Princess Diana’s BBC Interview Was Each a Tragedy and a Revelation

The late Princess Diana was a media mastermind, an unabashed spin doctor of her own wounded cause. That’s to not say her cause was illegitimate: Marrying a person with little interest in loving her, she was sold a raw deal disguised with the saccharine frosting of her wedding cake.

Royal life was not the pleasure she’d been promised, marriage was not the solace she’d long sought, and womanhood was as terrifying and cruel as she’d at all times feared. Diana may very well be impetuous, but she was not unjustified. Which, after all, made the BBC’s use of her paranoia all of the more tragic.

As depicted in the newest season of The Crown, the Princess of Wales was fanning the flames of her marriage’s collapse when Martin Bashir, a reporter with the BBC’s investigative Panorama unit, caught wind of her desperation. Her former lover, James Hewitt, had released a book about her; one other lover, Oliver Hoare, had driven her to have interaction in obsessive phone calls late at night. Prince Charles had revealed his adultery to Jonathan Dimbleby in a broadcast interview of his own, together with the revelation that he’d never really loved his wife.

In essence: Diana was wounded, and he or she felt the Firm closing in round her. She’d long harbored suspicions that her phones were bugged; that her staff were betraying her; that the entire Palace brigade was in cahoots to oust her. Bashir clocked these emotions after Andrew Morton’s biography Diana: Her True Story was published, and headlines surged with reports that she’d been mistreated and denied. In other words, she was vulnerable. But she was also on the defense.

The princess was attempting to find a probability to strike back against her separated husband, something with more oomph than the much-discussed “revenge dress.” Bashir gave it to her, though through an act of astonishing deception. Over the course of multiple months, he convinced her to do a television interview, one by which she could air all her grievances without interference. But to seal the deal, Bashir employed a Panorama graphics artist to create fake bank statements, ones that “proved” payments between News International—publishers of News of the World—and a one-time worker of Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother. Bashir forged a fake connection between her inner circle and the media, further catalyzing Diana’s fears that those closest to her were betraying her.

And so she engaged in her own act of deception: She betrayed the Palace’s unspoken rule of never speaking. She knew the facility of media, and he or she decided to make use of it. The BBC interview took place on a Sunday in 1995 at Kensington Palace, after the staff had left for the evening. The reporters and their camera gear entered Diana’s sitting room under the guise of delivering a recent hi-fi system. Diana later dropped a press release announcing that the printed would air on November 14—Prince Charles’ birthday.

In point of fact, the interview aired on the twentieth, however the impact was no less felt within the Prince of Wales’ camp. Nor did it go over well on the BBC. As The Crown shows, the BBC Board of Governors chairman was Marmaduke Hussey, who was married to Lady Susan Hussey, an in depth friend of the queen. BBC Director General John Birt selected to not warn Hussey of the Diana broadcast, lest or not it’s shelved as a consequence of its indictment of Prince Charles and the sovereign. As Tina Brown wrote in her 2007 book The Diana Chronicles, “This time Diana’s ‘instinct for co-option’ had ensnared the institution that for the last half-century had not only punctiliously negotiated its access to the Royal Family through official channels but had also been the tv partner of the Monarchy for each state occasion because the Queen’s Coronation.”

The printed was earth-shaking: Lines like, “There have been three of us on this marriage,” and “She won’t go quietly, that’s the issue,” resound to this present day. Twenty-three million Britons tuned in. While the Morton book had allowed Diana deniability, there was no denying what the Princess of Wales was saying herself, right on TV. Every thing from her kohl-ringed eyes to her soft, stifled laughs spoke to her internal turmoil as naturally as her inner strength. (Actress Elizabeth Debicki, to her credit, absolutely nails every second of her Panorama interview imitation in The Crown.) After the interview aired, a Day by day Mirror poll showed public support of the Princess’s broadcast at a surprising 92 percent.

“Diana’s media moves at all times predicted the zeitgeist,” Brown wrote in her 2022 book The Palace Papers. “Her bombshell interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir in November 1995 was an Oprah confessional without Oprah.”

The Panorama interview was a hard-won moment, one which allowed Diana public support as she stepped into the world as a free woman. But it surely shook with the tragedies necessitating its existence. She’d been tricked by Bashir, who was eventually discredited in an inquiry by the BBC (though he claimed the solid bank statements “had no bearing on Diana’s decision to be interviewed.”) Princes William and Harry even publicly denounced the tactics used to secure the interview as “deceitful” and “unethical” as recently as 2021. Soon after the interview aired, Diana could be eternally severed from the person she loved: She and Charles formally divorced the next 12 months. As The Crown rightly depicts, the BBC interview was each a tragedy and a revelation, a fitting if painful encapsulation of the girl herself.

Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers film, TV, books and fashion. 

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