Divorce and "The Crown" – A Prime Minister's Perspective

March 6, 2023
Chris Macturk
Founding Attorney

Watching the marriage of Charles and Diana on television all those years ago, I would have never thought that the "fairy tale" wedding would eventually set the stage for a fairly accurate portrayal of the divorce process, provided by none other than a British Prime Minister.

Well, by an actor playing a Prime Minister on Netflix.

The historical drama's accuracy will no doubt be debated for a long time to come. But the storyline of the episode named "Couple 31" in Season 5 of "The Crown" on Netflix provides several opportunities to consider important aspects of resolving a divorce, "royal" and otherwise.

Selection of Attorneys:

In the episode, the Prime Minister updates the Queen on who the divorcing royals hired as their attorneys, commenting, "neither is known nor I suspect was hired for their ability to give ground and make peace…."

When hiring an attorney, ask the attorney how they try to resolve divorce cases. Do they always think of it as a "fight" or "battle," where going to Court is the only way, or do they encourage reaching agreements and making compromises? Does your case require a fight, or is it one where agreements can be reached?

Don't let emotion rule the choice of lawyer entirely, especially in the early stages of your divorce. Reflect on your choice of advocate and the needs of your case. Who you choose to represent you can have a significant impact on the financial cost of your divorce as well as theemotional costs to your family.

Alternate Dispute Resolution:

After learning about the lawyers chosen by the parties, the Queen says, "What we need is some kind of mediator. Someone who might be trusted by both sides." The Prime Minister offered some names of those who he thought would be good candidates for the job, but the Queen asks, "What about you?" The Prime Minister ultimately agrees to be the mediator.

Mediation is a form of "alternate dispute resolution" and is one of many ways to stay out of court. There are many mediators to choose from. Some are lawyers, and some are retired Judges. Some are neither. You don't have to be a lawyer or a Judge to be a mediator. Regardless of who the mediator is, if both parties agree to go to mediation, it may very well help you avoid a great deal of time and expense going to trial. Be sure to choose one with enough experience and necessary temperament to help you through the difficult process of divorce.

Seeing a different perspective – what is really being said?

After Diana proposed she is paid over $30 million to settle the divorce, Charles tells the Prime Minister, "Look, I know you've been asked to help to resolve the divorce in a civilized manner, but how can anyone expect my side to behave civilly when her side has already made such an open declaration of war?"

The Prime Minister responds by saying, "Perhaps the princess, in seeking such a large initial sum, is simply trying to ensure her future independence. Rather than allowing a situation to develop in which she is beholden to you for a longer period of time. In some ways, her attempt to avoid a financial settlement with no fixed term could be seen as a way of liberating you both."

I translate that sentence to say, perhaps Diana was asking for a large, up-front, lump-sum payment to avoid monthly support, for example, thereby tying themselves together financially for years to come.

Charles says, "Well, I'm afraid that speaks to a generosity of spirit that you possess, not Diana. An opening demand of this magnitude is clearly designed to ruin me. Which is entirely in keeping with the princess's desire to destroy me at every turn."

In the face of Charles' anxiety and anger, the Prime Minster states, "I'm simply encouraging you to be more flexible in your thinking toward the princess and what her motivations might be."

The scene ultimately changes where the Prime Minister is now sitting with Diana, reporting to her, "Well, after a lengthy and, I think, productive discussion, I can confirm that His Royal Highness is now prepared to discuss a sizeable payment with just one stipulation. That you refrain forever from speaking in public about the marriage or the monarchy in any way that can be seen as damaging."

Diana pointedly responds, "If he's going to stuff my mouth with gold and hope I gag, that sum had better have eight figures and start with a three."

The Prime Minister offers another perspective, saying, "In any negotiation, it's worth remembering there are often two languages being spoken. The language of the demands being made and what's actually being said underneath. I prefer to try and ignore the former and speak the latter."

Money often means something different to both sides of a dispute. And settlement offers hide the true needs or wants. Sometimes you may not even  know what you need or want, let alone try to figure out what your spouse needs or wants.

The Collaborative Law process, another form of alternative dispute resolution, can help translate and reveal the hidden needs and wants of the parties so that settlement can be reached. Collaborative Law can involve a "team" of professionals, including mental health professionals acting as "coaches" to help with trust building and translating what is being said between spouses. Often the coaches' observations, advice, and thoughtful revelations can help spouses better understand each other, leading to agreement. Learn more about Collaborative Law here.

If you have questions about the process of divorce, please contact us at Evolution Divorce & Family Law, PLLC. We would be honored to provide you with support and guidance during a difficult time.

If you are intrigued by this article, check out The Crown Season 5's Official Trailer Below.

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