Diana's Panorama interview marked ‘the beginning of the end’ for her place in the Royal family

Camilla Tominey
·4-min read
The Princess of Wales being interviewed by Martin Bashir in 1995 - AFP/Getty
The Princess of Wales being interviewed by Martin Bashir in 1995 - AFP/Getty

It was the explosive interview in which a doe-eyed Diana, Princess of Wales, appeared at her most dangerous.

Determined to capitalise on Prince Charles’s confession of infidelity, the then 34-year-old hoped her hour-long chat with Martin Bashir on Panorama would finally bring the “War of the Waleses” to an end.

Yet as a Channel 4 documentary is now set to reveal, that interview set in progress a chain of events that eventually led to Diana’s downfall.

Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview, will claim that the mother-of-two consented to her epic sit-down chat while in a fragile state of mind, following an elaborate plot involving forged documents designed to show that her family was being spied on.

Bashir is accused of commissioning two phoney bank statements, which he allegedly showed to Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, to suggest that a former member of staff was acting as a paid informant.  

The BBC insists the princess never saw the documentation, saying she met Bashir before it existed and that it “played no part in her decision to give what was, and still is, one of the most iconic interviews of the last half of the 20th century.” Bashir was unavailable for comment. 

What is not in doubt is that the airing of the sensational programme on November 20 1995 had huge repercussions for Diana and her role within the Royal family – and took her down a path she might, had she been able to see the bigger picture, have swerved altogether.

Little wonder, then, that she began to question whether she should have taken part in the programme even before it was broadcast on a windy Monday night to an audience of 23 million.

According to Patrick Jephson, her former private secretary and contributor to the new Channel 4 documentary, she “deeply regretted” the interview.

Diana described Charles’s camp as “the enemy”, said the monarchy was in desperate need of modernisation and discussed her depression and bulimia – as well as claiming that she wanted to be the “queen of people’s hearts”.

Jephson subsequently revealed that she had only told him about the interview a week before the broadcast and was “not at all confident about what she had done.” Soon after, he quit Kensington Palace, having spent eight years as Diana’s right hand man.

The princess’s nearest and dearest still believe Panorama played a part in her heightened sense of paranoia – highlighted during a meeting with her personal lawyer, Lord Mishcon, in which she claimed the Queen would abdicate in April 1996. She also suggested she would be murdered, in a plot masterminded by her estranged husband. 

According to veteran royal reporter Phil Dampier, who covered the interview for national newspapers at the time, the interview marked “the beginning of the end” for Diana.

The Queen was horrified by what her daughter-in-law had done and called it a “frightful thing”. She ordered Charles and Diana and the Duke and Duchess of York – who had also separated in the so-called “annus horribilis” of 1992 – to get a “double” divorce.

Panorama was the watershed moment when the Queen finally decided enough is enough,” says Dampier. “Diana then became increasingly isolated and started to fall out with the people closest to her.

“She fell out with her mother, her brother, Fergie and other close friends – seemingly convinced she was being spied on. Her former butler Paul Burrell described how she made him rip up the floorboards at Kensington Palace looking for bugs.

“Because she died as this iconic young woman, people tend to put her on a pedestal but actually in the run up to the Paris car crash she was an unguided missile.”

An increasingly detached Diana then embarked on a series of relationships with men, including Dodi Fayed. This led to a flaming row with her mother Frances Shand Kydd, who Burrell revealed had accused her daughter of behaving like a “whore”. He told the inquest into the princess’s death that the “dreadful” conversation took place in June 1997 — just two months before Diana’s death. It followed her disastrous decision to get rid of her Scotland Yard bodyguards following her divorce, against the advice of her royal protection officer Ken Wharfe. 

“If she hadn’t done that, she might still be here today,” added Dampier. “If it wasn’t for the Panorama interview, who knows what might have happened?”

Diana: The Truth Behind The Interview will be broadcast on Channel 4 on October 21 at 9pm

READ MORE: ‘Diana didn't regret the Bashir interview – but it changed her’