Skip to main content

The True Story Behind the Controversial Princess Diana Interview Featured in Season 5 of ‘The Crown’

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown (2016)

The Crown has already been causing controversy ahead of the release of its fifth season and the inclusion of one scene in particular is sparking fresh drama. As well as addressing global politics of the time, the next season of The Crown will focus on the relationship between Prince Charles (now King) and Princess Diana, and how that affected the rest of the royal family.

Recommended Videos

“Trouble is brewing closer to home,” reads the description of Season 5. “Prince Charles pressures his mother to allow him to divorce Diana, presenting a constitutional crisis of the monarchy.

“Rumours circulate as husband and wife are seen to live increasingly separate lives and, as media scrutiny intensifies, Diana decides to take control of her own narrative, breaking with family protocol to publish a book that undermines public support for Charles and exposes the cracks in the House of Windsor.”

As Elizabeth Debicki takes over from Emma Corrin as Princess Diana, audiences will not only learn about the book but also a controversial interview that Diana did with Martin Bashir for the BBC’s Panorama in 1995. The interview was shocking at the time it was released and has been followed up with various inquiries into the shady ways that it came about.

The Crown will address this controversy and the circumstances of the interview, reports Radio Times. Ahead of Season 5’s release date, here’s a look at what the interview brought to light and why exactly it was so polarizing.

The true story of Princess Diana’s Panorama interview

Diana, Princess of Wales, smiles as she meets wellwishers outside St Vincent's Hospice in Sydney on November 2, 1996, her last official engagement in Australia. Diana departs Sydney on November 3 after a four-day private visit. / AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)
(TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

By 1995 when the interview took place, Diana had begun to speak out more and more about the problems in her marriage, despite the royal family reportedly seeking to keep any scandals closely under wraps. Diana and then-Prince Charles were separated but still married, but the princess answered a number of difficult questions with unprecedented honesty in the 54-minute interview, aired live to 20 million people.

Diana revealed details surrounding the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles, including stating that Camilla, now Queen Consort, “was a factor” in the breakdown and that “there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded.”

This was also the interview where Diana said one of her most famous quotes: “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.”

She followed this up by saying that “many people” here refers to “the establishment I married into.”

In the aftermath, the royal family rarely publicly addressed the interview. However, her sons, Princes William and Harry, both decried the interview, with Prince William arguing that it should never be aired again.

On top of the revealing answers to questions, the interview was followed up with a number of inquiries looking into how the interview was originally obtained. While one report found that “deceitful behavior” was used to secure the interview, the BBC themselves failed to look into the matter satisfactorily, with an internal BBC probe from 1996 branded “woefully ineffective.”

This year saw the publication of the Lord Dyson Report, which found the BBC had covered up Bashir apparently using false evidence to encourage Diana’s brother to introduce him to the princess. False rumours were also seemingly spread that Prince William’s nanny Mrs Alexandra Pettifer had had an affair with Prince Charles.

In response, BBC Director-General Tim Davie released a statement offering a public apology to Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Mrs Pettifer. The BBC also paid substantial damages to the latter.

“It is a matter of great regret that the BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the programme when there were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly,” reads the statement. “Instead, as the Duke of Cambridge himself put it, the BBC failed to ask the tough questions. Had we done our job properly Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, the royal family and our audiences down.”

The BBC has promised not to air the interview again and it is unusually hard to track it down online as a result. Whether The Crown will show a version of it, or simply address the circumstances around it will be revealed during Season 5 of the Netflix drama.

(featured image: Netflix)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue: