In the mid-1990s Princess Diana and Prince Charles both sat down for television interviews that peeled back the curtain on their unhappy marriage. But 25 years later a former newspaper editor claimed that Diana had revealed something to him before her TV appearance that the public has never known about. Apparently, she’d wanted Charles to make an extraordinary sacrifice for their son William.
By 1995 Diana was not with Charles anymore, but their divorce hadn’t been finalized yet. Just two years earlier she had found herself at the center of a royal scandal when private telephone conversations between Charles and his mistress appeared on the front pages of the British tabloid press.
The Mirror newspaper published a full transcript of the salacious conversation, which had been secretly recorded in 1989 while Charles was still married to Diana. It would also lead to Charles’ mistress Camilla Parker Bowles filing for divorce from her husband in January 1995. Charles and Diana’s separation, meanwhile, had been in effect for a few years by this point. And he had conducted a television interview in 1994 that publicly confirmed his infidelity for the first time.
Reportedly, Diana’s hurt following Charles’ TV conversation led to her conducting her own one in 1995. And it would shock the world. Amazingly, though, a former newspaper editor called Max Hastings claimed that he’d spoken to the princess three months before the television interview. And he alleged that what she had told him would have been too incendiary to publish at the time.
But where did it all begin for Diana Spencer and Prince Charles? Well, they first crossed paths in 1977 when she was 16. The then-29-year-old prince was casually dating her older sister Lady Sarah Spencer and was at the family home in Althorp, England, for a grouse hunt. Diana reportedly told all her school friends about meeting the Prince and dancing with him.
Charles and Diana met a few times over the next couple of years – with the latter even being a guest at the former’s 30th birthday party. But in 1980 the relationship turned romantic when they met up at the home of a friend of Diana’s – Philip de Pass. The princess would later be recorded telling her voice coach Peter Settelen about how Charles made his move.
“The next minute he leapt on me, practically,” said Diana. “It was strange. I thought, ‘This isn’t very cool.’ But I had nothing to go by because I’d never had a boyfriend.” By February 1981 they were engaged, and Diana was recorded telling Peter, “We met 13 times and we got married.”
It has been claimed that Charles felt pressure from his father Prince Philip to propose to Diana. Royal writer Robert Jobson alleged in his book King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain that the prince had confessed his reticence to a friend. He supposedly said, “To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic. Hence, I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Charles and Diana married in July 1981, and less than 12 months later their first son William was born. Harry then followed in 1984. Though within two years rumors started emerging that Charles had rekindled a relationship with his old flame Camilla Parker Bowles, who he had dated the previous decade. They’d broken up when he joined the navy in 1973 and she married Andrew Parker Bowles that same year.
It seems that Charles and Camilla’s affection for each other never fully went away, though, and Diana was painfully aware of the affair while it was happening. In the end, Charles and the princess announced they were separating in 1992. The New York Times wrote that year, “Buckingham Palace wrote the unhappy ending today to a storybook marriage gone badly wrong.”
In 1994 Charles used a TV interview to confess a secret, which was an extremely rare move for a senior royal. At the time, he and Diana were still legally married, though it was public knowledge that they had separated two years earlier. And he shocked the world after being asked by interviewer Jonathan Dimbleby whether he’d tried to be faithful after taking Diana’s hand in marriage.
Initially, Charles replied, “Yes. Absolutely.” But then Dimbleby pressed further with, “And you were?” The prince answered, “Yes. Until it became irretrievably broken down – us both having tried.” This public admission of marital infidelity was unprecedented for a member of the royal family, and it reportedly infuriated Charles’ father Prince Philip.
Max Hastings – once the editor of The Daily Telegraph newspaper – made an interesting claim about Charles’ interview in 2020. As part of the Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview documentary on Channel 4, he alleged Charles was talked into admitting he had strayed by an advisor. This was why extra footage had to be shot for the interview, as Charles initially conducted it without revealing anything.
