It’s 1995, and Princess Diana is about to sit down for that explosive interview with Martin Bashir. Prince Charles has already peeled back the curtain on their unhappy marriage, having told his side of the story the year before. But the princess has more to say. However, it appears that she didn’t reveal everything that day. Twenty-five years later, in fact, a former newspaper editor claimed that Diana had shared something with him before her TV appearance. Something the public had never known. Apparently, she’d wanted Charles to make an extraordinary sacrifice for their son William.
Of course, at the time of the interview in 1995 Diana and Charles were still married. They certainly weren’t together, though, having separated a few years earlier. In the intervening years, the princess had found herself at the center of a royal scandal. But it was Charles who had caused the ruckus. Do you remember those private telephone conversations between the prince and his mistress? The ones that were splashed across the front pages of the British tabloid press? Well, as it transpired, they were merely the final straw.
When The Daily Mirror newspaper published a full transcript of the salacious conversation in 1993, Charles and Diana were already separated. But the telephone calls had been secretly recorded in 1989 when they were supposedly happily married. Eventually, the scandal would also lead to the prince’s mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, filing for divorce from her husband. Before then, though, Charles conducted a television interview in 1994 that publicly confirmed his infidelity for the first time.
Reportedly, Diana’s hurt following Charles’ TV appearance led to her decision to sit down for that now-infamous interview in 1995. What she had to say certainly shocked the world at the time. Amazingly, though, in 2020 Max Hastings – once the editor of The Daily Telegraph newspaper – claimed that he’d spoken to the princess three months before her televised conversation. And he alleged that what she had told him would have been too incendiary to publish at the time, because not only did it involve the prince, but also their eldest son.
Of course, if we’re being totally honest, Charles and Diana’s relationship didn’t exactly begin in the most conventional way. You see, they first crossed paths in 1977 when the future princess was just 16 years old. 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. But it was the young Diana who reportedly told all her school friends about meeting the heir to the throne and dancing with him.
Over the next couple of years, Charles and Diana met a few times, and she was even a guest at his 30th birthday party. But in 1980 the relationship became romantic when they met up at the home of Philip de Pass, a friend of Diana’s. Years later, the princess would 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.” In February 1981 they were engaged. The princess remarked on the recording, “We met 13 times, and we got married.” Any outsider could have been forgiven for believing it was true love.
However, it seems the truth may not be so rose-tinted after all. You see, 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, in fact, 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.” Not much romance on show there.
Whatever the true nature of their early attachment may have been, Charles and Diana married in July 1981. And less than 12 months later their first son, William, was born, with Harry then following in 1984. Before the youngest prince was even two years old, though, rumors started emerging that Charles had rekindled a relationship with his old flame Camilla Parker Bowles. They’d dated the previous decade, but broken up when he’d joined the navy in 1973. Camilla, for her part, went on to marry 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.”
Then, of course, in 1994 Charles used a TV interview to confess his secret – an extremely rare move for a senior royal. At the time, he and Diana remained legally married, though it was public knowledge that they had separated two years earlier. But when interviewer Jonathan Dimbleby asked whether Charles had tried to be faithful in marriage, the prince’s answer still managed to shock the world.
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.” And the jaws of a nation dropped. This public admission of marital infidelity was unprecedented for a member of the royal family, and it reportedly infuriated Charles’ father, Prince Philip.
In 2020, though, Max Hastings made an interesting claim about Charles’ interview. 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.
Hastings 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 commentators claimed that the interview forever altered public perception of Charles and the royals.
But how did William and Harry’s mom feel about the scandal? Well, 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. And the BBC claimed it was the scoop of a generation.
In a shocking admission, 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. In fact, the princess admitted she had suffered from postnatal depression and experienced bulimia for several years. Although she spoke openly about these personal struggles, according to Max Hastings the princess failed to mention one key event in her marriage.
Later, 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. 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 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.”
Seward 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 forward, in October 2020 Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview aired on Channel 4 in the U.K. The documentary purported to reveal what really happened in the lead up to Diana’s infamous 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. But that was not all. Max Hastings also appeared in the program – armed with details of a secret conversation he’d allegedly had with the princess months before the interview.
In a new twist, Hastings 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 former newspaper 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,” Hastings said. “It was absolutely gripping stuff.” And the journalist 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.”
Hastings claimed he asked Diana if she had ever experienced happiness in the marriage. Allegedly she’d responded, “No, the marriage was hell from day one.” Apparently Hastings was 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.”
But it was the princess’ next revelation that shocked Hastings even more. 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.’” Hastings then claimed that Diana wanted the Prince of Wales to make an incredible sacrifice. She wanted him to withdraw from the line of succession altogether.
