Instead, charisma carried the day, and Diana, 35, put a decidedly positive spin on her new life. In a year that began with the Queen's request for a clean break between the Waleses, Di has run a tricky course—though not without stumbling. Eager to seize the upper hand, she announced in February that she had agreed to a divorce. Taken by surprise, the Palace coolly noted that the news was premature; for the next five months lawyers haggled over issues, including her settlement from Prince Charles (the final figure: a tidy $26 million).
Though she lost her HRH—and her place in Parliament's morning prayers—the princess quickly regained her footing. Looking "healthy, sturdy, sexy," in the words of royal watcher Brian Hoey, she shone at fund-raisers in the U.S., smiled through a tabloid hoax involving a video said to reveal her romping with ex-lover James Hewitt, and avoided the temptation to spill her troubles to journalists. Said to be free of bulimia, Di has remained close to sons Prince William, 14, and Prince Harry, 12, and kept her cherished role as an ad hoc minister to the downtrodden. A sense of aimlessness still surfaces occasionally. Prone, as always, to mood swings, she has short-lived friendships, and her charity work in Britain—-where she is no longer a front-page fixture—is low-key. But she has also "matured emotionally and settled down," says Hoey. With the Windsors at bay, adds Nigel Evans, editor of Majesty, "she's on very good form. She's in control. She's empowered." And ready, it would seem, for Act Two.