Max said, “Somebody convinced him, ‘Look, sir, this is going to come out sooner or later, wouldn’t it be better if it comes out in a sympathetic form – in sympathetic hands.’ And he fell for it.” In the end, many observers believe the interview forever altered public perception of Charles and the royals.
But how did William and Harry’s mom feel about the scandal? In the documentary The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess, her close friend Dr. James Colthurst claimed she was furious about her treatment within the royal family. He said, “I remember she was becoming more and more incensed by what was going on and the fact that the whole organization – as she saw it – was helping to support the relationship between Camilla and Prince Charles.”
As we mentioned earlier, many observers believe that Charles’ bombshell interview was what pushed Diana to reveal her side of the story. She appeared on Panorama a year later, giving a stunningly candid interview to Martin Bashir in which she laid out a series of revelations of her own. Reportedly, an incredible 23 million people watched the interview, which the BBC called the scoop of a generation.
Diana confirmed that she had known about Charles and Camilla’s affair. And the princess gave the now famous quote, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Astonishingly, though, she also confessed to having her own affair with James Hewitt – a former cavalry officer in the British Army.
But Diana had more revelations for Martin Bashir. On top of skewering her marriage, she also detailed the mental toll that came with being a member of the royal family. The princess revealed she had suffered from postnatal depression and experienced bulimia for several years.
When asked if she ever saw herself becoming Queen, she replied, “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.” In the wake of the interview, Diana’s place in the royal family was compromised. As The Guardian wrote, the royals “knew nothing of the interview in advance – leaving her isolated from any palace support.”
This inclination to reveal personal details to strangers was not unusual for Diana, according to royal journalist Ingrid Seward. She told The Daily Telegraph in October 2020, “The most extraordinary thing about [Diana] was her habit of telling people she hardly knew the most intimate secrets about her life. I think she enjoyed seeing what effect it would have on them.”
Ingrid continued, “When I watched her explosive interview with Martin Bashir, I realized she was doing what I’d seen her do before: sharing intimate secrets with someone she didn’t really know. Only this time, those secrets were on national television. It’s hard to overestimate how shocking it was for her to speak so candidly about her marriage.”
Jumping to the present day, a documentary aired on Channel 4 in the U.K. in October 2020. Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview purported to reveal what really happened in the leadup to Diana’s infamous 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. Max Hastings also appeared in the doc – armed with details of a secret conversation he’d allegedly had with Diana months before the interview.
Max claimed that Diana had personally driven to Berkshire to meet with him, and she hadn’t tried to avoid the extremely personal details of her marriage. The ex-editor said that he first told her how flattered he was that she had chosen to talk to him. And he claimed her response was that she was anxious for her side of the story to be told.
“I spent the best part of a couple of hours with Diana and she put on a wonderful show,” Max said. “It was absolutely gripping stuff.” He claimed that Diana’s feelings about her husband were immediately apparent. He said, “It became clear first of all how much she hated Charles. Yes, she did hate Charles.”
Max asked if Diana had ever experienced happiness in the marriage. And he claimed that she’d responded, “No, the marriage was hell from day one.” Max was apparently taken aback by this, mainly because he wasn’t expecting the princess to be so honest with him. The former editor said, “I was amazed by the frankness and the directness with which she said that.”
It was the princess’ next revelation that would shock Max even more, though. He alleged, “[Diana] said that all she cared about was William’s succession to the throne and she said to me, quite explicitly, ‘I don’t think Charles can do it.’” Max then claimed that Diana wanted the Prince of Wales to make an incredible sacrifice by withdrawing from the line of succession.
“The outcome she wanted to see was for Charles to stand aside as heir… and for William to occupy the throne,” Max claimed. “This was pretty dynamic stuff.” Under normal circumstances, an editor such as him would surely have been rushing these quotes to press. But he chose not to publish any of the alleged conversation.
“I felt that my job was to try and help them keep a lid on the worst of this, rather than to lift it off,” Max said in the documentary. Perhaps the decision not to go public was helped along by the fact that Diana had also made some claims he felt were outlandish. So, what were they?
