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Princess Diana’s BBC Interview With Martin Bashir: What Happened?

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  • November 19, 2022

There was a lot of speculation about whether or not The Crown would cover Princess Diana’s Panorama interview this season, and not only did the show fully recreate it, but they devoted multiple episodes to it. The decision to include Diana’s unethically obtained interview is definitely a controversial one, not just because it was just the subject of a lengthy investigation, but also because Prince William recently made it extremely clear he never wants any portion of the real interview to air again.

And while The Crown did make it clear that BBC reporter Martin Bashir lied in order to get access to Princess Diana, details of what happened behind-the-scenes weren’t fully laid out. And the real story is honestly pretty terrible.

Some Quick Background on the Interview

It went down on November 20, 1995, and was fully explosive. Diana—who was separated from Prince Charles at the time—revealed details about her relationship, including the claim there were “three people in [her] marriage,” a clear reference to Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Just one month later on December 21, 1995, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth II had written to Prince Charles and Princess Diana, urging them to divorce.

Tim Graham//Getty Images

As we saw in The Crown, the interview caused a lot of drama at the BBC thanks to it being conducted without the knowledge of chairman Marmaduke Hussey (pictured below with his wife, who was one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting).

lady susan and marmaduke hussey

Tim Graham//Getty Images

There were also internal concerns about Bashir gaining access to Diana by showing her brother, Earl Spencer, false bank statements that made it seem like members of his staff were selling information. This prompted the BBC’s internal investigation, which concluded on April 13, 1996, with this statement:

“The BBC has been able, independently, to verify that these documents were put to no use which had any bearing, direct or indirect, on the Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales.”

The issue was then considered done and dusted, and Bashir even went on to win a BAFTA (which the BBC has since returned).

bafta bashir princess royal

Martin Bashir chatting with Princess Anne after receiving a BAFTA for his Panorama interview on April 21, 1996.

Fiona Hanson – PA Images//Getty Images

The BBC Opened a New Investigation in 2020

In the wake of The Sunday Times dropping a new report on Bashir’s use of fake bank statements to secure his meeting with Diana, the BBC hired former British Supreme Court Judge John Dyson to lead an independent investigation. But not before Earl Spencer issued a scathing statement to People:

“[The BBC] have yet to apologize for what truly matters here: the incredibly serious falsification of bank statements suggesting that Diana’s closest confidants were spying on her for her enemies. This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This in turn led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on 19 September 1995. This then led to the interview. The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above. They claim Diana wasn’t misled. They have ignored my inquiry as to whether the apology over their false bank statements extends to the ones that actually persuaded Diana to meet Bashir.”

diana brother charles kiss

Princess Diana and Earl Spencer in 1985.

Tim Graham//Getty Images

In response to news that BBC was launching a new investigation, Prince William released a rare statement of his own, saying, “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction. 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.”

Bashir Allegedly Preyed on Diana’s Fear That Charles Was Having an Affair

During the BBC’s investigation, the Daily Mail reported that evidence had been given alleging Bashir showed Princess Diana a fake abortion “receipt” for her nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke. This was yet another unethical attempt to get Diana to agree to an interview, as she was suspicious Prince Charles was having an affair with Tiggy.

charles and tiggy

Tiggy and Charles photographed in 1996.

Tim Graham//Getty Images

Per The Telegraph, the BBC ended up offering to pay Tiggy “significant” damages “in excess of £100,000.” As a source put it, “Tiggy Legge-Bourke was right at the center of Bashir’s manipulation and it is right that the damage caused to her is recognized by the BBC.”

The Investigation Found Bashir Used “Deceitful” Methods

Judge Lord Dyson concluded his investigation with a 127-page report revealing Bashir had, in fact, used “deceitful behavior” to get Diana to agree to his interview. Following the findings, BBC director general Tim Davie issued this statement:

“I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.
Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.”

Prince William and Prince Harry Issued Strongly Worded Statements

Watch Prince William give his statement in full below, where he says BBC employees “lied and used fake documents to obtain the interview with my mother; made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on her fears and fueled paranoia; displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the program; and were evasive in their reporting to the media and covered up what they knew from their internal investigation.”

He also says that “the interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse” and that “the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia, and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.”

Notably, William asks that the interview “never be aired again” since it “effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialized by the BBC and others.”

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Meanwhile, Prince Harry issued this statement:

“Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest. The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life. To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step toward justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these—and even worse—are still widespread today. Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication. Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for.”

Martin Bashir Apologized…Kinda

Following the investigation, Martin Bashir quit his job at the BBC and apologized for faking the documents, but said he remained “immensely proud” of the interview….

FYI, the BBC holds the copyright to the interview and said in a statement to The Telegraph ahead of The Crown that “The BBC has said it has no intention of showing the interview again. We have had no interaction on this specific issue with Netflix.”

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