As a result, the BBC has launched a fresh investigation into claims that fraudulent behaviour was engaged in as part of securing the sit-down with the royal.
This recent turn of events only furthers the legend surrounding this scandalous interview, which has courted controversy from the very moment it went to air.
Let’s take a closer look at the five key reasons why this interview sparked controversy.
1. Princess Diana was reportedly ‘tricked’ into doing it
A separated and fed-up Princess Diana was determined to finally step out from the royal fold and tell her side of the story in the fateful BBC Panorama sit-down on November 20, 1995. Or was she?
Diana’s brother Earl Charles Spencer has reignited claims that the Princess of Wales was convinced to participate in the highly revealing interview on what were false grounds.
The claim centres on Martin Bashir’s use of doctored bank statements to get Diana on side for the interview. These fake financial documents, allegedly seen by the Earl, falsely suggested that Diana’s then-private secretary, along with another royal staffer, were being paid by a security firm to spy on the princess.
These untruths reportedly played on Diana’s ongoing fears about her safety and privacy. As a result, it’s alleged that this ultimately pushed her over the line into agreeing to do the no-holds barred interview.
Just two months after the Earl made these claims against the BBC, Diana's ex-partner Hasnat Khan also slammed the broadcasting corporation for manipulating the princess into the interview, suggesting that Bashir "picked on (Diana's) vulnerabilities and exploited them".
The BBC has now launched a new investigation to discover what steps and potential wrongdoings both the corporation and the journalist undertook in order to secure the interview with Diana.
However, Martin, who is now the BBC’s religion editor, is seriously ill with COVID-19-related complications, and is not in a position to respond to Charles’s allegations.
Meanwhile, Diana’s son Prince William recently took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement in support of the internal media investigation. He wrote: “It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”
2. It delivered startling revelations about the royal marriage
No topic was off-limits in the historic live televised Panorama interview – billed as “the scoop of a generation” – with Princess Diana candidly discussing everything from her private health battles with bulimia and self-harm to her own affair.
She even called out the royal family over the perceived lack of support given to her – particularly during her darkest hours.
The bombshells were relentless – and sent shock-waves through the royal family and wider public.
But it was the revelation about Prince Charles and his long-rumoured mistress Camilla Parker Bowles which proved to be the most damning.
“Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” became the iconic sentence uttered by Princess Diana about her husband’s affair.
Adding salt to the wound, Diana questioned the heir’s future suitability as king.
The weight of Diana’s words and claims have stuck fast – and they continue to be cited to this very day.
3. It turned the Queen against Princess Diana
“Never complain, never explain” has always been the unspoken mantra of Queen Elizabeth II when it comes to the royal family’s personal matters.
In the event this was completely upended when Princess Diana appeared on Panorama, providing a warts-and-all insight to her royal marriage and general treatment by her husband and the rest of the royal family.
Diana herself previously admitted that speaking out put her offside with the firm – and in particular the Queen – and that she was well aware they were “shocked and horrified and very disappointed”.
In the documentary Diana: The Interview that Shocked the World in 2020, Sir Richard Eyre – who was on the board of directors of the BBC – confirmed that the monarch was particularly upset about the interview.
“[The Queen] said to me, unprompted, ‘How are things at the BBC?’ and I said, ‘Oh well, fine’,” Sir Richard recalled. “And she said, ‘Frightful thing to do, frightful thing that my daughter-in-law did’.”
In the aftermath, it appeared that Princess Diana never regained the trust of her former mother-in-law. This may also be seen as going some way to explaining the Queen’s seemingly cold response in the aftermath of Diana’s tragic death.
4. It expedited the divorce between Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Princess Diana and Prince Charles were officially separated – although not divorced – at the time of her bombshell interview.
But in the actual interview, Diana explained that as a child of divorce, she didn’t intend on heading down that path. In the subsequent years, there have also been numerous claims by those close to Diana alleging she never wanted to divorce the father of her two young sons.
Nevertheless, the interview served as a tipping point in the marital demise. Less than a month later, the Queen sent letters advising the Prince and Princess of Wales to divorce. The formal agreement was finalised on August 28, 1996, less than a year after the interview aired.
5. It was seen as a wilful act of revenge against Charles
Even during the Panorama discussion, Martin asked Diana if she held concerns that her claims would be portrayed as scornful retaliation against an unfaithful husband; but Diana insisted that that simply wasn’t the case.
“I don’t sit here with resentment: I sit here with sadness because a marriage hasn’t worked. I sit here with hope because there’s a future ahead, a future for my husband, a future for myself and a future for the monarchy,” the princess said.
Although her intentions for agreeing to the interview are now under immense scrutiny, at the time Diana claimed she was simply telling her truth.
“We will have been separated three years this December, and the perception that has been given of me for the last three years has been very confusing, turbulent, and in some areas I’m sure many, many people doubt me,” she said in the interview.
“And I want to reassure all those people who have loved me and supported me throughout the last 15 years that I’d never let them down. That is a priority to me, along with my children.”
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