The royal family was still applying cold compresses en masse after a summer rife with romantic antics—Princess Anne's separation from Mark Phillips and the quickie marriage of Di's brother—when another brouhaha among the nobility seized Britain's attention. Earlier this month Marina Ogilvy, 23, the only daughter of Princess Alexandra, the Queen's first cousin, announced that she was (a) with child and (b) without husband. As if the prospect of an out-of-wedlock royal cousin wasn't bad enough, Marina had the gall to act out her morality play on the front pages and draw "Dear Cousin Lilibet" into the fray with her weepy pleas for support. The scene grew uglier by the day as Marina charged that her parents, Princess Alexandra and Sir Angus Ogilvy, had urged her to have an abortion and showed more loyalty to the throne than to their own flesh and blood. "This is the dark side of the royal family we are experiencing," she told a London tabloid.

Until she announced she was two months pregnant, Marina, who is 24th in line to the throne, was one of those members of the family seen in a back pew at the occasional wedding or funeral. But now that she has gone public with her problem, the press has been happily dishing the dirt, resulting in an ever-widening rift between Marina and her parents. The first bone of contention was the baby's father, Paul Mowatt, 26, a decidedly unpedigreed free-lance photographer who Angus Ogilvy reportedly said was a "bad influence" on his daughter. But even though Mowatt didn't fit the Ogilvys' idea of a suitable husband, Marina says her parents would have gone along with a quiet wedding—or an even quieter abortion.

When Marina told her parents that she and Mowatt intended to keep the baby and would postpone am wedding talk until after the child is born in May, she says they cut off her $160,000 trust fund and $450 monthly allowance—a charge they deny. "My parents have been horrible to us," Marina whimpered to the tabloid Today. "They said either take the options we have offered or we want nothing more to do with you."

The couple's baby will hardly be the first royal or near-royal born out of wedlock—as recently as 1964 another first cousin of the Queen's, the Earl of Harewood, produced an illegitimate child by the woman he later married. But the royal family is said to be deeply distressed by the bitterness and the extensive publicity surrounding Marina's pregnancy. Marina wrote a six-page letter to the Queen asking "for her help, wise advice and guidance," but so far the letter has gone unanswered.

In repeated interviews, Marina has lambasted her parents for their callousness. She called her mother—popularly known as the caring princess—a hypocrite and alleged that her father, a director at Sotheby's, had started to drink heavily and that she feared he would turn violent. Denying reports that she tried to blackmail her parents, Marina says she asked her father for part of her trust fund to buy a small house in which she and Mowatt could live. "He said I couldn't have a penny," she says. "When I said, 'Look, I am your daughter, what comes first, Queen and country or your daughter?' he said, 'Queen and country.' "

The press has taken the Ogilvys to task for their inability to contain the situation. And their stony response and starchy public statements have only exacerbated the affair. The Ogilvys' behavior has made Mowatt's mother, a shop assistant who invited the young couple to live in her modest home in London's Kingston area, look like the model of decorum. (To escape attention, the couple fled to a hideaway in Ireland.) Mowatt's jazz trumpeter father, on the other hand, reportedly accused Marina of "trapping" his son to embarrass her parents. What has been embarrassing is Marina's press performances. Clutching Mowatt's hand, she broadcast a tearful plea for reconciliation on a BBC-TV talk show. "Mother, please ring me," she said. "Maybe I have made mistakes, but I do feel deeply distressed at the situation as it is. I want you to really stand by me and love me as a mother."

But as the week drew to a close, a small window opened, offering the surprising promise of just such a reunion. As the Ogilvys prepared for a planned tour of India and Nepal, Princess Alexandra's office at St. James's Palace issued a statement: "Marina's parents sadly do not know where she is, but Marina has their numbers and they would love her to get in touch with them." Perhaps it was the simplicity of that plea that led Marina, finally, to respond. After some tentative communication, a family pow-wow was reportedly in the works.

—Cynthia Sanz, Laura Sanderson Healy in London