The Experts: Has Kate Middleton signed a royal prenup?

Relationships | 27 Apr 2011 11

The Experts: Has Kate signed a royal prenup?

Marilyn Stowe

Come Friday, I’ll be watching the royal wedding on television along with everybody else. I’m looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine, checking out what the families are wearing and finally finding out who has created the bride’s wedding dress.

Being a family lawyer, however, I have found that when the Big Day comes up in conversation, people ask me about another “royal wedding secret” – one that is rather less romantic than gowns or tiaras. They want to know if I think Kate has signed a prenuptial agreement.

There has been a lot of speculation about this, particularly on the other side of the Atlantic where prenups are more common and royal wedding fever is running high. Personally I dislike prenups. Marriage is an equal partnership and I believe that it should begin as one.

At the same time the pressures of a royal life lived in the spotlight are well documented. The public divorce of the groom’s parents almost toppled the monarchy. Few would be surprised if sensible royal advisors wanted to minimise the risk, however small, of another public divorce and multi-million payout.

On 20 October 2010, the UK Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited judgment in the leading prenup case, Radmacher v Granatino. The President of the Supreme Court, with an unassailable judicial majority of eight to one, stated that prenups will now be upheld unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

The date of that groundbreaking judgment has been overlooked, but I think that it provides a significant clue for those who are intrigued by the possibility of a royal prenup. It was also on 20 October that, far away in Kenya, Prince William finally proposed to Kate and gave her his beloved mother’s iconic engagement ring. Would he have done so unless there was a default agreement in place about its ownership? In law an engagement ring otherwise becomes the absolute property of the recipient. It seems unlikely, so why restrict an agreement only to the ring? The judgment in Radmacher v Granatino means that such an agreement could now be legally “bombproof”.

Ultimately, does it matter if Kate walks down the aisle with a divorce settlement already signed? She strikes me as a tough cookie and has proven staying power. She loves her man, he loves her and I’d like to think that any agreement will be left to gather dust.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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    1. JamesB says:

      Her refusing to “obey” him doesn’t bode well. Was the death nell of my marriage. Kind of sets a tone and that you will be arguing sexual politics until the divorce. Hope I am wrong. Personally, I am not sure tough cookies are that attractive. I prefer the Maryland variety or the Smarties ones with chocolate in. But I do wish them the best, even though I disagree with her arguing for her modern vows, which means she doesn’t really want to be married in the traditional meaning of the word. I am not sure there is any other way. If I get married again 1 of my pre nup terms would be that my future wife obey.

    2. JamesB says:

      I have bought a commemorative mug and wish them well.

    3. JamesB says:

      It’s a china one from H Samuels.

    4. ObiterJ says:

      I noticed that Afus Hirsch did an item on this in The Guardian. As ever, she offered some interesting thoughts:

    5. Marilyn Stowe says:

      Well it was a fabulous wedding wasn’t it? They got it all bang on. Good luck to them. Sometimes Ive been at a wedding and just known the couple were wrong for each other. But these two are so different, everything about today especially the symbolism tells us they are determined to make it. I think they will.

    6. Marilyn Stowe says:

      I wonder how many couples have got engaged today? Congratulations to my niece Abigail and her brand new fiancé Jonny who proposed today.
      They are a fabulous couple, perfect for each other and I wish them every happiness in the future.
      Lots of love always,
      Aunty Mara

    7. Lukey says:

      “Her refusing to “obey” him doesn’t bode well.”

      Come on JamesB, that’s not a key factor, it means sweet Fanny Adam in law anyway – and of course royal marriages are never going to be handled the same in law when it comes to divorce.

      I do agree with you about marriage in that there is no upside to men. I don’t think women like marriage much either, they just like weddings and divorce 🙂 The vast majority of divorces are initiated by women and with the current laws so heavily in there favour when a lawyer tells them what they can get it is not that surprising.

      A female friend of mine is bored rigid with her husband, she is about to turf him out of their massive house (she of course will get custody) and has been told she can get half his very large salary too. She admits he has done nothing wrong, but fancies a change of life as he is “no fun” – you have to laugh – if men get married now it is a bit like smokers getting cancer, they are so foolish.

    8. ObiterJ says:

      Here is an article about a fictitious prenup:

      I thought the whole occasion was excellent and I agree fully with your post of 29th April (4.55 pm). William and Catherine are both 29 years of age and they have clearly taken their time to be sure that they are right for eachother and Catherine seems to have considered very carefully the immense spotlight under which she will come as wife of William.

      The law can make one very stony hearted and even cynical. Watching that lovely occasion swept all that away as I recalled my own beautiful bride of over 40 years ago. I worhsipped the ground she walked on and we never let eachother down.

      I throughly enjoyed writing a couple of blogposts on legal matters relating to the wedding. One concerned why the Queen was required to consent to the marriage and Legal Week very kindly reproduced that post. Another looked at the Church of England, how it is governed and its links to the Crown and our history. It is interesting stuff even if some of the rules seem archaic in this day and age. David Allen Green said on Twitter that I had more patience than he about all this “Gothic Horror” in our constitution. Nevertheless, there is something rather special about the links between the people and the Crown and we would, in my view, lose it at our peril.

      Anyway, the weather was spendid and my 5 grandchildren had a fabulous time. They wanted to watch the wedding and then all went to a huge local party – something like 200 kids there. A great day.

    9. JamesB says:

      Yes, it was a good event. Perhaps Drag Weddings, and drag stag do’s, like drag fox hunting are the answer. You can have the fun and the event without the downside of losing your shirt.

      Bit like Bah Mitzvahs or puberty rights of passage. I think events are good. But I have no intention of going through (or my children) going through the divorce I was forced to. Was too traumatic and expensive, barely survived. Certainly not unscaithed.

      Me and my ex did have a nice wedding day and stag and hen nights. My girlfriend may have to put up with me without that though and the day did not make me propose. But I think a lot did. Perhaps more work for divorce lawyers down the road. With pre nups might work and be less traumatic than mine I suppose and be worth the hasstle for the good bits am in a rush but liked the cart wheeling vicar also.

    10. JamesB says:

      In answer to the subject question of this posting, probably.

    11. Tulsa Divorce Attorneys says:

      I really hope Prince William exercised some discernment and had Princess Kate sign a prenup.

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