“The outcome she wanted to see was for Charles to stand aside as heir… and for William to occupy the throne,” Hastings claimed. “This was pretty dynamic stuff.” You have to remember that, at the time, Hastings was a newspaper editor. Under normal circumstances, he would surely have been rushing these quotes to press. Why then did he choose 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,” Hastings said in the documentary. But perhaps the decision not to go public was helped along by the fact that Diana had also made some claims he felt were outlandish…
“Diana said a lot of stuff on several occasions which I thought [was] for the fairies,” said Hastings. “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, the journalist claimed that the princess honestly believed there were people out there plotting to kill her.
Hastings 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, he then claimed that her advisors had 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,” Hastings 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 news website 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.” And the writer proceeded to claim that Diana’s paranoia had roots in a personal tragedy.
You see, in 1987 Barry Mannakee – Diana’s former bodyguard – died in a motorcycle accident. He was seated on the back of a friend’s bike when it smashed into a Ford Fiesta in Essex, England. The friend survived, but Mannakee was thrown from the vehicle and died almost instantly. This tragic accident held significance for Diana though, as she and the bodyguard had allegedly engaged in a secret affair.
The 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 Mannakee, Diana’s 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.” Seemingly, this aligns with the real-life path of Mannakee, who was reassigned from Kensington Palace to London’s Diplomatic Protection Group before his untimely death.
In 2017 Andrew Morton – author of Diana: Her True Story – alleged in The Sunday Times Magazine that Diana never believed Mannakee’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.” Morton even claimed that Diana had gone to see a clairvoyant about her suspicions.
Perhaps, then, it was this experience that set Diana on a path of paranoia. As Hastings said, the princess believed her life was in danger in the years before her own death. But he wasn’t the only one she shared her concerns with. 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.
The letter, Burrell claimed, 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 stated that Charles wanted to marry Tiggy Legge-Bourke – his children’s nanny – and not Camilla.
Of course, the conspiracy theorists then ran amok when Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. And numerous claims have abound regarding her death. But 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 conclusion is that it was a tragic accident.
It’s certainly 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. The princess 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.”
Hastings is far from the only former acquaintance to have recently drawn on his experience with Diana, of course. Since the death of his beloved boss, Paul Burrell has spilled more than a few secrets about the princess and her private life – perhaps to the regret of her relatives. Then, in 2020, Burrell turned his attention to the late princess’ son Harry. And as it turned out, he had quite the confession to make about the Duke of Sussex’s marriage to Meghan.
Burrell’s affiliation with the royal family goes back decades, too. Following a trip to the historic Buckingham Palace as a youngster, the Englishman developed a real and abiding interest in the British monarchy. In time, this would lead to a highly prestigious job: footman to Queen Elizabeth II.
It was Burrell’s second position within the royal family that made him a household name, though. Up until Diana’s untimely death in 1997, he was employed for a decade as the princess’ butler – a role that he has claimed made him close to his boss. In fact, Burrell has reportedly referred to himself as “the only man [that Diana] ever trusted.”
But since being relieved of his duties, Burrell has become a controversial figure in his own right – and has often made tabloid headlines. For example, in 2001 his home in the English county of Cheshire was scoured by police following allegations of theft. Specifically, it was claimed that Burrell had stolen various items that had belonged to either Diana or her two sons. Rather incredibly, though, the Queen came to the former butler’s rescue.
Yes, while Burrell was initially up against charges of theft, his subsequent trial sensationally collapsed when none other than the Queen spoke up in his defense. Apparently, she’d given her former employee permission to store the 310 items in question. And as a result of this intervention, all legal proceedings against Burrell were dropped.
But the aforementioned court case wasn’t the last time that Burrell’s conduct would be called into question. During a 2008 investigation into the death of Diana, you see, the erstwhile member of the royal household was found to have clandestinely duplicated correspondence between the princess and others. Burrell argued, however, that he had done so because of the papers’ “historical importance.”
Then there’s Burrell’s private life, which has also come under some scrutiny. For instance, in 2016 it was revealed that he and his wife Maria had gone their separate ways after 32 years of marriage. Then, a year later, the ex-butler walked down the aisle for a second time with partner Graham Cooper. According to an insider, Burrell had once confided in Diana that he was gay.
However, in January 2020 Burrell denied this assertion during a chat with OK! magazine. “Diana and I never discussed my sexuality at length, but it was a known thing between us,” he said, adding, “Let’s face it: I did great flower arrangements, chose her outfits and gave her advice. All the clues were there, and she was a clever lady.”
