased following the Oct. 17 publication in a French magazine of alleged extracts from a book about Diana to be published next month. The extracts in the weekly magazine Voici suggest that Charles and Diana will divorce next year, that the Princess will get a settlement of 15 million pounds ($24.5 million), and that the Queen will decide who gets custody of the two young princes.

Piers Paul Read, a respected writer on royal affairs, believes Charles can never be King after the publication of Dimbleby's biography. "He has put love of himself before his sense of duty," Mr. Read said, adding: "His signature on the contract with Dimbleby may turn out to be a signature on an act of abdication."

In a highly unusual move Prince Philip, father of the Prince of Wales, gave the London Daily Telegraph an exclusive interview on Oct. …