Royal Watch

updated 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CHANEL CROSSING
Mon Dieu! With Brits in a snit over the lab for keeping the Queen's brood in Jaguars and polo ponies, one might expect Princess Diana to stick close to the palace, mend her jeans and make do. Instead, the royal renegade escaped to Paris on April 30 for four days of shopping and sightseeing therapy. With chums Hayat Palumbo and Lucia Flecha de Lima, Di, 31, was whisked straight from a private jet to the House of Chanel. After trying on shoes and scanning the ready-to-wear racks, she settled on a tweed suit and a chiffon evening dress and jacket that go for $50,500 at the couture boutique. Although she tried to keep the unpatriotic binge hush-hush, photographers snapped her as her limo sped away. Afterward she visited Notre Dame Cathedral—to nurse a guilty conscience perhaps?

HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Elsewhere in Paris, Di's stepmother. Raine Spencer, 63, was standing at a moonlit fountain accepting the proposal of Jean-Françoise de Chambrun, 57, a French count she met at a Monte Carlo dinner party last month and plans to wed in July. The engagement—formalized with a sapphire-and-diamond ring even flashier than Diana's—was announced just 13 months after Maine's second husband, Earl Spencer, died at 68. "I am just over the moon," said the Countess, whose 16-year marriage to Spencer was marked by bitter contretemps with his four children. Sighed her fiancé, a divorced father of two who runs his $3 million Château Garibondy near Cannes as a hotel and conference center: "She's my fairy queen." 'After flying to London, the pair lunched with Prince Charles and had tea with Raine's mother, romance novelist Barbara Cartland, 91. For her part, Princess Di sent flowers and a congratulatory note to the stepmum she once called Acid Maine.

BEHIND THE SCENES
While the Queen's away the proles will pay—$12.50, that is, for the chance to tour Buckingham Palace, which will be opened for the first time in its 316-year history to help raise the $60 million needed to repair fire-damaged Windsor Castle. When the royals retreat to Balmoral in August and September, 1,000 lesser mortals an hour are expected to purchase gaping privileges to 19 of the palace's 600 rooms, containing parts of the world's largest private art collection. Although the family quarters will be off-limits, Michael Fagan, a house painter who stole into Buck House in 1982 and popped into the Queen's boudoir, says the public won't be missing much. "I don't think people imagine it the way it is," said Fagan, 42. "It's dusty and has squeak) floorboards. Very ordinary—I don't think they spent much on decoration.""

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