A bit after 10 this morning, London time, an assistant sent by Prince Charles' lawyer slipped into the back office of a courtroom with a check for $31 and a divorce application. At exactly 10:27, a clerk for the court officially declared the marriage of Charles and Princess Diana over, 15 years and a month after it began in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Diana, 35, reportedly walks away with a $26 million settlement, plus living expenses and the use of Kensington Palace in London as her home. She's no longer royalty--technically speaking, she must curtsy to her own sons, William, 14, and Harry, 11, not to mention Charles--but she remains part of the royal family and, therefore, Queen Elizabeth can control her public appearances. Diana may yet try to take a role as an advocate for children's issues, the British press speculates--if her former mother-in-law lets her.

Although Diana called the decision to divorce the saddest day of her life and was photographed crying in public after preliminary papers were filed, she showed no emotion today as she visited a ballet rehearsal. She was wearing her engagement ring.

Charles, 47, is now free to pursue, if not discreetly, a woman he has apparently loved since he was 21, Camilla Parker Bowles, a divorced mother of two from the horsey set. The tabloid press broke the news of their earthy relationship three years ago, publishing excerpts from phone conversations, including one in which Charles expressed his wish to be reincarnated as a tampon so that he might always be in her knickers. Charles said that he will not remarry, however. As king, he would be Supreme Governor of the Anglican church, which frowns on both divorce and remarriage.

Thus ends one of the most-scrutinized marriages--and marital breakdowns--in history, from fairy-tale wedding to increasing estrangement to his infidelity to her counter-infidelity (with a cavalry officer) to her bulimia and suicide attempt. (Well, she threw herself down some stairs.) We won't see anything like it again.

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