“Diana said a lot of stuff on several occasions which I thought [was] for the fairies,” said Max. “She asked me what I knew about a conspiracy to sort of have her put down. I said it sounded absolutely crazy to me.” Regardless of his opinion, though, Max claimed that Diana honestly believed there were people out there plotting to kill her.
Max went on, “But she, I think, did believe this sort of stuff, and it was one of many, many things that made one feel so desperately sorry for her… this sense of vulnerability. You may be a very streetwise, brilliant enchantress, but you can also be not very bright.” After this strange comment on Diana’s intelligence, Max then claimed her advisors dropped the ball.
“If you’ve got nobody sensible to advise you, or if you have [but] you won’t take their advice, you’re in a pretty bad place,” Max continued. Interestingly, his claim that Diana believed dark forces were conspiring against her has been corroborated by other sources over the years. And royal writer Lady Colin Campbell – who worked closely with Diana on an unauthorized biography – was one of those sources.
Lady Campbell told The Daily Beast in November 2020 that Martin Bashir knowingly manipulated this aspect of Diana’s personality. She said, “Bashir deliberately played upon her extremely suspicious nature and the fact she was well known to be a fragile personality, who was very susceptible to believing all sorts of extravagant things which to most people would have seemed unrealistic.” The writer also claimed that Diana’s paranoia had roots in a personal tragedy.
In 1987 Barry Mannakee – Diana’s former bodyguard – died in a motorcycle accident. He was seated on the back of a bike driven by a friend, which smashed into a Ford Fiesta in Essex, England. The friend survived, but Barry was thrown from the vehicle and died almost instantly. The tragic accident held significance for Diana though, as she and the bodyguard had allegedly engaged in a secret affair.
A 2017 documentary entitled Diana: In Her Own Words featured recordings of the princess seemingly confirming this relationship. She is heard saying, “When I was 24 or 25, I was deeply in love with someone who worked in this environment. But then he was chucked out and he was killed.” Despite not naming Barry, her next revelation effectively confirmed the identity of her love.
Diana said, “Eventually he had to go and then three weeks after he left, he was killed in a motorbike accident. He was the greatest love I’ve ever had, and that was a real killer.” This aligns with the real-life path of Barry, who was reassigned from Kensington Palace to London’s Diplomatic Protection Group before his untimely death.
Andrew Morton – author of Diana: Her True Story – alleged in The Sunday Times magazine that Diana never believed Barry’s death was purely accidental. He said, “The princess suspected that he had been killed in an establishment plot and asked me to find out if her ideas had any credibility.” Andrew even claimed that Diana had gone to see a clairvoyant about her suspicions.
Perhaps this experience set Diana on a path of paranoia and led the princess to believe her life was also in danger in the years before her own death. In 2003 her former butler Paul Burrell included a section in his book A Royal Duty about a mysterious letter Diana had allegedly written to him ten months before she died. And he claimed it had even predicted the method of her demise.
Paul alleged the letter was written two months after Diana and Charles’ divorce. It apparently read, “This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous – my husband is planning an ‘accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry Tiggy.” Bizarrely, the letter claimed that Charles wanted to marry Tiggy Leggy-Bourke – his children’s nanny – and not Camilla.
The conspiracy theorists then ran amok when Diana died in a car accident in Paris in 1997. As many of you know, numerous claims have abound regarding her death. Though even with Diana’s own alleged paranoia, there has never been any evidence that forces within the royal family or the British state were conspiring to kill her. The most likely answer is that it was a tragic accident.
Overall, it’s tempting to wonder whether the paranoid-but-forthright Diana would have ever publicly voiced her desire for William to succeed the Queen. Perhaps her non-answer to Martin Bashir asking that very question in ’95 lends credence to Max Hastings’ claim, though. She said, “Well, then you have to see that William’s very young at the moment, so do you want a burden like that to be put on his shoulders at such a young age? So, I can’t answer that question.”