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McCartney divorce echoes bitter Charles-Di split

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) British tabloids are licking their lips as Paul McCartney's divorce from his wife Heather becomes increasingly ugly, and comparisons with the bitter split between Prince Charles and Diana 10 years ago are already being made.

The gossip-hungry newspapers today splashed pictures of 38-year-old Heather Mills McCartney over the front pages after she hired Anthony Julius, Princess Diana's divorce lawyer, to handle her case.

Former Beatle McCartney, with a fortune of about 825 million pounds had already appointed Fiona Shackleton, who happened to represent Prince Charles in the 1996 divorce.

''Battle Royal'' is what newspapers have dubbed the McCartney case, which looks set to be played out in the full glare of the media spotlight. ''All You Need Is Hate'' was the headline in the Daily Express.

The hiring of identical lawyers in both cases provides a striking parallel.

Anthony Julius, nicknamed ''Anthony Genius'', was considered by some to be the winner in their first famous courtroom tussle, securing an estimated 17 million pounds for Diana.

The financial stakes in the McCartney case are far higher, with lawyers predicting Mills could win up to a quarter of her husband's fortune, or more than 200 million pounds.

Shackleton, known as the ''Steel Magnolia'' for her toughness, was credited with securing one concession from Diana, who agreed to give up the title ''Her Royal Highness''.

Comparisons have also been made between Diana and Mills. Both married into rich and powerful families, and both worked to highlight the dangers of landmines.

MILLS VILIFIED But there the similarities end.

While Diana was the darling of the public and press before her death in 1997, earning her the unofficial title ''Queen of Hearts'', Mills has been cast as the villain in the McCartney saga, which also involves their two-year-old daughter Beatrice.

''Heather should remember one thing,'' wrote Victoria Newton, show business editor of the Sun tabloid. ''She may aspire to be the Queen of Hearts -- but all she will ever be is the Queen of Tarts''.

Mills has been the target of lurid allegations since news of the separation broke, and she launched legal action against one newspaper that printed claims she was once a prostitute. She dismissed the allegations as ''untrue and highly defamatory''.

McCartney, meanwhile, remains a favourite with Britons, who share fond memories of his time with the Beatles and of his first wife Linda, who died in 1998.

The first sign that his second marriage had turned sour came last month, when he cited Mills' ''unreasonable behaviour'' for the break-up, prompting Mills to file counter-claims against him both in Britain and the United States.

Since then, 64-year-old McCartney has frozen their joint bank account and complained through a legal letter when three bottles of cleaner were taken from his home to be used in Mills' nearby office, according to Mills' spokesman.

On Monday, Mills was unable to get into McCartney's London house after the locks on the gate had been changed.

It is all a far cry from the announcement of the separation in May, in which the couple vowed it was amicable.

REUTERS DKA BST1824

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