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Though no one wants or even expects to see a divorce between Prince William and Kate Middleton (the couple hasn't even wed yet!) British lawyers are cautioning that the prince has a lot to lose, and should consider a prenuptial agreement.
Citing rising divorce rates and the amount of the prince's future fortune, divorce lawyer James Stewart tells the AP, "It's an absolute statistical no-brainer that a prenuptial agreement would be highly beneficial in this case." Stewart happens to know what he's talking about: He's a partner at the law firm Manches, which handled the multimillion divorce between Madonna and Guy Ritchie.
"A prenup might be seen as anathema to the idea that the marriage vow is supposed to be for life ... but you can't ignore the statistics," echoes Matthew Brunsdon Tully, a professor of family law at the London School of Economics and practicing divorce attorney, to the AP. With divorce rates at all-time highs, "it's probably prudent of people to at least consider what might happen."
Even so, prenups are a relatively new phenomenon in Britain, only becoming recognized there six months ago.
William and Kate are set to marry at Westminster Abbey in London April 29. His office declined to comment on whether the future heir to the throne might sign a premarital contract, but royal divorces are not uncommon: Three of Queen Elizabeth II's four children -- Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne -- have been divorced.
A lot of money is at stake when royals untie the knot. When Charles and Princess Diana divorced in 1996 after 15 years of marriage, Diana "took him to the cleaners," the prince's former financial adviser, Geoffrey Bignell, told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper in 2004, claiming that Charles turned over his entire personal fortune -- widely reported to be more than 17 million pounds ($27 million today).
Sarah Ferguson reportedly got 800,000 pounds ($1.3 million today) after her 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew, but is said to have renegotiated years later and gotten a much bigger payout, according to the AP story.
As for William, his bank account is bursting already and is expected to grow with a presumed inheritance from the queen, whose fortune was recently estimated at around 290 million pounds ($467 million). He also got a share of Diana's nearly $34 million estate.
If he and Kate do sign a prenup, though, don't expect to hear about it. A confidentiality clause would be a given, Stewart predicts. "Kate is joining a family known as 'The Firm,' and every other employee of the royal household has a contract of employment which includes a fairly severe gagging clause," he says.