And it’s fair to say that Burrell has courted the limelight – not least by penning several books about his experiences with the royal family and Diana in particular. He has also become a reality TV regular, appearing on shows such as Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! as well as serving as a judge on Australian Princess.
Then, in 2018, Burrell was able to capitalize on his royal experiences once more when, in the days leading up to Harry and Meghan’s nuptials, he was appointed as a royal correspondent on British breakfast TV show Lorraine. Apparently, his previous link to the groom’s mother was instrumental in him landing the job.
And Burrell pretty much hasn’t stopped giving his opinion on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex since. In an interview for 2019 British documentary Kate v Meghan: Princesses at War?, the former royal aide described the Suits star as a “strong and independent woman.” Yet he still had doubts as to whether someone from such a humble background would be able to adapt to her new lavish surroundings.
“Meghan has married into the most traditional family in the country: the royal family,” Burrell explained. He then began drawing comparisons with the woman he served for a full decade, adding, “How is she going to cope? Princess Diana was brought up in a house that was as big as Buckingham Palace, and even she was lost.”
Burrell additionally suggested that Meghan would find herself in trouble if she didn’t conform to royal protocol, saying, “Buckingham Palace is a minefield for any person going in there for the first time. People set traps, [and] they weren’t very kind to this young girl coming into this world. Who would want to be part of that family?”
But to help Meghan cope with the trials and tribulations of being a royal, Burrell offered some words of wisdom. He recommended that she become acquainted with the member of the family who apparently matters the most: Harry’s grandmother, the Queen. Diana’s alleged confidante also advised Meghan to keep as close as possible to her new husband.
And Burrell has continued to comment on the royal couple since. On a May 2019 edition of Good Morning Britain, for instance, he was asked to give his opinion about the birth of Harry and Meghan’s son Archie. Then, while responding to a question about how Diana would have received her fourth grandchild, he replied, “She’d be in her element, wouldn’t she? [Meghan’s mother] Doria would not get a look in. She’d have been thrilled to bits.”
Burrell was also invited onto the Good Morning Britain set in October 2019 following the British TV premiere of Harry and Meghan: An African Journey. In the documentary, the Duke of Sussex reveals why he feels the need to be so protective of his family, explaining, “My mom clearly taught me a certain set of values of which I will always try and uphold – despite the role and the job that sometimes that entails, if you know what I mean.”
Harry continued, “Everything that [Diana] went through and what happened to her is incredibly raw every single day. And that’s not me being paranoid; that’s just me not wanting a repeat of the past. And if anybody else knew what I knew – be it a father, be it a husband, be it anyone – you’d probably be doing exactly what I’m doing as well.”
Burrell responded to the documentary by telling the hosts of Good Morning Britain, “I knew [Harry], he was devastated, and to walk behind his mother’s coffin in front of the world was just dreadful. And that’s had an amazing impact on him. He does feel that the media hounded [Diana] to her death.”
Given Burrell’s willingness to make such provocative statements, then, it’s perhaps no surprise that he was invited onto Good Morning Britain again in January 2020. Famously, that month Harry and Meghan had revealed that they would be relinquishing their positions as senior royals. And after the former butler weighed in on the drama, he once again drew parallels between Meghan and Diana.
First, Burrell claimed that his late boss would have given her blessing to the couple’s controversial decision. He told viewers, “As I’ve seen this unfold in America, I’ve been thinking of [Diana]. She would have given the boys advice and said to them, ‘Marry for love,’ which they have, ‘Be respectful and kind to your wife,’ which they both have, but [also] ‘Be happy.’”
Speaking from his Florida home, Burrell then added, “Diana wasn’t [happy], and clearly Meghan and Harry aren’t [either] in the environment they’re in – being stifled by the royal household. Diana found that impossible, marrying the whole family.” He also claimed that both Diana and the Duchess of Sussex weren’t afraid to cut ties with others when necessary.
And Burrell went on to suggest that Diana had had ambitions to escape her homeland, too. The former royal aide said, “She had the plans for that on her sitting room floor to buy a home in Malibu when she went away to the Mediterranean. She was going to buy that property, so is it any surprise Harry is following his wife’s dreams and [in] his mom’s footsteps?”
Yet Burrell did reserve a measure of sympathy for another of his former employers. He said, “I feel very sorry for the Queen, of course… 93 years old. Our monarch has suffered greatly over the years and seen a lot happen to her family, and she’s moved with the times.”
Burrell also expressed concern about the prince’s relationship with his older sibling, adding, “I do feel sorry for William and Harry not having that bond which they once had. Obviously, when their mother died, they were cemented together and inseparable. I feel sorry for that, and their mother would be sad, too.”
