keeping up with the royals

Why Is the BBC Investigating Its Famous Princess Diana Interview?

Photo: Tim Graham/Corbis via Getty Images

It hasn’t been a bombshell plotline on The Crown just yet, but a televised interview that Princess Diana sat for in 1995 is under newfound scrutiny due to the alleged deception that made it happen. As first reported on October by the Sunday Times, the BBC is currently investigating whether Diana was coerced into her Panorama interview under false pretenses by anchor and journalist Martin Bashir. The Times claims that Bashir exploited the fears of Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, by faking bank documents to convince them that someone on Diana’s royal staff was leaking information about her private life to the media. These documents served as the catalyst for Spencer to encourage Diana to participate in the interview, which wound up becoming Frost-Nixon levels of infamy: During the chat, Diana revealed everything from her struggles with bulimia to confirming that she knew about her husband’s extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. “There were three of us in this marriage,” she memorably said, “so it was a bit crowded.”

However, in an awkward in-house press release, the BBC announced today that they’ve appointed former British Supreme Court Judge John Dyson to lead an independent and “robust” investigation into the circumstances surrounding Diana’s Panorama interview. “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away,” Dyson said. “I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.” This investigation also comes after Spencer, in early November, blasted the BBC for “whitewashing” Bashir’s “yellow journalism” tactics to secure the interview. “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,” he said in a statement to People on November 3. “The BBC have so far refused to acknowledge the above.” Spencer added it was “sheer dishonesty” that the BBC’s 1996 internal investigation found that the alleged fake documents had “no bearing” on Diana’s motivations for the interview. Bashir has yet to respond to the BBC’s investigation and Spencer’s claims, as he’s been “seriously unwell” for weeks after contracting the coronavirus.

In a rare statement that pertains to his private life, Princess Diana’s eldest son, Prince William, welcomed the BBC’s investigation into the Panorama interview. “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction,” he said via a statement issue by Kensington Palace on November 19. “It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.” Diana’s younger son, Prince Harry, has remained mum on the matter as he continues to adapt to his groovy new California lifestyle.

This post has been updated throughout.

Why Is the BBC Investigating This Princess Diana Interview?