PA Images Princess Diana during her Panorama interview
In November 1995, less than two years before her tragic death in a Paris car crash, Princess Diana shared her side of the story like never before. In a televised interview, she spoke candidly with Bashir about the struggles of her life in the royal family. Among her revelations included insights about the breakdown of her marriage to the then-Prince Charles, famously saying, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," referring to Charles' affair with his current wife, Camilla.
The Princess of Wales also opened up about the pressure of raising young sons Prince William and Prince Harry as well as her personal struggles with bulimia, self-harm and postpartum depression. Diana called bulimia a "secret disease" that she dealt with for years.
"It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger. They decided that was the problem: Diana was unstable," she said. "The cause was the situation where my husband and I had to keep everything together because we didn't want to disappoint the public, and yet obviously there was a lot of anxiety going on within our four walls."
Brian Rasic/Getty Images Princess Diana
As portrayed on The Crown, Bashir used deceitful methods to secure his sit-down interview with Princess Diana, but what the show doesn't cover is how the backlash extended for decades.
The interview came back into headlines in October 2020, when the Sunday Times alleged that Bashir showed two false bank statements to Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, in a bid to convince him that a staff member was leaking information about their family.
The 9th Earl Spencer then released a scathing letter sent to the head of the BBC, accusing the outlet of a "whitewash" over unethical tactics used to secure Diana's TV appearance and calling for a new inquiry. A 1996 BBC internal investigation concluded that the faked papers had "no bearing" on the interview, a claim Spencer dismissed while accusing the BBC of "sheer dishonesty."
"[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," Spencer told PEOPLE. "This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This, in turn, led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on September 19, 1995. This then led to the interview."
Amanda Edwards/WireImage; Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Charles Spencer and Princess Diana
Bashir allegedly also showed Princess Diana a faked abortion "receipt" for Tiggy Legge-Bourke — Prince William and Prince Harry's childhood nanny — convincing Diana the royal nanny had become pregnant by Prince Charles.
The BBC announced the following month in November 2020 that they hired former British Supreme Court Judge John Dyson to lead an independent investigation surrounding Diana's appearance on Panorama.
After the six-month inquiry, Lord Dyson said he was "satisfied" that Bashir commissioned fake bank statements and showed them to Spencer. Bashir also flourished statements of Princess Diana's private secretary Patrick Jephson and Prince Charles' private secretary Richard Aylard, which contained information that had "probably been fabricated by Mr. Bashir." He did this to "deceive and induce" Diana's brother to gain his trust and arrange a meeting with the royal.
By this "deceitful behavior, therefore, Mr. Bashir succeeded in engineering the meeting that led to the interview," Dyson said.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie issued an apology following the investigation and vowed to never air the interview again.
"It is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this," Davie said. "While today's BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way."
"While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology," he continued. "The BBC offers that today."
A statement on today’s report of The Dyson Investigation pic.twitter.com/uS62CNwiI8
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) May 20, 2021
Prince William reacted strongly to the findings about his mother, condemning the broadcaster. He said that "the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her."
"But what saddens me most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions," William said of the network and Bashir, though he did not specifically name him. "It is my firm view that this Panorama program holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialized by the BBC and others."
Prince Harry also released a powerful statement in response to the inquiry, saying, "Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest. The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.
"To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these— and even worse — are still widespread today. Then, and now, it's bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication.
"Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let's remember who she was and what she stood for."
The BBC paid out several settlements following the inquiry, including to nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke and Diana's former private secretary Patrick Jephson. The network also paid $1.6 million — the amount that the BBC amassed by selling the interview around the world — to some of the causes closest to Princess Diana. The sum was split between Centrepoint, English National Ballet, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, The Leprosy Mission, National Aids Trust, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and The Diana Award.
Mark Allan/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Martin Bashir
As for Bashir, the journalist quit his post at the BBC in 2021 ahead of the network's release of the inquiry report surrounding his interview with Princess Diana.
In his first interview after the results of the inquiry were released, Bashir said he was "deeply sorry."
"I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don't believe we did," he told The Sunday Times. "Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace to when it was broadcast to its contents."
"I can't imagine what their family must feel each day," he continued.
While speaking with The Sunday Times, Bashir specifically said that showing Spencer the forged bank documents "was wrong" and something he "deeply regrets" — although he claimed that "had no bearing" on his interview with Diana.
Asked if he will be able to forgive himself, Bashir replied, "That's a really difficult question because it was a serious error. I hope that people will allow me the opportunity to show that I am properly repentant of what happened."