Princess Diana’s BBC interview with Martin Bashir, ‘An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales’, aired on 20 November 1995 in the documentary series ‘Panorama’. Filmed in Diana’s living room at Kensington Palace, the explosive interview went down in history due to the candor with which Diana divulged intimate details about the royal’s life and her marriage, including her struggles with depression. postnatal, bulimia and, most shockingly, her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
It was the final blow to Charles and Diana’s troubled relationship. In 2021, revelations about the deceptive manner in which Bashir obtained the interview made headlines, bringing Diana back into the spotlight 24 years after her untimely death and raising new questions about the role of the media in the tragically short life of “the people’s princess”.
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Diana reveals mental health issues
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In the interview, Diana opened up about the lack of support she received from the royal family when she was suffering from postpartum depression: “Well, I was maybe the first person in that family to have done depression or openly crying,” she said. said. “And obviously that was intimidating, because if you’ve never seen it before, how do you support it?” She said her struggles soon led to her being written off: “It gave everyone a wonderful new label: Diana is unstable and Diana mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck.”
Diana admitted to cutting herself and openly discussed her bulimia. She blamed her heartache on her failing relationship: “It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I decided that was the problem: Diana was unstable.”
His frankness was revolutionary for a member of the royal family: “No one had ever heard of a member of the royal family talking about bulimia or self-harm. It was Diana breaking taboos in these shocking revelations,” says Katie Nicholl, author of The New Royals Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the future of The Crown.
“We were three in the marriage”
Charles and Diana had spoken with the press about the breakdown of their marriage. Diana had provided information to Andrew Morton for his biography Diana: her true story and Charles confessed to adultery when questioned by Jonathan Dimbleby, author of The Prince of Wales: A Biography. But this was the first time Diana had directly named Camilla Parker Bowles as the “third person” in her marriage.
Diana told Bashir: “There were three of us in this wedding, so it was a bit crowded.” She then admitted her own affair with former army officer James Hewitt, who had been a riding instructor for her and her sons. She told Bashir she was “very disappointed” when Hewitt helped a revealing book about their affair, princess in love.
“It was shocking because it was Diana in her own words and what she was saying was incredibly explosive,” Nicholl said. “It was Diana taking control of the narrative on camera for the very first time.”
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Diana on her husband’s future as King Charles III
When asked if Charles wanted to rule, Diana told Bashir, “there was always a conflict about that with him when we discussed it”, and that “Being King would be a bit more stuffy. And because I know the character, I would think the top job, as I call it, would give him huge limitations, and I don’t know if he could fit into that.”
“The fact that she questioned Charles’ ability to be a good king was extremely damaging to the institution,” Nicholl says. “There’s a good balance between using TV as a way to gain royal advantage and not letting too much daylight into the mystique of the monarchy.”
Fallout from Diana’s BBC interview
Although Charles and Diana have been separated since 1992, the BBC interview in 1995 dealt the final blow to the marriage. “There were both personal and political considerations,” says Carolyn Harris, historian, author and royal commentator. “On a personal level, the Queen’s grandsons, Williams and Harry, were under severe strain. On a political level, Diana was critical of Charles’ fitness to be king.
A month after the shooting, Queen Elizabeth II sent letters to Charles and Diana urging them to finalize their divorce. “The Queen could see the damage she was causing to the monarchy as an institution. It was a case of Elizabeth II putting the reputation and preservation of the monarchy above all else,” Nicholl says.
It also deeply upset Diana’s family and loved ones, including Prince William. “It was one of the few times she had a fight with William,” Nicholl says. In 2021, Prince William issued a public statement about the interview, saying “it was a major contribution to the worsening of my parents’ relationship and has since hurt countless others”. He requested that it never be aired again.
Walter Bashir used ‘deceptive methods’ to get an interview
The interview was conducted in the utmost secrecy, with material smuggled into Kensington Palace and the BBC’s Board of Governors strategically left in the dark about its planning and execution. In 2020 the BBC hired Judge Lord Dyson to investigate allegations that Bashir misled Diana in order to get the interview. The Dyson report revealed that Bashir employed ‘deceptive methods’ to gain Diana’s trust, including falsifying bank statements which fueled his paranoia that she was under surveillance: ‘Diana was encouraged to believe that the palace was carefully monitoring her conversations and his moves,” Harris says.
In 2021 Prince William condemned the way the interview was obtained, saying: ‘The failures of the BBC contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those last years with her .”
“While she always wanted to speak, Bashir’s way of booking the interview is so discredited that her actions need to be taken into account,” says Nicholl. “We don’t know how much of the fears he instilled in her led her to do the interview or if she would have gotten this far if she hadn’t been tricked – that’s the big question.”
Diana died in a car crash just two years after the BBC interview, making her words even more prominent in public memories as ‘the people’s princess’.
“Diana was able to connect with audiences because of the combination of glamor and vulnerability,” says Harris. “One of the reasons a lot of people thought they could relate to Diana was that they felt like they knew her because she spoke quite openly about the challenges she faced.”