Diana Panorama interview: What did she say, did Diana regret it and how did Martin Bashir get the interview?

It sparked years of controversy and anguish for Diana's family

Princess Diana and Martin Bashir during her 1995 Panorama interview
(Image credit: PA Images/Alamy/Future)

Those involved in the Diana Panorama interview have tried to distance themselves from it - but with The Crown covering the event, there are going to be a lot of questions resurfacing.

In 1995, Princess Diana took part in an interview with Martin Bashir, entitled An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales. Little did those involved realise, the interview would go on to become infamous and spark years of controversy and investigation. As part of the BBC documentary series Panorama, the 54-minute interview saw the Princess quizzed by Bashir about the most intimate parts of her private life. Astonishing viewing figures at the time saw 39.3% of the population tune in to hear what Diana had to say. However, after the interview had aired, questions were raised about the legitimacy of the means Bashir used to obtain it. With a long-running investigation following the events, read on to find out how the interview was procured, and what happened to Bashir afterwards.

Some viewers of The Crown are asking whether Martin Bashir (opens in new tab) is still alive, and where he is now - we have the answers. For those who don't know who plays Princess Diana in The Crown season 5 (opens in new tab), we have the full lowdown on everything you need to know about the actress taking over the season 5 baton. With the sad loss of Her Majesty, some are wondering did the Queen watch The Crown (opens in new tab) - we weigh in on the evidence.

What did Diana say in Martin Bashir Panorama interview?

  • Admitted to having an affair
  • Said that Prince Charles's - now King Charles - affair with Camilla Parker Bowles made her feel "worthless"
  • Spoke of how she felt there were "three of us" in her marriage to Charles
  • Admitted she had suffered bulimia and engaged in self-harm
  • Suggested Prince Charles would not adapt to being king
  • Said she was of the opinion Charles's staff were waging a campaign against her

Diana spoke of how she desperately wanted her own marriage to work due to witnessing her own parents’ divorce. She revealed her relief at becoming easily pregnant with William but had subsequently suffered from post natal depression - this resulted in her being labelled unstable and mentally unbalanced. To manage her feelings, she began self harming and purging food, which acted to push Charles further away from her and into his relationship with Camilla. 

Princess Diana

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Princess also claimed she never met biographer Andrew Morton, allowing friends to speak to him instead. When his subsequent book Diana: Her True Story (opens in new tab)came out, she and Charles then agreed to separate. 

She continued to confirm the accuracy of the “Squidgygate” tapes, but denied an affair with James Gilbey or harassing Oliver Hoare. She did however admit to an affair with James Hewitt, expressing sorrow that he later agreed to participate in a book about their relationship. 

Did Diana regret her interview with Bashir?

According to Diana bigorapher and journalist Tina Brown, Princess Diana did not regret her BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. In fact, the author states "she realised it served her purpose".

Tina Brown (opens in new tab) made the claim in her 2022 book The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil (opens in new tab). For the book she interviews British entrepreneur Gulu Lalvani who was romantically linked to Diana shortly before her death.

"I am told by Lalvani that Diana said she had no regrets about the interview and made clear that she had said exactly what she wanted to say on camera. (She even co-opted lines such as 'There were three of us in this marriage' from her writer friend Clive James.)

"She was pleased about it [the interview],” Lalvani confirmed to me," adds Brown. "She didn’t have a bad word to say about Martin Bashir. She realized it served her purpose."

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Dissecting this further, Brown states: "She was right. Her 'purpose' was to frame herself to the British public as a betrayed woman before the increasingly inevitable divorce from Charles. Opinion polls in the wake of the interview showed support for the princess at 92 percent. She had the public in the palm of her hand."

How did Martin Bashir get the interview with Diana?

Martin Bashir produced fake bank statements that appeared to show payments from a newspaper group, into the account of a member of Earl Spencer’s staff. Earl Spencer was Diana’s brother, and in showing him the documents Bashir gained his confidence, and access to Princess Diana. 

