04/08/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
It has been a turbulent spring for the Princess of Wales: As legal teams sparred over the Windsors' divorce agreement, Prince Charles reportedly rejected a $30,000 bill from Diana's lawyer Anthony Julius. Although Charles had agreed to pay his wife's legal fees, the preliminary bill made him "apoplectic," according to a courtier who spoke to The Sun. "It is a vast amount of money," he said, "and you do not begin to pay bills halfway through divorce proceedings."
While Charles was still in a snit, Diana was badly shaken in a five-car collision, leading to renewed public objections to her insistence on driving by herself when she likes. At 8:45 p.m. on March 22, Di, who had been visiting a friend, was on her way back to Kensington Palace when a casino attendant lost control of the Porsche he was parking on Cromwell Road, slammed into a Fiat and knocked it into her BMW coupé. (The convertible model that Di usually drives was in the shop.) Two other cars were struck by the Fiat, but no one was injured. According to a witness who spoke to the Daily Mirror, Diana was white with shock after the incident, yet clearheaded enough to follow antikidnap protocol by taking a taxi to report the accident at the closest police station.
Although no one suggested that the mishap could have been avoided, critics argued that Di (who, like other Windsors, was assigned a 24-hour security detail after the IRA ceasefire ended in February) is foolish to insist that she be allowed to leave her bodyguards behind when she pleases. Noted The Sun: "The next car that rams Di could be driven by the IRA or a nutter with a gun." Minders did accompany Di on her next excursion: On March 23, she left for the-posh K Club, on Barbuda, in the Caribbean, with Princes William, 13, and Harry, 11—who are accompanied by a security detail at all times.
THE LATE DUCHESS
During a March jaunt to the Gulf state of Qatar, whose sultan picked up the $45,000 tab for her party of five (including father Ronald Ferguson), the Duchess of York brought up the rear in a 26-mile horse race across the desert—losing out on the $100,000 first prize by finishing 25th out of 27. Back in London on March 23, she collected Princesses Beatrice, 7, and Eugenie, 6, and, six hours later, flew to Miami, where she reportedly hoped to meet Austrian tennis ace Thomas Muster (with whom she rendezvoused in Australia earlier this year), a competitor in the Lipton tournament in nearby Key Biscayne. But Muster, 28, lost early on and was headed back to Austria by the time Fergie arrived. She and the girls continued to the Bahamas, where they checked into a luxe resort.
Earlier in the month, the tarnished Windsor Wives were briefly upstaged by Sophie Rhys-Jones, the live-in girlfriend of Prince Edward. On March 1, she dazzled London's chicest at a dinner for designer Tomasz Starzewski given by Asprey, the royal jewelers. Wearing a décolleté gown by Starzewski, the PR professional (and, some say, the next royal bride) proved that she can court the media—and, perhaps, give Di and Fergie a run for their money.