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Princess Anne granted divorce from Capt. Mark Phillips

LONDON -- In the third failed marriage for the royal family, Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was granted a divorce Thursday from Capt. Mark Phillips, her husband of 18 years, Buckingham Palace said.

A senior district judge at Somerset House in London took four minutes to grant the divorce, which is viewed as a legal formality. Neither Princess Anne nor Phillips were present.

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Although the princess, who is eighth in line to the throne, filed for divorce earlier this month, it was widely reported that the action had been mutually agreed.

Princess Margaret, the queen's sister, was divorced in 1978. Last month, the palace announced the Duke and Duchess of York planned to separate. The marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and his wife Diana also has been reported to be under strain.

Princess Anne, 41, married Phillips on Nov. 14, 1973, in a glittering ceremony at Westminster Abbey. A common interest in riding, with Phillips a champion rider and the princess a winner of European three- day-events, had led to their union.

Their two children, Peter, 14, and Zara, 9, who are at boarding school, will continue to live with their mother at their home, Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire, in western England.

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Phillips, who will continue to live nearby at Aston Farm on the Gatcombe estate, will have unlimited access to the children.

When Buckingham Palace announced the separation in August 1989, it said the couple had 'decided to separate on terms agreed between them. There are no plans for divorce proceedings.'

Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on whether the princess plans to remarry, describing her future as 'a personal matter.'

The Daily Mirror, a London tabloid, reported Wednesday that the couple were locked in a bitter dispute over the distribution of their wedding gifts, valued at more than $3.5 million.

The paper reported that moves by Phillipses' lawyers to ensure that he gained half the value of the presents were meeting resistance from attorneys acting for Princess Anne and the queen. Whether jewelry was given to the princess or to the couple reportedly was at the heart of the dispute.

Earlier this year, New Zealand art teacher Heather Tonkin, 38, brought a paternity suit against Phillips in New Zealand, claiming he was the father of her 6-year-old daughter. The captain said he would contest the suit.

Shortly before the couple's 1989 separation, private letters written to Princess Anne by a naval commander were leaked to the press, causing a scandal and putting in question the future of the marriage.

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