But when Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan questioned Harry and Meghan’s work ethic, Burrell seemingly took the duchess’ side. He countered, “It’s very difficult for the outside world to understand what it’s like to live in a palace. You don’t just marry one person; you marry the whole family. [Meghan] had no idea what she was getting herself into; nobody can.”
Burrell then referred to a note that he claimed to have received from Diana, saying, “I saw recently a letter which [the princess] wrote to me. She wrote to me about her future, and she said, ‘I would look up and live and laugh and love.’ And I think they’re poignant words to send to Harry and Meghan.”
So, in Burrell’s opinion, would Diana have approved of her youngest son’s union with the Suits actress? Well, in an April 2020 conversation with CheshireLive, the former butler suggested as much, saying, “Princess Diana would have wanted her sons to be happy and would have supported them unconditionally.”
Burrell continued, “[With Harry] being sixth in line to the throne, it is unlikely that he will become king. Why not let [he and Meghan] have a happy life? And with the Queen’s approval, there is no reason why they shouldn’t achieve their dreams and be totally independent.”
In an interview with Closer the following month, Burrell even suggested that Harry’s wife and his late mom had things in common. He said, “Harry went for and married Meghan because she’s like Diana. Both [are] women who would always stand up for what they believe in and wouldn’t be pushovers.” Nonetheless, Burrell claimed that the similarities between Meghan and Diana could have caused some friction if the princess were still alive.
“I think, possibly, [Diana and Meghan] would have clashed,” Burrell theorized. “I imagine it would have been two strong, independent women with different views on things. It would have been a battle between Meghan’s way and Diana’s way.” He admitted, however, that there are several ways in which the pair differ.
Burrell conceded, “I think the main difference between them is that Meghan has a game plan, whereas Diana was young and naïve.” And while the princess may appear to have used the media to her advantage during her lifetime, her ex-employee hinted that it wasn’t for the same reasons as her future daughter-in-law.
“Diana did the book with Andrew Morton and courted the press over the years because she didn’t have a voice,” Burrell explained. “And her strong-mindedness meant [that] she cared, and she felt the people of the country had a right to know what had gone on behind closed doors. You could say Meghan does too – but I think her courting of the press is more for her career.”
Yes, Burrell seems to believe that the Duchess of Sussex is far more at ease with selling her public image than her late mother-in-law had been. He added, “In years to come, we’ll see [Meghan] on red carpets, with A-list friends [and] in films, perhaps. Diana wasn’t like that; she wasn’t interested in self-promotion.”
And it’s Meghan’s relationship with the press that appears to be a particular concern for Burrell. While talking to CheshireLive, for example, the ex-royal aide said that the duchess and her husband should avoid all talk about being stalked. He added, “They do need to accept being photographed by the paparazzi. They can’t have an entirely private life.”
Burrell had even previously voiced his distaste for Meghan’s alleged love of the limelight in a 2019 piece for The Sun. There, he wrote, “The lines are getting blurred between celebrity and royal. There is a clear line between the two, and Meghan doesn’t know the difference. The Queen has always said, ‘We are not celebrities. To be royal is something very different.’”
“[Meghan] may say she doesn’t have to toe the line, but she has a royal title now, and you have to give up a lot to be a member of the royal family,” Burrell continued. “She can’t have her cake and eat it. I think we all have to wait with bated breath and watch the way this one is going to progress. It is certainly a fiery, tempestuous comet streaking through the royal family.”
Unlike much of the press, though, Burrell refuses to believe that the Duchess of Sussex is pulling all the strings in her relationship. While in conversation with OK!, he instead asserted, “Meghan’s an independent woman who has her own mind. It may look as if she’s manipulating Harry, but she’s not! I have no doubt they discuss everything, and they’ll have another baby very soon.”
Burrell would court the press himself again in May that year by unveiling what he claimed to be a previously unpublished letter from Princess Diana. In the correspondence – apparently penned in 1992 – the royal remarks on a visit to Mother Teresa’s Calcutta convent home. And although the princess didn’t get to meet the saint herself, Diana still apparently felt that the trip was hugely beneficial.
In the handwritten note to Burrell, Diana revealed, “Today, something really profound touched my life. I went to Mother Teresa’s home and found the direction I’ve been searching for all these years. The sisters sang to me on arrival – a deeply spiritual experience – and I soared to such great heights in my spirit.”
So, what else is Burrell up to these days now that he’s no longer mixing in royal circles? Well, in 2019 he closed the floristry business he’d owned for almost 18 years in order to go traveling with husband Cooper. And of the planned jaunt, he told the Daily Mail, “I want to take [Cooper] to places I’ve been with the Queen and the princess and say ‘I remember walking on this spot with the Queen on the Great Wall of China.’”