I’ve been asking myself and anyone else interested in the royal wedding whether they think the royal couple should have a prenuptial agreement. Even the ladies on The View recently weighed in on this topic.
Of course, the whole world is wishing Will and Kate well, and we are all excitedly awaiting the upcoming royal wedding. The fact that the couple has been together for several years and have weathered difficult times bodes well for the couple, but the duties and public scrutiny of royal life can be trying for even the most solid couple. In fact, three of four of the marriages of Queen Elizabeth’s children have ended in divorce. Most notably, Prince William’s own parents suffered a particularly acrimonious and public breakdown of their marriage in the mid-90’s, leading me to seriously consider the advantage that a pre-nup could offer the current generation.
In America, many famous and powerful couples sign pre-nuptial agreements in order to protect themselves, their assets, and their privacy in case of divorce. It was only in the past year, and after several costly celebrity divorces, however, that British courts started to view pre-nuptial agreements as binding unless deemed unfair. In a country with a divorce rate hovering around 40%, pre-nuptial agreements remain quite rare, although they are gaining in popularity now that they carry more weight in the courts. Even though pre-nuptial agreements just recently became binding in England, the question is whether the Royal Family has learned from the high profile divorces of the previous generation. A pre-nuptial agreement could avoid consternation, media exposure, and embarrassment to the Royal Family should a divorce happen.
While I am not a British family law solicitor, the more I have pondered this, the more I believe that Will and Kate should have a pre-nup, which if nothing else, will help the Royal Family avoid the unfortunate notoriety of a divorce similar to that of Prince Charles from Diana and Prince Andrew from Sarah Ferguson. A prenuptial agreement could include a confidentiality clause, prohibiting confessional interviews like Diana’s famous interview with Panorama that touched on Charles’ affair with Camilla and other probing subjects. Additionally, a pre-nup could help hammer out custodial and financial issues ahead of time, alleviating anxiety and public disagreements during a troubling time.
One matter that is particular to the Monarchy is the issue of the spouse’s title after divorce. This issue was the purported sticking point of Charles and Diana’s 1996 divorce, where Diana fought to keep the title “Princess” after the dissolution of her marriage to Charles. Days before Charles and Diana’s divorce became official, the Queen issued letters patent that allowed Diana and Sarah Ferguson to keep the “Princess” title after their name, dropping the Royal designation, “Her Royal Highness,” before their name and title. This may have set a precedent on the matter of post-divorce titles, but such distinctions are at the discretion of the ruling monarch, thus a pre-nuptial agreement may help safeguard Kate Middleton’s social position in case of divorce.
With the rise of media intrusion, royal divorces have become fodder for public amusement, often to the detriment of the Royal Family and the royal couples. Given all this, a pre-nup could limit the fallout from a divorce, helping the couple quickly come to a settlement about financial and residency issues, custody and spousal support, and even the unique predicament of determining post-marriage royal titles. In short, a pre-nup would be a very wise choice, not only for royal couples, but also for any couple looking to safeguard themselves in case of divorce.
If you are interested in further reading about the potential for a royal pre-nup, Ayesha Vardag, a lawyer from the firm that successfully made pre-nuptial agreements binding in English courts, wrote a very good article for the Huffington Post.
If you have any questions about pre-nuptial agreements in California and how they can help you, please contact our office at 415 474-1011, email me at Vivian@vivianholley.com, or visit us at www.vivianholley.com. And, please, leave a comment here for a future blog post.