The Real Story Behind Princess Diana's "Infamous" Interview That Shocked the World
“There were three of us in this marriage.”
It's one of the most infamous television interviews in history and arguably the beginning of one of the most scandal-ridden eras for the British Royal Family. Princess Diana sat down for a tell-all with then-BBC reporter Martin Bashir in what would become perhaps the most famous episode of the documentary series Panorama.
Diana spoke frankly about her hopes, fears, and heartbreak to Bashir—but as we know now, she had been reportedly tricked into the interview through deception and outright falsehoods. Here's why Diana agreed to the interview and the real story behind the version being told on The Crown. Keep reading to learn more— and to explore secrets of the Royal Family, don't miss these The Biggest Royal Romance Scandals of All Time.
According to official reports into the documentary, Bashir doctored documents to make it appear as if Diana was being spied on and plotted against by the Royal Family, especially her ex-husband, then-Prince Charles. Bashir even led Diana to believe Charles was having an affair with Prince William and Prince Harry's nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Diana's brother Earl Spencer believes these lies made her more paranoid and suspicious and contributed to her tragic and early demise at the age of 36.
Twenty-three million people in the UK alone tuned in on November 20, 1995, to hear Diana speak frankly at last about her marriage and the way she had been treated by her in-laws. Lines such as "There were three of us in this marriage," and "She won't go quietly, that's the problem," engulfed the Royal Family in turmoil. Diana also spoke about her struggles with bulimia and self-harm.
UK Supreme Court justice Honorable Lord Dyson headed the investigation into Bashir's alleged wrongdoings, and the results were explosive. Bashir had apparently created fake bank account statements indicating members of the Royal Family were paying people to spy on the princess. "Princess Diana had paranoid fears about various things, including that she was being spied on and in danger of her life," Dyson wrote. "Mr. Bashir would have [had] little difficulty in playing on her fears and paranoia."
Earl Spencer later told Dyson Bashir had told his sister she was being spied on by MI5, the British equivalent of the FBI. "I also felt, in this meeting, that I was listening to a man who was not telling the truth. He was overexcited but also shifty," Spencer told Dyson. "The straight fact was that the things he had told me during our meetings at Althorp did not fit with what he was telling Diana now."
The story finally saw the light of day when journalists at The Sunday Times blew the scandal wide open, triggering the official investigation. "It was hailed as the greatest tell-all interview of the 20th century, but 25 years after Diana, Princess of Wales bared her soul on Panorama, fresh allegations have emerged that the BBC obtained the scoop under a false pretext and by using fake bank statements," they wrote. "Martin Bashir, the journalist who interviewed Diana in 1995 after the collapse of her marriage to Prince Charles, has also been accused of exploiting the princess's fears that her private conversations were being bugged by the secret services to garner a secret meeting."
The sordid revelations of Bashir's alleged behavior caused understandable shock and grief to her family, especially sons William and Harry. "It is my firm view that this Panorama program holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again," William said. "It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialized by the BBC and others." Prince Harry linked the interview to his mother's tragic death: "She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest. The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life."