An interview Diana, Princess of Wales, gave to the BBC’s Panorama programme more than 20 years ago is now the subject of an independent inquiry led by Lord Dyson, a very senior former judge.
Who was Princess Diana?
Princess Diana was the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry.
She married the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, in 1981.
But the couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
How did Princess Diana die?
The princess died in 1997, after the car she was in crashed in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, in Paris.
Her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, with whom she had been holidaying, and their chauffeur, Henri Paul, died when the car crashed.
Mr Al Fayed’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash.
Analysis indicated Paul had 175 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, compared with the limit, under French law, of 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres, which equates to his having drunk more than a bottle of wine.
And as he tried to speed away from photographers following the car, he lost control and smashed into a concrete pillar.
What did Princess Diana tell Panorama?
The interview, broadcast in late 1995, was a huge scoop for the BBC – never before had a serving royal spoken in such candid terms about life in the Royal Family or relationships with other royals.
image captionMore than 20 million people watched the interview
In the interview, Princess Diana:
- admitted having an affair
- said Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (now his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall) had made her feel worthless
- spoke of there being “three of us” in the marriage
- said she had had bulimia and self-harmed
- suggested Prince Charles might not be able to adapt to being king
- said Prince Charles’s staff were waging a campaign against her
More than 20 million people watched the interview when it went out and it caused huge controversy.
Shortly afterwards, the Queen wrote to Prince Charles and Princess Diana telling them to divorce.
Who is Martin Bashir?
There was a fair amount of surprise when it was revealed Bashir, a relatively junior BBC reporter with no known royal background or contacts, had the interview – but the revelations overshadowed questions over how he had achieved it.
image captionMartin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana for Panorama in 1995
A few years later, he went to work for ITV’s Tonight With Trevor McDonald programme and then various US television networks.
He returned to the UK in 2016 and was reemployed by the BBC, as religion editor, a post he resigned from because of ill health in mid-May.
What claims are being made against him?
The central claim – by Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer – is Bashir told her a series of lies about the Royal Family, which played into her view of a conspiracy against her, so she would agree to the interview.
He also had forged bank statements, mocked up by a graphic artist working for the BBC, which Earl Spencer says appeared to show payments by a newspaper group to a former member of the earl’s staff, to gain the earl’s confidence so he would introduce Bashir to his sister.
image captionCharles and Diana married in 1981
What claims are being made against the BBC?
After the forged bank statements were revealed by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, in early 1996, an internal BBC inquiry cleared Bashir, Panorama and BBC News of wrongdoing.
The director of news who conducted the inquiry, Tony Hall, now Lord Hall, went on to become the BBC’s overall boss, the director general.
He stepped down in 2019.
- why the BBC cleared Bashir so quickly, trusting his version of events without speaking to Earl Spencer
- whether the truth was covered up, with the triumph of such an important interview – and the potential embarrassment of acknowledging it had been secured in a disreputable manner – preventing a proper inquiry
What about the latest inquiry?
Last year, after Earl Spencer went public with his concerns and allegations, the BBC commissioned an independent inquiry and said Bashir had co-operated fully. The BBC said it would not comment publicly while process was ongoing.
When is the report due?
Lord Dyson’s report was passed to the BBC on Friday, 14 May. It is expected to be published this week.