A graphic artist working for the BBC came forward to confess that Bashir had asked him to forge the bank statements. When questioned by BBC about his actions, Bashir admitted to having the false bank statements made, but denied he ever showed them to Earl Spencer. 

A double page spread of the Daily Mail newspaper with the headline Guilt of BBC Forger about the Diana Panorama interview with Martin Bashir

(Image credit: CBW/Alamy)

Lord Dyson inquiry 2020-2021

An independent inquiry by former senior judge Lord Dyson, was opened to investigate the events leading up to the interview in 2020. It was agreed that Bashir did use deception to procure it, and subsequently lied to BBC managers when asked for the truth.

According to the BBC, the published Dyson report (opens in new tab) says Bashir "lied and maintained the lie until he realised that it was no longer sustainable. This was most reprehensible behaviour which casts considerable doubt on his credibility generally". After the forged bank statements were revealed in 1996, an initial internal inquiry had cleared Bashir and Panorama of any wrongdoing. Bashir also fed Diana lies that her nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, had an affair with Charles that resulted in her requiring an abortion - this was purely to enrage Diana and push her further towards the interview. Bashir later paid Legge-Bourke, now Alexandra Pettifer, substantial damages.

However, Earl Spencer was never interviewed as part of the inquiry, and Bashir's account not treated with "necessary scepticism and caution". The Dyson inquiry questioned why, after admitting to faking bank statements, nobody had thought to hear Earl Spencer’s version of the story. The report concludes the BBC covered up the facts surrounding how Mr Bashir secured the interview, criticising the corporation while stating "without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark".

What happened to Martin Bashir after the interview?

Martin Bashir remained at the BBC following the interview, until 1998 when he left to join ITV. He returned to the BBC in September 2016, as a religious affairs correspondent, becoming religion editor in 2018. 

As the initial inquiry had cleared him of any wrongdoing, the journalist was allowed to stay at the BBC. Because he was not found to have done anything wrong until the independent inquiry of 2020, he was allowed to continue working in the same role for various networks. There was however, a further inquiry into how he was allowed to return to the BBC after the controversy surrounding the Diana interview. 

The day after the Dyson inquiry was announced, Prince William released a statement of support, saying the investigation was a "step in the right direction" and that "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." 

On March 4, 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced there would not be a criminal investigation into the allegations made against Bashir. However, he resigned from the BBC shortly afterwards citing health issues.  

Martin Bashir in The Crown season 5

Actor Prasanna Puwanarajah portraying Martin Bashir in The Crown season 5.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Where can I watch Princess Diana’s interview?

The BBC have expressed regret at airing the interview, and the way it was obtained. For those reasons, it isn't available on any streaming platforms, but is available on sites such as Dailymotion (opens in new tab).

Following the Dyson inquiry, BBC director general Tim Davie issued a public apology to Prince Charles, William, and Harry over the infamous interview. He said "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. 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".

He continued "Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained I have decided that the BBC will never show the program again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters. It does of course remain part of the historical record and there may be occasions in the future when it will be justified for the BBC to use short extracts for journalistic purposes, but these will be few and far between and will need to be agreed at Executive Committee level and set in the full context of what we now know about the way the interview was obtained. I would urge others to exercise similar restraint".

How long after Diana’s interview did she die?

Diana died two years after the interview with Martin Bashir. Earl Spencer has argued the interview even contributed to her death.

Prince William and Prince Harry stated the lies Bashir told their mother contributed to her sense of "fear, paranoia and isolation", with the interview creating a "false narrative". Both are vehement it should never be aired again. Harry has blamed the media and the paparazzi and subsequent effect of "a culture of exploitation and unethical practices" to his mother eventually meeting her death.

Earl Spencer agrees there is a definite connection between the interview and his sister's death. He said Diana was left vulnerable in it's aftermath which ultimately led to her being left "without any form of real protection" and losing her life. 

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