It is 25 years since Princess Diana’s bombshell interview with Martin Bashir and a new documentary has looked into how it came about, posing new questions in the process.
The BBC’s Panorama have been accused of taking advantage of the vulnerable nature of the Princess at the time and her private secretary, Patrick Jephson, has said that she was “seduced and betrayed” by the infamous interview.
Jephson was Diana’s private secretary between 1988 and 1996 and has spoken out about the interview, saying: “When Panorama came out, part of my visceral reaction was outrage that somebody should have exploited the princess in this way.
“Knowing the princess as I did, making her perform like this was a combination of seduction and betrayal.
“Panorama burnt her burnt her bridges with the rest of the Royal family and cut her off, fatally, from the protection of the royal institution.”
The interview was watched by 23 million viewers at the time and in it she admitted that she had cheated and questioned Prince Charles’ suitability to be king, as she revealed that he had strayed as well.
In one of the most memorable TV moments, Diana said: “There were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.”
With the 25th anniversary of the interview’s broadcast, a Channel 4 documentary has cast a shadow over how the chat was secured.
The People’s Princess’s biographer, Andrew Morton, has challenged how it all came about and has alleged that Martin Bashir had exploited her fears and anxieties about being watched, especially by the secret service.
The documentary has also looked at whether the interview secured by a reference to bank statements which have since been questioned as to whether they were genuine.
Andrew Morton said: “She lived in a world of anxiety and possible surveillance.”
By 1995, Diana had reportedly been convinced that the Royal Family wanted her “out of the picture” and that there was a plot against her.
At that time she had been separated from Charles for three years but was still living in Kensington Palace.
Morton said about the 34-year-old princess: “Diana was afraid of being bumped off, simple as that.”
Patrick Jephson added: “The more outlandish the things she was being told, the more avidly she seemed to swallow them.”
Charles had spoken to Jonathan Dimbleby the year before and told him that he had been faithful to Diana until their marriage had become “irretrievably broken down”.
Diana, for her part, had spoken to Andrew Morton about her eating disorders, depression and suicide attempts, which formed the basis of controversial book, Diana: Her True Story.
Martin Bashir, who is currently “seriously ill” was a young reporter when he landed the interview for the BBC but there are now questions as to how it came about.
He had access to Diana via Earl Spencer, who was her brother and it has been alleged that the reporter had shown him bank statements which allegedly ‘confirmed’ that Spencer had been betrayed by a former senior employee.
After the Panorama interview aired, a graphic artist came forward and said that he had produced the documents and they were not bone fide bank statements.
The documentary is questioning whether they were known to be forgeries when they were used as part of securing the interview.
An internal BBC investigation in April 1996 concluded that the documents had “no bearing, direct or indirect, on the interview”.
In a statement this month, the BBC has confirmed that there are records which confirm Bashir did show the documents to Earl Spencer.
They also said that Diana had confirmed that the documents “played no part in her decision” when it came to the interview, and have her written letter as proof.
The statement said: “Questions surrounding Panorama’s interview with the Princess of Wales, and in particular the ‘mocking-up’ of bank statements, were covered in the Press at the time.
“BBC records from the period indicate Martin had explained to the BBC the documents had been shown to Earl Spencer and that they were not shown to the princess.
“The BBC’s internal records from the time indicate that Martin had met the Princess of Wales before the mocked-up documentation existed.
“These accounts also say that the Princess of Wales confirmed in writing that these documents played no part in her decision.”
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