The ‘landmark’ Panorama interview with Diana enthralled the nation on this day in 1995 and won plaudits for the BBC. Yet it was a masterpiece only of cruelty and deceit which shamed those involved

  • Diana told Britain there were ‘three of us’ in her marriage on November 20, 1995, 
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It has been almost three decades since Diana sat down to give a television interview often discussed as a broadcasting landmark – and a moment in royal history.  

Princess Diana’s sit-down Panorama interview with Martin Bashir aired on this day in November 1995. Some 20 million people tuned in to watch.

Yet today the broadcast is seen as a landmark of a very different sort – as a shameful of deceit which besmirched the reputation of the BBC and caused great damage to Diana and those close to her.  

The 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 pretending to the staff that they were there to instal a new hi-fi system.

Diana during her interview with BBC journalist Bashir, which was watched by 20 million people after it aired on November 20, 1995

Diana agreed to speak with Bashir to set the record straight following speculation about her marriage to Prince Charles

Diana didn’t shy away from Bashir’s hard-hitting questions, going against the Palace’s unspoken rule about remaining quiet

Diana had agreed to speak with Bashir to set the record straight following speculation about her marriage to Prince Charles, which by that point had broken down. And the result was explosive.

It was during this interview that the princess  said ‘there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded’ – a reference to Charles’s affair with his now wife, Queen Camilla.

She spoke of her early expectations of life with  Prince Charles and how she had ‘desperately wanted it to work’ in light of her own parents’ divorce.

Diana also opened up about the health issues she’d silently faced, which included bulimia, post-partum depression, and self-harm, leading to her being labelled by others as unstable and mentally unbalanced. 

‘It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage,’ Diana revealed on Panorama. ‘I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals.’

As well as admitting to her own extramarital affairs, Diana also suggested that Charles might not be cut out for the throne. 

‘I would think that the top job, as I call it, would bring enormous limitations to him, and I don’t know whether he could adapt to that,’ she said of her ex-husband. 

The Daily Mail’s front page the day after Princess Diana’s shocking Panorama interview

Fourteen years after their wedding, Diana described her marriage as ‘crowded’ in the infamous Panorama interview

Pictured: The Prince and Princess of Wales at Buckingham Palace after their wedding at Westminster Abbey on July 29, 1981

As for whether Diana saw herself as one day being Queen, she said: ‘No, I don’t, no.’

‘I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being Queen of this country. I don’t think many people will want me to be Queen,’ the then-35-year-old added. 

‘Because I do things differently because I don’t go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart, not the head, and albeit that’s got me into trouble in my work, I understand that. But someone’s got to go out there and love people and show it.’

Diana felt that the royal household saw her as a ‘threat of some kind’ but that ‘every strong woman in history has had to walk down a similar path’.

The 54-minute interview was the final nail in the Wales’ marriage, and less than a month later, divorce papers were filed upon the Queen’s advice.

Her revelations came after Jonathan Dimbleby’s interview where Charles admitted his adultery and she didn’t shy away from hard-hitting questions about her time as a royal.

Its controversial nature ensured that a very small team in the BBC knew of it, and the decision was taken not to tell BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey what was afoot, as his wife, Lady Susan Hussey, was close to the Queen. 

According to Diana’s close friend Debbie Frank, the princess admitted her regret about speaking to Bashir in a frantic call  24 hours before the interview aired.

It was during the interview the princess sensationally said ‘there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded’

Pictured: Prince Charles, Princess Diana and their children watch the march past on a dais on the mall as part of the commemorations of VJ Day in August 1995

Pictured: Diana Princess, Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles on William’s first day at Eton in 1995, two months before the bombshell interview

She made the call despite realising it was too late to stop the interview being aired, said Debbie, who added that the princess only calmed down when she saw polls that showed the public had reacted well to it.

Debbie told the Sunday People: ‘She called me the day before it aired and said, ‘I’ve done this big thing and I hope it’s the right thing and doesn’t create too many waves. I needed to tell my story – it’s time people heard the truth.’

‘She sounded quite breathy and in a highly charged state. She was worried the public might turn against her and that she had said the wrong thing.’

But while the Panorama interview allowed Diana public support as she stepped into the world as an independent woman, it shook with the tragedies necessitating its existence.

25 years after Diana’s interview first aired, it emerged that Martin Bashir had secured his interview with the princess by falsifying documents.

In 2021 the official The Dyson report, found that ‘Bashir seriously breached BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements to gain access to the princess,” via the BBC.

Understandably aghast, Diana’s brother Earl Spencer was said to believed his vulnerable sister had been trapped in a web of lies by Bashir who had established ‘coercive control’ over her.

