Did Princess Diana’s BBC interview lead to death? William, Harry and friend blame ‘rogue reporter’ Martin Bashir
'Our mother lost her life because of this,' Princess Diana's younger son Harry said after Lord Dyson's report found BBC culpable for covering up Martin Bashir's false documents
"There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Princess Diana told BBC's Martin Bashir in a 'Panorama' televised interview that has surpassed the test of time and still rings loud and clear, 25 years after it aired. The explosive tell-all is seen as the most legitimate confirmation of Prince Charles' alleged affair with his now-wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana's shocking claims in the interview also alleged a royal campaign of sorts against her which resulted in her divorce and stripping of the HRH title.
But a narrative that had often been left out of the chatter around the interview was allegations that Bashir fabricated false bank statements that stirred paranoia in Diana and allegedly made her distrust her close friends. That was until now as the latest Dyson Inquiry report accuses former BBC director general Tony Hall of a "cover-up" when BBC first internally investigated these allegations. Former judge Lord Dyson's six-month-long investigation first started in 2020, and since then, friends and family, and now also Diana's two sons -- Princes William and Harry -- have slammed the organization and accused that the interview subsequently led to Diana's tragic death in a car crash.
Diana was 'forensically exploited'
It was the Sunday Times that first reported in October of 2020 that Martin Bashir had been accused of creating false bank statements to convince Diana's brother Charles Spencer a staff member was leaking information about his family. A month later, Diana's close friend Rosa Monckton wrote in the Daily Mail how the friend she had chosen as a godmother for her daughter, was "forensically exploited" by Bashir. "Diana changed from being very concerned with day-to-day matters, just like any normal friend, to suddenly becoming obsessed with plots against her," Monckton wrote. She also revealed that this paranoia convinced Diana that Charles was having an affair with Tiggy Legge-Bourke, the boys' nanny, which had prompted the late Princess of Wales to change her landline number at Kensington Palace.
"She believed Bashir's outrageous claims — one of his skills, clearly, was in exploiting her susceptibility to the idea that she was being spied on by 'enemies.' He even commissioned forged documents to prove this," she added. "You have to remember that this was a woman who spent all her married life being chased by the paparazzi. Little wonder she was susceptible."
BBC interview put Diana in 'incapable hands of a speeding drunk driver'
Diana had informed Monckton of her interview with Bashir only on the morning of the day it was to be broadcast. "She was in the grip of interviewer Martin Bashir, and there was not even a glimpse of the level-headed, fun-loving and compassionate person who was my friend," Monckton said. "The most chilling part, in retrospect, was when Bashir asked: 'Do you really believe that a campaign has been waged against you?' For what has become clear, thanks to the Mail's disclosures about the heartless and dishonest way Bashir secured his interview with Diana, is the tragic irony behind the question."
Monckton alleged this subsequently led to Diana's crash as her imminent divorce to Charles stripped her of her Royal title. She wrote this interview "dishonestly achieved, probably changed the course of history." It prompted divorce proceedings "which meant that decisions about their future were made hurriedly, with long-term implications not thought through." Monckton explained: "Among those decisions was the fact that Diana lost her royal title. Had she retained it, she would have still been in the embrace of the Royal Family when in Paris on August 31, 1997. And she would almost certainly not have been in the incapable hands of a speeding drunk driver employed by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who owned the Ritz Hotel where she and his son, Dodi, had dined."
According to 'The Diana Chronicles', Diana had refused to keep her royal security detail following the divorce, using police protection only when she would attend public events. The day she died, she was out with Dodi, and at the time of the crash, in a car driven by his driver Henri Paul, who was later found intoxicated and under the effects of prescription drugs. The crash happened inside the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, during a frenzied escape from paparazzi chasing the vehicle. Comparing the BBC to a "hunting pack of paparazzi", Monckton also recalled Diana's regret following the interview because "of the damage it did to my boys" among other things. This interview by the BBC "was not a public service — it was a betrayal of the trust we put in the corporation," she had concluded.
'Our mother lost her life because of this'
In his statement following the Dyson report, Diana's elder son Prince William has vehemently accused the BBC of not properly conducting their 1995 internal investigation into claims against Bashir: "BBC employees lied and used fake documents to obtain the interview with my mother; Made lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on her fears and fuelled paranoia." William also blames the organization for "her fear, paranoia, and isolation that I remember from those final years with her." The Duke of Cambridge added, "But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions."
Diana's younger son, Prince Harry, often cites his mother's tragedy as an outcome of years of overt criticism from British tabloids and media much like the kind he claims his wife Meghan Markle went through. In the wake of the Dyson report, Harry too has opened up on how "the ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her (Diana's) life." He continued: "Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let's remember who she was and what she stood for."
BBC 'refused' to acknowledge damage
The BBC has apologized in the wake of the Dyson report's expose, and condemned the "deceitful behavior" of Bashir. After the Dyson probe began in 2020, the BBC had also written a note of apology to Diana's brother, Charles Earl Spencer, who wasn't satisfied with the statement at all. "[The BBC] have yet to apologize for what truly matters here: the incredibly serious falsification of bank statements suggesting that Diana’s closest confidants were spying on her for her enemies," Spencer had shared with People in November 2020. "This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This in turn led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on 19 September 1995. This then led to the interview," he continued. "The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above. They claim Diana wasn’t misled. They have ignored my inquiry as to whether the apology over their false bank statements extends to the ones that actually persuaded Diana to meet Bashir.”
He told the Daily Mail: "Everywhere she went, Bashir told her, she was being followed; her telephones were bugged, so too was her car and her conversations were being eavesdropped on. It was as mendacious a trap as it was sophisticated – and Diana fell into it completely." Diana’s brother also said Bashir made more astonishing claims, including that the then 15-year-old Prince William had been given a watch with a listening device so his mother could be secretly recorded, and how Prince Edward was being treated for AIDS. All of this culminated in her opening up in that manner, with those specific allegations in the interview - something that culled her relationship with the royals for good.
Princess Diana had always been open about her struggles with bulimia and mental health, sparking the conversation first in her interview with Bashir. William too reminisces about her final years as those being clouded with "fear, paranoia, and isolation," presumably from the divorce, which many have dubbed a result of Diana airing the royal family's dirty laundry in public. And if her friend Monckton is to be believed, had the divorce and subsequent stripping of her title not happened, Diana still would have been alive.