After 34 years of marriage, the Duke of Norfolk has confirmed his divorce has been finalised, saying: ‘It’s just terribly sad.’
The staunchly Roman Catholic Duke, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, said both he and Georgina had tried to save the union but they were splitting ‘amicably’ now their children are adults.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, the Duke – who will eventually have the job of organising Prince Charles’s coronation – said: ‘By God we tried. For the sake of the family, and because we are Catholic, we really, really tried everything. It proved completely impossible and we had to move on.
‘The final divorce bit was instigated a year ago and now it’s finally come through. It’s just terribly sad, but we have to move on for the sake of the children – we can’t go on putting them through this.’
Duke Edward Fitzalan-Howard and Duchess Georgina Fitzalan-Howard at the Festival of Speed at Goodwood, Surrey on 13 Jul 2003. After 34 years of marriage they have confirmed their divorce
The Duke with his new partner, Chica Herbert
The Duke, who is worth £100 million, will also keep Arundel Castle, the 1,000-year-old ancestral home in West Sussex
The Duchess, 60, has kept the couple’s Angmering Park House and 100 acres of the estate, which forms a small part of 16,000 acres owned by the Duke on the South Downs.
He lives less than two miles away at Peppering Farm, a property which was once occupied and decorated by the Duchess during one of their trial separations.
The Duke, who is worth £100 million, will also keep Arundel Castle, the 1,000-year-old ancestral home in West Sussex.
The couple married in 1987 and have five children, now aged between 24 and 33. They separated in 2011, much to the sadness of close friends and family, and the split was said to be so acrimonious that they missed the Royal Wedding of William and Kate to avoid being in the same room as each other.
By 2016 they were back together, just before the wedding of their eldest son Henry, who will one day take on the prestigious title of 19th Duke of Norfolk.
The Queen, a close friend of both the Duke and the Duchess, was said to be delighted at this reconciliation, while the Catholic Herald ran an article praising their decision to stay together.
The couple married in 1987 and have five children, now aged between 24 and 33. They separated in 2011, much to the sadness of close friends and family, and the split was said to be so acrimonious that they missed the Royal Wedding of William and Kate to avoid being in the same room as each other
But last year the Duke said the reunion had been short-lived and he was now in a new relationship.
At the time, the couple maintained they had no plans to divorce and, as recently as April this year, the Duke would only go as far as to say their future was ‘uncertain’.
But now the Duke – who is regarded as the most senior lay member of the Catholic Church in Britain – has revealed the divorce papers were signed in June.
He added: ‘Since the divorce, to be truthful, there’s no sharing. The castle is mine now, for family and weekends. Her area of influence is just Angmering House.
‘The financial settlement was agreed a long time ago, but since then we reconciled – now it’s been put into action after all.
‘The biggest hardness is just the sadness of the two of us not succeeding in making it work. That’s the biggest sadness, honestly. There wasn’t one thing that broke us – we tried and tried and tried, over eight years.
‘We really have given it our best shot, there’s no doubt about it. It’s completely amicable and terribly sad.’
The Duke is now in a relationship with Francesca Herbert, mother of socialite Frankie Herbert and ex-wife of Harry Herbert whose father, the 7th Earl of Carnavon, was the Queen’s closest confidant.
So why does the Duke of Norfolk live in Sussex?
While his title would imply he lords over Norwich, the traditional seat of the Duke of Norfolk is almost 200 miles away at Arundel Castle in Sussex.
This situation is not uncommon, with very few British dukes living near the origin of their title. Chatsworth House, the home of the Dukes of Devonshire, is in Derbyshire. Similarly, for centuries the Duke of Westminster’s traditional seat has been Eaton Hall in Cheshire.
The reason for absenteeism among the dukes is usually one of history. Many owned their homes and land before they took on their titles. Indeed, they were usually given dukedoms precisely because they were rich enough to own plenty of land, so they tended to remain in their existing homes.
Arundel Castle was given to ancestors of the present Duke of Norfolk shortly after the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century, while the title was created several centuries later.
Traditional seats are often irrelevant now, with many sold or lost to death duties.
For instance, the Duke of Manchester lives in Las Vegas, and has at times found his ducal seat to be the High Desert Nevada State Prison – a far cry from the family’s 17th Century Kimbolton Castle, which is now a school.