Just in time for the 25th anniversary, one of the most sensational television moments of the 20th century is back everywhere. On November 20, 1995, more than 200 million people worldwide watched on television how Princess Diana chatted frankly and freely about the emotional coldness at court, about her bulimia and the infidelity of her husband Prince Charles.
She said that heir to the throne Charles was probably not suitable for the “top job” as king. It would be better if son William later succeeded Elizabeth II directly on the throne.
Diana had been separated from her husband for three years, who had a long affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. “I don’t want a divorce,” Diana said in the BBC interview. But she wants clarity.
Was she persuaded to do the interview with forged documents?
With her openness, Princess Diana shook the British monarchy to its foundations.
Now Diana’s brother Charles Spencer asks to examine the circumstances of the conversation more closely. And her son Prince William also called it a “step in the right direction”.
According to the broadcaster, it is about the question of whether the then relatively unknown interviewer Martin Bashir persuaded Diana to join the conversation using forged documents. A former Supreme Court judge will lead the independent investigation.
The interview had consequences even then. Just a month later, it became known that the Queen was in favor of a speedy divorce for the couple.
Charles agreed and had his spokesman say: “The prince has no intention of remarrying.”
The image of the royals sank tremendously after the interview
Diana’s secretly arranged television appearance was seen as a breach of trust in the royal family – the details were too shocking. The then 34-year-old said something like: “There were three in this marriage, it got a little tight.”
The affair of Prince Charles was meant, but Diana also reported on her long-term relationship with the officer James Hewitt.
The royals lost their reputation drastically after the interview, according to surveys. That Diana for the good of her Sons Harry and William, then eleven and thirteen years old, struggled and “didn’t want to go quietly”, made them popular with most Britons.
Psychologists saw in her an ideal figure of identification for frustrated women: she always tried to do everything right without being thanked for it.
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She also combined the “struggle of women” with a charming charisma. The editor-in-chief of the tabloid “Sun” even praised Diana as a mix between a supermodel and Mother Teresa.
Critics, however, described the princess as a calculating woman. Nicholas Soames, a friend of Charles and then Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defense, spoke of the “spectacle of an alleged sacrificial lamb that borders on paranoia”.
A winner of the scandal, however, was the BBC, the station sold the interview in more than 100 countries.
In the media industry there was only one question: How could a then largely unknown reporter for the TV magazine “Panorama” land this scoop, behind which all the greats of the television world, above all the famous BBC interviewer David Frost or US talk queen Oprah Winfrey, were you here?
Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, accuses journalist Martin Bashir of having obtained the interview with his sister at the time using unfair methods, such as falsified bank statements. These should give the impression that people have been paid to divulge information about Diana.
Spencer himself initially acted as a middleman between Bashir and his sister, but later advised her against the “Panorama” conversation. The fact that the princess disregarded the fraternal advice provoked a violent reaction from the count, known as irascible. In writing, he accused Diana of “manipulation and deception”.
The British press has spread all these details enthusiastically. Something similar could happen again now. But there is much to suggest that Diana’s brother’s most recent statements will hardly have any consequences – he is considered vain and media-savvy anyway.
In addition, the journalist Bashir, who conducted the scandal interview, cannot initially be questioned for health reasons. According to the broadcaster, he is still suffering from the consequences of a Covid 19 disease and an operation on the heart.
November 20, 1995, will remain a major television moment.
A lot happened after that. Despite assurances from Prince Charles that he would never marry again, he entered into marriage in 2005: with Camilla, who had previously been ridiculed by the British press as a Rottweiler.
Charles, once criticized as snobbish, and Camilla are now held in high regard by most British people. They are considered down-to-earth and are committed to charitable causes.
As is well known, Princess Diana’s life was short. Less than two years after the spectacular interview, she had a fatal accident – pursued by paparazzi – in a car accident with her lover Dodi Al-Fayed in a Paris tunnel. She died on August 31, 1997 at the age of 36. (with dpa)