From a Special Correspondent The grounds for the annulment of Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz's first marriage were that her husband, merchant banker Mr Tom Troubridge, had decided prior to the marriage not to have children or to reserve to himself the right to decide if and when there would be children, according to American sources.
The Baroness, whose engagement to Prince Michael of Kent was announced last week, was granted a degree of nullity in May two years after she first filed a petition with Westminster Marriage Tribunal.
Mr Troubridge gave evidence three times in the proceedings, twice in England and once in America.
Had Mr Troubridge not been officially approached the proceedings of the marriage tribunal would themselves have been invalid. A tribunal is required to make contact with both parties in a case and give them the opportunity to give evidence.
Unlike a civil divorce an annulment is not granted on the grounds of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage but only if there is a defect in the nature Of the consent originally given by the partners.
A firm resolution on Mr Troubridge's part prior to the marriage not to have children or to reserve to himselr the right to decide if and when there would be children, would indicate that he had not fully accepted the Church's teaching on marriage and the union could therefore be declared null and void.
The case is believed to have been heard by the Westminster, Birmingham and Portsmouth Marriage Tribunals, but accepted by only two out of the three. Two affirmative decisions are however sufficient for a decree of nullity to be granted.
The Baroness now hopes to marry Prince Michael in a Catholic Church in Austria in July. First however she must obtain a dispensation from Pope Paul to marry an Anglican.
The issue is further complicated as Prince Michael has said he intends the children to be baptised as Anglicans because of the historic ties between royalty and the Church of England.
Prince Michael will automatically renounce his right of succession to the throne if his marriage to a Catholic goes ahead. l le is 16th in line to the throne and the Queen's cousin. His children however, if baptised Anglicans, will retain their right of succession.
As a Catholic however the Baroness must promise to 'do all in her power' to ensure the the children are baptised and brought up in the Catholic ..faith.