Martin Bashir was found to have shown Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, false bank statements to gain access to the family

Diana’s brother Earl Spencer claimed several crimes had been committed and his vulnerable sister was spun a web of lies by Bashir

In his inquiry, Lord Dyson found that Bashir deceived Earl Spencer into introducing the journalist to his sister by showing him forged bank statements that falsely suggested individuals were being paid to keep the Princess under surveillance.

Royal biographer Andrew Morton also said Bashir told Diana the security forces were planning to kill her. He said Bashir warned her: ‘They’re going to wipe you.’

It was also alleged that Diana was shown a ‘faked abortion ‘receipt,” which suggested Charles had been romantically involved with one of the royal nannies.

Bashir admitted at the time to having the documents forged but denied ever showing them to anybody.

The report slammed BBC bosses, including former director-general Tony Hall, for covering up information on how Bashir was able to secure the interview.

In 2021, the Prince of Wales hit out at Bashir’s shocking tactics to obtain his exclusive with his late mother.

The inquiry plunged the Corporation into one of the worst crises in its history, with Diana’s two sons William and Harry accusing it of ruining their mother’s life with its ‘deceitful’ interview and helping to bring about the tragic chain of events that led to her death two years later.

In a televised statement, William railed: ‘This Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialised by the BBC and others.’ 

Prince William demanded a boycott of the 1995 interview following Lord Dyson’s report, blasting Bashir’s ‘false claims’ to fuel the ‘paranoia and isolation’ of his mother’s final years 

Prince Harry’s decision to use footage of the interview in his Netflix docuseries came despite both brothers previously slamming the BBC over the interview

‘Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest,’ Prince Harry added. ‘The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were also criticised for using elements of the interview in their explosive Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, which aired last November.

Midway through the first episode of the series, clips are shown of Princess Diana speaking to the journalist.

Sources close to Prince of Wales at the time said he would have been ‘furious’ that his brother appeared to ignore his plea that the Panorama interview never be aired again.

‘Sadly once more it shows the gulf between the two brothers couldn’t be wider,’ one told the Mirror. 

Before the clip is shown, Harry, speaking about his mother’s struggles with press intrusion, says: ‘I think she had a lived experience of how she was struggling living that life. She felt compelled to talk about it.

‘Especially in that Panorama interview. I think we all now know that she was deceived into giving the interview. But at the same time she spoke the truth of her experience.’

Both brothers received ‘unconditional apology’ letters from the BBC over Bashir’s conduct and the 25-year cover up.

How the BBC was finally forced to admit Bashir’s deceit 

AUGUST 31, 1995: BBC Panorama journalist Martin Bashir meets Earl Spencer and shows him fake bank statements that freelance designer Matt Wiessler mocked up for him.

SEP 19, 1995: The Earl introduces Bashir to Princess Diana.

NOV 5, 1995: The sensational Panorama interview with Diana is broadcast.

LATE NOVEMBER 1995: Wiessler expresses concern to Panorama’s series producer that the fake bank statements may have played a role in obtaining the interview. Bashir is asked for clarification.

DEC 22, 1995: Bashir passes a note from Diana to his bosses in which she says: ‘I was not shown any documents nor given any information by Martin Bashir that I was not already aware of.’

MAR 23, 1996: Bashir admits to BBC bosses that he had lied about not showing the fake bank statements to anybody. Yet two months later, he is sent a note – signed off by Tony Hall, then head of BBC News – that his dealings with Diana were ‘absolutely straight and fair’.

APR 7, 1996: The Mail on Sunday publishes a story about the fake statements. The BBC denies they were used to obtain the interview, but Hall opens an inquiry.

APR 25, 1996: Hall tells BBC governors that Bashir commissioned fake statements because ‘he wasn’t thinking’, adding: ‘I believe he is, even with this lapse, an honest and honourable man.’ Bashir leaves the BBC, but returns in 2016 as religious affairs editor.

AUG 28, 1996: Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles is finalised.

AUG 31, 1997: Diana dies in a car crash in Paris.

NOV 3, 2020: The Daily Mail publishes a letter written by Earl Spencer in which he accuses the BBC of ‘sheer dishonesty’.

NOV 18, 2020: The BBC asks former Supreme Court Justice Lord Dyson to independently investigate the scandal.

MAY 20, 2021: Lord Dyson’s report condemns Bashir as ‘dishonest’ and criticises Hall’s investigation as ‘flawed’. Prince William condemns the BBC’s ‘incompetence’.

JUL 21, 2022: The BBC pays about £200,000 to royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and admits she was subjected to ‘baseless’ smears by Bashir. 

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