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Princess Diana Turns 26 Amid Speculation On Her Marriage

July 1, 1987

LONDON (AP) _ Princess Diana marked her 26th birthday Wednesday with a visit to the Wimbledon tennis tournament as press speculation grows bolder that her marriage to Prince Charles is in trouble.

″Just imagine if ... Charles and Di did the unthinkable and got divorced?″ The Sun, a London tabloid and the nation’s biggest selling daily, said in a front-page headline.

″What would happen to Charles? Could he still be king? Would he ever marry again? What would Di do? Where would she live? Would she ever be allowed to see her kids?″

Royalty is a mainstay of the London tabloids, and they have allowed no milestones and few snippets of gossip to pass unchronicled in the six-year marriage of the future king and queen.

At 38, Charles’s interests and lifestyle often are at odds with those of his wife.

Diana, for example, spent Wednesday afternoon in the royal box at Wimbledon’s Center Court, watching a match between Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte. Fans broke out in a spontaneous chorus of ″Happy Birthday″ upon realizing she was there.

Charles, who is involved in projects to redevelop Britain’s inner cities, toured a job center in London’s rundown East End.

Buckingham Palace released no details on any plans for a celebration of Diana’s birthday. Press Association, the British news agency, said the princess opened cards and gifts from her family Wednesday morning.

In recent weeks, some tabloids have hinted Diana is romantically involved with banker Philip Dunne, a dancing partner at parties she has attended alone or stayed at long after Charles had gone home to bed.

But Wednesday’s story in the 4 million-circulation Sun is the first to go so far as to speculate on the mechanics of a royal divorce.

″Picture the scene,″ the newspaper said. ″Senior royal advisers gather at Buckingham Palace for the saddest task of their lives ... to thrash out the details of an historic announcement that will stun the world: The magic marriage is over.

″Unthinkable, yes, but the unthinkable keeps happening to the royal family.″

The newspaper quotes Harold Brooks-Baker, senior editor at Burke’s Peerage, as saying Diana would lose everything in a divorce - custody of two sons, room and board and her privileged place in society.

However, Brooks-Baker told The Associated Press he believes Charles and Diana have a stable marriage.

″I don’t think there’s any problem in the marriage,″ he said. ″I think that Fleet Street (London’s newspaper row) desparately wants to make it look as though there is something wrong because it sells newspapers.″

Buckingham Palace refuses to comment on speculative reports about the royal family.

Divorce is taboo in Britain’s royal family, largely because the monarch is titular head of the Church of England, which strongly opposes divorce.

Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 to marry the American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson. The queen refused to give consent to her sister, Princess Margaret, to marry a divorced man. Margaret’s subsequent marriage to the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, later titled Lord Snowdon, ended in divorce in 1976.

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